Atiku Abubakar: A Powerful Man denied Power by the most Powerful Court

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“One man, one woman, one youth, one vote, should be the only way to make gains in a democracy. And when that is thwarted, the clock starts to tick. Two and a half millennia ago, Sophocles said, ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ Nigeria will do well to observe this warning.

This is not a time for too many words. It will suffice for me to remind Nigeria of this – we are an independent nation and we are the architects of our fate. If we do not build a free Nigeria, we may end up destroying her, and God forbid that that should be the case. It is said that the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but that it is infallible because it is final. While I believe that only God is infallible everywhere, and only Nigerians are infallible in our democracy, I must accept that the judicial route I chose to take, as a democrat, has come to a conclusion.”

With the above words, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, reacted to his final defeat at the Supreme Court to President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku warned that the nation might implode unless it embraces freedom. In a statement, he regretted: “The Nigerian judiciary, just like every estate of our realm, has been sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal, who have undone almost all the democratic progress the Peoples Democratic Party and its administrations nurtured for 16 years, up until 2015.”He said: “To those who think they have broken my spirit, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am too focused on Nigeria to think about myself. I gave up that luxury 20 years ago. The question is not if I am broken. The question is if Nigeria is whole.”

But the “Buharization” of Atiku -embracing the Buhari experience at Supreme Court – should come as no surprise to political observers who have watched the prodigious political schematics that have characterized Atiku’s public service life, including his perennial quest to be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; a nation he genuinely loves and will like to lead. Atiku’s latest travails began shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced President Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential election.

“Atiku is coming” then became the singsong among his PDP. But after Wednesday’s ruling delivered on PDP and Atiku’s appeal against the September 11 Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) verdict by the apex court; it was evident that Atiku has come to a dead end in his quest for the presidency. And going by the four hours delivery by the seven Supreme Court justices, which put a full stop to the “Atiku is coming” momentum, it could be said that the fourth republic Vice President was welcomed to a similar path traveled, by the incumbent, President Buhari.

President Buhari has always referred to his unsuccessful attempts at winning the presidency for a record three times before clinching victory on the fourth try, as a lesson in resilience and fortitude to other political gladiators in Nigeria. Although Atiku has been a constant feature in presidential contests since 1992, when he participated in the endless transition program of former military leader Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, it is on record that apart from the 2007 election cycle and the recent 2019 experience, he has never gone the whole nine yards to be on top of the ballot.

Prior to his participation in the 2007 presidential election on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Atiku had been bogged down by his intermittent visits to the courts to save his skin and mandate as Vice President due to the insidious political machinations with his principal, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ostensibly wearied by the pre-election stress, the former Vice President did not bother to challenge the outcome of the 2007 presidential at the PEPT, even though insiders attribute his action to his longstanding political association with the Yar’Adua family, from which the eventual beneficiary of the flawed election hailed.

Fast forward to the 2011 election, the Turaki of Adamawa, as he then was, returned to PDP from his brief political sojourn in the ACN, which he undoubtedly embraced as a special purpose vehicle strictly for the presidential election. However, despite the prodigious political schematics, especially the strategic design for a consensus northern presidential candidate in the PDP, Atiku’s efforts to displace the rookie presidential aspirant in the person of then President Goodluck Jonathan did not materialize.

As the former Vice President watched Nigerians bask in the euphoria of President Jonathan’s “Fresh air” mantra, he bided his time, with eyes set on the 2015 election, when he incorrectly assumed that Jonathan would not seek a second term in office. Nonetheless, barely two years in office as President, the signs and body language became unmistakable that the rookie Bayelsa had staying power.

Frustrated by that obvious, but dramatic turn of events, Atiku joined other PDP stakeholders, including five state governors in a political excursion to the inchoate APC. Yet again, as if history was bent on repeating itself, barely two years in the ruling party, which he helped to defeat his former party, Atiku noticed that much like Jonathan, Buhari was prepared to congratulate himself from previous electoral reversals by going for a second term.

And just as he did after the ACN brief stay, the Waziri of Adamawa decided to retrace his steps to his first love, PDP, whereupon the deployment of swift political foot walks, he was able to clinch the party’s presidential ticket for the 2019 election. All the way, before, during and after the elections, Atiku proved that indeed, he was prepared to do electoral battle with the incumbent President Buhari.

But, on Wednesday October 30, 2019, the court of final arbitration put a lid to the former Vice President’s political gyrations, at least for the mean time. The summary of the apex court judgment, which used four hours to erase Atiku’s search for a four-year mandate, was that most of the issues canvassed did not perforate the votes garnered by the winner, as declared by INEC. Would Atiku live to fight again another day? 2023 will tell!