If all it takes was stature, then the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would hands down be former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku has great name recognition (notice how everyone refers to him by his first name). He appears to be the most prepared (although some argue that this equals to most desperate). We have not seen his books or his tax returns, but on the face of it, he has founded several profitable companies. That fact should ordinarily count at a time when the economy hasn’t done so well under an incumbent who never really had any successful enterprise tied to his name before winning the presidency.
In spite of these, the Atiku campaign has major hurdles to scale for their man to get a chance to represent the party when delegates converge on Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, this Saturday and Sunday to choose the PDP nominee.
The big picture
Atiku understands that his only chance to mount a winning presidential campaign has to be on the back of a major political party but he has failed at two other attempts to clinch the nomination since his 2007 run on the platform of the Action Congress (AC). While a number a factors might be responsible, Atiku was on to something when he said this week that there is an elite opposition to his candidacy – but that problem seems to be going no where.
These are some of the biggest stumbling blocks he would have to surmount to reach his goal of attaining the highest number of delegate goals at the convention.
- Olusegun Obasanjo: He is Atiku’s antagonist-in-chief. The former President has not hidden his disdain for his former deputy both in public and private settings. He most recently rebuked him openly. Obasanjo is probably one of the biggest deciders in Nigeria’s presidential politics – be it within the ruling party or the opposition – Obasanjo’s endorsement has always been instrumental to the emergence of every President since the return to democracy in 1999. Somehow, those who decide the swing of these things frequently defer to the former president. That’s not a good sign for Atiku.
- PDP Governors: PDP governors perceive Atiku as larger than life and independent. His deep pocket and air of superiority above them (having served at a level none of them has attained) makes them feel insecure about their say in the party or his presidency if he emerges. This is the thing with Governors especially within the PDP who have historically pitched for someone within their ranks to be President. Party delegates also echo this sentiment as they want a President that can listen to them. His problem with the governors seems to have deteriorated on the heels of his ongoing Cold War with the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike.
- The American Nightmare: There is a lot of uncertainty about Atiku regarding his issues with the US government. His inability to gain entry into the US borders have been weaponised by a lot of his political opponents including Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna, who has publicly dared him to visit the United States. Atiku has addressed the issue, and admitted that he has been denied entry to the US as a result of administrative issues. However, there are two key red flags for Atiku in the US according to two American government documents, one – his mention in the court indictment that sent Congressman Jefferson to prison and two – a US Senate report that indicted him for using his wife Jennifer Douglas as a front for laundering over $40million from Nigeria. If he picks the PDP ticket, expect those issues to be dug up once again. The Atiku team believes he will have the time to make his argument to the Nigerian people when the time comes but for now it is the delegates in Port Harcourt that they are most intent on convincing.