TRIUMPH OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
Not many Nigerians or all stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took him serious when he made a declaration to return to the party. The news of his return to the PDP easily elicited public opprobrium from Nigerians, his followers and non-followers alike. While the former expressed consternation over his decision to once more thread a path they said would only lead to political wilderness, the latter saw it as a display of manifest opportunism.
For the political persecution he suffered under the administration of his former boss and chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku enjoyed tremendous political sympathy and goodwill which he took the Action Congress (AC), the political platform he formed for the purpose of prosecuting his 2007 presidential ambition as he dumped the PDP.
His return to the PDP was also to face stiff opposition from his home state of Adamawa. Those who had assumed political leadership in the state vowed that the former vice president would not find accommodation in the party. The leader of the opposition at the home front was the state Governor, Murtala Nyako and two senators from the state – Jubril Aminu and Grace Folashade Bent, who had insisted that the Turaki Adamawa was not a bona-fide member of the party, as he had no membership card of the party as at then.
Even his claim that he had registered in his ward was denounced by the state governor who insisted that the group that registered the former vice president was not the authentic PDP chapter in Adamawa.
While his claim to being a member of the PDP was uncertain, the former vice president trudged on as he announced that he was going to make a formal declaration for the party presidential ticket - a statement that was taken as a huge joke by those who thought he would never surmount the hurdle posed by the doubts surrounding his membership of the party.
Unlike the declaration of the former military president, IbrahimBadamasi Babangida which was held with fanfare at Eagles Square, Atiku declaration's for the presidential race took place inside a hall at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. This was to the displeasure of his admirers, but to the excitement of those opposed to his ambition. But while the cynicism towards his ambition lasted, against the backdrop of the low profile declaration and a distant race runner, who knew how to swim against the tide.
Few days to the 52nd National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP, the former vice president had mobilized the G-84, an amorphous body of PDP chairmen and secretaries across the states to speak in support of his request for waiver and it was granted by the party NEC. It was, however, a battle fought and won with the tacit support of the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilizie Nwodo, who enjoyed tremendous cooperation from Atiku while the former was PDP national secretary.
He had impressed it on the former vice president to follow the normal procedure of writing formally through his state chapter of the PDP for waiver - a piece of advice Atiku had immediately taken.
Finally, according to Daily Sun investigation, the choice of the nine wise men swayed in favour of the former AC presidential candidate, as the anointed choice of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF).
According to a source, from the consultation across the divide in the North, sympathy for Atiku over the political persecution he suffered in the hands of the former president, Oluegun Obasanjo still persist in the zone. Experience for the office and ability to reach out to other sections of the country was also considered.
But while the committee was torn between the choice of Atiku and IBB, wise counsel prevailed that the former military president would be difficult to market in the South-west and that could give an undue advantage to the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Jonathan/Sambo campaign did not help IBB's ambition, as in the last few weeks it had indulged in spirited campaign against the former military president, through sustained media advertisements that detailed the misadventures of the former military president during the eight years that he was military president.