Atiku to contest for Nigeria’s Presidency the 6th time
For five times, he has sought the highest office in the land. In 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, Nigeria’s former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has contested for President. Each time, he failed. In 2019, he was so close, but it still eluded him.
This time, he is going at it again as he officially declared his intention on Wednesday to run for the office of the president in the 2023 election under the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
Atiku told a crowd of supporters at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, that under his leadership, he would focus on five key areas – unity of Nigeria, security, economy, education and devolving more resources and powers to the federating units – promises not different from the ones politicians had made decades ago and a clear indication the country has not made any real progress.
What are his chances?
Atiku is still a crowd puller and has the deep pockets to weather whatever storms the elections may throw at him or his party, the PDP. In a Nigeria that is increasingly polarised on an ethnic basis, he is sure to get a significant number of votes from his Hausa/Fulani majority in the north than any other candidate from the South. The PDP, which has tinkered with an unwritten zoning arrangement in order to return power to the south after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari may be persuaded to pitch tent with him if they thought his candidacy will pull in the votes they need from the north to return to power after losing it in 2015.
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If Atiku clinches the ticket, then Nigerians would have to choose between two old men – Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, who will turn 70 on March 29 and the 75-year-old Atiku for the PDP – terrible options for a country on its knees and desperately in need of young men to set things on a correction course and turn this around quickly.
Atiku is making promises, but nothing out of the ordinary, and many Nigerians, especially the young ones will take those promises with a pinch of salt.
He said the All Progressives Congress (APC) has failed in its responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens. This is correct. The country has seen unprecedented breakdown of law and order over the past seven years and Atiku rubbed it in when he told the supporters that “The APC administration has failed in its fundamental responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians. The most significant human right is the right to life, which has not been protected under the APC administration,” he said.
He added: “Our military forces are fighting on the front lines without equipment and morale. That is not fair. If we get into power, we will increase the welfare of all security forces. We will use modern technology and intelligence to combat insecurity. We will also increase the number of personnel for our security agencies.
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“Why security? Because national security is the first sign of a functional government, and where it does not exist, we must not blame those who threaten it. We can only blame a government that allows it to be threatened. And if I am elected as your President, insecurity is one thing I will not tolerate.”
He then promised that if elected, he would use modern technology and intelligence to fight insecurity, and also improve the welfare of the security forces.
Seven years ago, a military General made those same promises at a time that the cut throat terror group, Boko Haram ransacked northeast Nigeria, taking towns and letting blood flow freely, but not much changed after 7 years. Will a civilian Atiku succeed where a military General failed? And are Nigerians likely to believe his words? Only time will tell.
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Many of Nigeria’s young population believe voting him does not guarantee any real progress. Instead, the country is going in circles, circulating same old politicians who have been regurgitating same promises over the past six decades.
But Atiku understands that time is no longer on his side and that this election cycle may well be the last he would play actively, so he might pull all stops to hit the target this time. Will the voters choose him? Time will tell.