Nigeria’s main opposition party nominated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in February’s elections in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
Abubakar, 71, won the People’s Democratic Party’s primaries in Port Harcourt with 1,532 votes, Ifeanyi Okowa, chairman of the nomination convention committee and governor of Delta state, said Sunday in the oil hub of Port Harcourt. He beat 11 other candidates including Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Senate President Bukola Saraki, who got 693 votes and 317 votes respectively. He’s been trying to win the presidency for more than a decade.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Abubakar paid tribute to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and other PDP leaders.
He described the convention as “a landmark event.”
The former vice president commended his fellow contestants “for displaying a sense of unity, a sense of purpose and a sense of commitment.”
“I am ever ready to work with each and every one of them for the realisation of the victory of our party in the forthcoming elections.
“I cannot do it alone,” he said.
In paying tribute to Mr Wike and the government and people of Rivers State, Mr Abubakar said, “We look forward to working with you (Rivers governor and people) so that our party can be returned to power in the next election.”
He said he and PDP leaders “cannot afford to fail Nigerians at this very moment.”
In paying tribute to Mr Obasanjo, Mr Abubakar said he would not have succeeded as a presidential candidate if “President Olusegun Obasanjo had not made me his vice president.”
“Under his tutelage, I learnt quite a lot,” he said.
“I wish to pay my personal tribute to him.”
Mr Abubakar then pledged to the PDP chairman, Uche Secondus, “and members of this party that you will not find me wanting”
Nigeria’s Main Opposition Party Picks Abubakar to Battle Buhari
Former Vice President Abubakar defeats 11 other candidates
Abubakar is considered one of Nigeria’s wealthiest politicians
The choice of Abubakar, who hails from the northeast, could divide the vote in Buhari’s northern base. Nigeria’s northeast and northwest regions, which accounted for 40 percent of registered voters in 2015, together gave Buhari 81 percent of their ballots in the last election.
“A lot of people are rating him as the strongest against Buhari; I’m not so sure,” Amaka Anku, the head of Eurasia Group’s Africa Practice, said in an emailed response. “I think it will be an uphill battle. He represents the past, and has no real raison d’etre, and is the weakest on Buhari’s strongest suit: integrity.”
Abubakar, a Muslim and father of 26 children, defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress last year, returning to the PDP, under which he served as vice president from 1999 to 2007. He’s been presidential aspirant in three different parties since then, losing the ruling party nomination to Buhari in 2015.
A former Nigerian Customs Service top official who later became a major shareholder in Intels Nigeria Ltd., an oil-service company, Abubakar is considered one of the richest people on Nigeria’s political scene.
To carry the vote, he will have to convince the electorate that allegations of graft, which opponents have used to explain his fortune, are untrue. He’s denied any wrongdoing.
“Atiku has a high profile and good name recognition locally,” said Antony Goldman, West Africa analyst at London-based PM Consulting. “He is a politician’s politician, but that also has its downsides in a culture marked by corruption.”
While his advocacy of regional autonomy has earned him support in the country’s predominantly Christian south, he will have trouble winning enough support in the northwest, Buhari’s home region, which accounts for about a quarter of the voters alone, Anku said.
It’s “unlikely that Atiku can crack the NW vote bank in the way the PDP needs to do to win,” she said. “But let’s see who he picks as a vice president.”
Source: Agency Reporters