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APC: Obanikoro’s Meat, Atiku’s Poison

By Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos

The popular saying ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’ simply means that “things liked or enjoyed by one person may be distasteful to another”.

This played out in Nigeria’s political space last week between two ex-chieftains of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Both men, who had occupied major positions in the PDP, took critical decisions which bordered on their association with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and founding member of the PDP, officially announced, last Friday, that he was done with the APC which he described as a dying party that had no future for Nigerian youths.

A day after, Obanikoro, former minister of state (defence), Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana, and former governorship candidate of the PDP in Lagos State, announced his return to the APC, the party he left 13 years ago when he dumped the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) on December 17, 2004, for the then ruling party, PDP. He made the announcement at a major rally on Lagos Island.

While many political analysts are still wondering what Atiku saw in APC that influenced his decision to call it quits with the party which he once described as his ‘final bus stop’, meaning he would never leave the APC, others are also at a loss as to why Obanikoro had to grovel to find his way back to the ruling party.

Sources in the party told INDEPENDENT that it took months before Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos and a national leader of the APC, accepted Obanikoro’s plea and gave his blessings for the former Lagos State commissioner for home affairs and culture to return to the fold.

Lifelong Political Desires

What many can never deny, however, is that both men have lifelong political desires to fulfil and are ready to make any sacrifice to make their dreams a reality. While Atiku’s goal – which has seen him crisscrossed several political parties – is to become Nigeria’s president, Obanikoro, on the other hand, was reported to have told Olabode George, a former deputy national chairman of PDP, that his ultimate aim in politics was to become governor of Lagos State.

Speaking on how Obanikoro’s inordinate ambition made him derail from the progressive track, a chieftain of APC, who spoke with INDEPENDENT on condition of anonymity, said, “Despite several criticisms and protests against his appointment as a commissioner in 1999, Tinubu as Lagos State governor stuck his neck out for Obanikoro.

“Given his frosty relationship with the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had earlier seized local government funds belonging to Lagos State, following the creation of 37 local councils by the state government, Tinubu wanted a loyalist who will be his ears in Abuja, especially at the Senate and House of Representatives in 2003.

“You know, he had nobody in Obasanjo’s cabinet since they were in different political parties. Then, Tinubu was not even bothered about who succeeded him as governor because even he himself was yet to secure a second term and, you know, he fought the battle of his life to triumph over the late Funsho Williams, the then PDP candidate.

“That was how Obanikoro got his endorsement to represent Lagos Central at the Senate, despite the fact that there were other senior members of the party interested in the seat.”

Tinubu, however, got the shock of his life after rumours became rife that Obanikoro, one of his trusted foot soldiers, was pursuing a different cause in Abuja.

“Tinubu was said to have summoned him and confronted him with facts which he denied. Obanikoro was even reported to have sworn to Tinubu in Kabba, Mecca that he would never join the PDP, but he announced his defection upon returning to Nigeria.

“I think he allowed the PDP under Obasanjo to deceive him that they could use force and their rigging power to make him the governor of Lagos.

“Tinubu had so much confidence in Obanikoro but he betrayed that trust and I doubt if something important can be entrusted in his hands again as long as Lagos politics is concerned. They may have forgiven him, but they will never forget,” our source said.

On whether Obanikoro’s return will have any effect in the forthcoming governorship election, another party source said it was unlikely.

“You can see that both Tinubu and Governor Ambode were absent at his official declaration. That shows you the kind of ‘high’ regard they have for him,” he said.

Atiku on his part, is also leaving no stone unturned in his bid to lead Africa’s most populous country and this quest may have informed his decision to call it quits with the ruling APC. In the likelihood that President Buhari may seek re-election and clinch the party’s ticket, Atiku has rejoined the PDP in order to actualise his ambition.

When Atiku dumped his original party, the PDP, for APC in 2014, the PDP said it was not worried as he would eventually return to its fold.

Labaran Maku, the then Minister of Information, described him, along with others, as a political nomad “who keeps migrating from one place to another.”

Now that Atiku has eventually joined the PDP, it would be the second time he would be dumping and rejoining the party in 10 years.

As one of the first five notable Nigerians who formed the PDP in 1998, Atiku contested and won the governorship of his home state of Adamawa in 1999, before the then PDP presidential candidate, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, chose him as his running mate in the presidential polls.

He served as Obasanjo’s deputy from 1999 to 2007.

However, Atiku’s desire to succeed Obasanjo as president in 2007 backfired as his boss waged a spirited battle against him, resulting in his being denied the presidential ticket of the PDP in favour of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, who eventually won.

Atiku shifted camp to the defunct Action Congress (AC), also the main opposition party at the time which he helped to set up. He won its presidential ticket for the 2007 presidential race, but eventually lost to the late Yar’Adua of the PDP.

Nursing a presidential ambition in 2011, Atiku returned to the PDP and, in 2011, he faced incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, to compete for PDP’s presidential ticket for the 2011 race. Jonathan had succeeded Yar’Adua following the latter’s demise and was in power for nearly two years.

However, Atiku failed to grab his party’s presidential ticket. He polled 805 votes from 3, 542 delegates to the convention while Jonathan scored 2, 736 votes.

He later joined the APC in February 2014 on whose platform he chose to contest the 2015 presidency. He lost in the primaries conducted in December 2014 to President Muhammadu Buhari.