APC ticket: Give it to Atiku -By Dan Onwukwe

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APC ticket: Give it to Atiku -By Dan Onwukwe


THOSE who describe politics as “hardball” may not be far from the truth.And this is one of those times.All across the country,the atmosphere is febrile. No place this week will draw national attention as Lagos State,the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria. Something of great political importance is about to happen.Beginning from tomorrow,through Thursday,the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress(APC)is set to choose its standard bearer for the Presidential Election next February. Five presidential aspirants will be on the ballot.Two are familiar faces.They have been there before on more than two or three occasions.They are a former military Head of State,Gen.Muhammadu Buhari,and former Vice President,Atiku Abubakar. The other three contenders are two serving State Governors,Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo State,Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State,and the publisher of Leadership Group,Mr.Sam Ndah-Isaiah.They all will be seeking the voiceand votes of over 10,000 delegates drawn from across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT).These delegates will decide who the Presidential candidate will be.

By Thursday morning, that candidate will be known.Who will it be? Who among the five aspirants will get the most votes to face the incumbent president,Dr.Goodluck Ebele Jonathan? There’s no doubt that the presidential primaries will be tough and the need for party unity will be of utmost importance to the leadership of APC.The ruling PDP will be watching,very keenly.It’s understandable.In that regard,there’s need to keep the contest on a high plane to avoid splittng the party. To me the Presidency is not a prize to be won but a duty to be done.It’s not the glamour of the office that should drive the aspirants.It’s the challenge of the job to be done.

The question is:who among the aspirants has the philosophy and record to make things happen?Undoubtedly,Nigeria is today confronted by challenges of more immediate sort.Put differently,Nigeria of today is like a first division football club threatened by relegation.It needs a good striker to get it out of the bottom log.

I have closely followed the performances and promises,past and present, of all the APC presidential aspirants.Only Atiku Abubakar has been able to define his goals,his vision and purposes of his ambition in a way that gives coherence.

His is a record of progress,not platitudes.This is important because,to borrow the words of a former American President,Gerald R.Ford,”responsibility abandoned today will return as more acute crises tomorrow”.None of the other aspirants have crisscrossed the country,held meetings with the delegates,mapped strategy as Atiku has done.And,from him, I have seen a more forward-looking,well-defined,thoughtful and detailed policy programme of action that addresses the challenges that our country faces today.The other have done as much as he(Atiku)has let the Nigerian public to know.

In his website(Atiku.org)in which he states why he wants to serve,he poses relevant questions that are central to how,where and why we are where are today.And he offers the way forward.For instance,he asks:”

Do you feel safer today in Nigeria than we did 10 years ago? You know the answer,don’t you? He assures that his priority if elected President “is to keep Nigeria and Nigerians safe”.I find that compelling.Nigerians want security,security,security.

He also touches on other critical issues that the present government has been grappling with.

These are unemployment, education,among others.Describing his motto as “jobs,jobs”,Atiku has promised to provide jobs for our teeming unemployed youths.He sure can do that considering the fact that his various companies have reportedly created over 50,000 jobs.

His love for education as key to development is well known,just as much as in the area of power supply and other social infrastructure.As Vice president,in Obasanjo’s first tenure as President,Atiku did show he could run the economy.He supervised the sale of hundreds of loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises.He also foresaw the deregulation of the telecom sector that led to the emergence of GSM.

It takes the right leadership to actualize all of these.How will these factors weigh on the delegates?

No doubt Atiku has been close to power.He has seen the pain,the pleasures and the pressures.The experience should put him in good stead.He can tell,by hindsight,how not to run aground in the presidency.But,he must first scale the first hurdle,which is picking the party ticket.

I foresee Atiku getting the APC ticket on Thursday.A few things make his candidacy a good prospect for the party.First,his goals and vision will resonate well with the delegates and they stand a better chance of succeeding.Secondly, Atiku has proved many times over that he is a consumate politician,an ‘operations man’ and a trusted mobilizer with a disciplined code of loyalty.This, he showed as a Vice President, even though his principal “rewarded” him with a sledgehammer.Atiku was pursued from coast to coast,his businesses almost came under foreclosures on trumped up charges.Some of his staff were sacked from the presidential villa,all in a bid to dim his rising political profile.However,It’s good to hear him say he has reconciled with his former boss. That’s a measure of his political maturity and a heart always willing to forgive.

If the survey of an Independent Research group,Aflah Consult,published yesterday, is anything to rely upon,Atiku could be miles ahead of other contenders in the hunt for the delegates’ endorsement on Thursday.In one of its research studies carried out last month,the group said the data available to it after polling the known delegates,from the states, local council and ward levels, Atiku stood the best chance of clinching the APC presidential primaries ticket.

If that happens,I would not be surprised.The only surprise will come from the other camps who may have the “generals” on their side,but Atiku has the “troops” on his side. If the findings of the survey were true,the question is:what were the respondents looking for in the next President?

Were they look for someone with leadership abilities,competence,vision,trustworthiness and a president who is quick in recognising danger and confronting them rather than wishing them away until they become monsters? Does Atiku have these qualities in addition to his heavy war chest which is the “life blood” of politics,anyway? Atiku says he has,and those who are close to him say they can bet on that,and on their man to deliver on his promise.

It must be said that Atiku has had his own baggage of scandals.But many of them were orchestrated to demonize him,stick a badge of stain on him and possibly,finish him off politically.But,the man remains a firm and dogged politician.I believe APC will be in good stead with Atiku as its Presidential candidate to face the incumbent President than other four contestants. If the delegates choose otherwise,APC might be digging itself into a hole.It will be difficult to come out.