CHIEF Charles Idahosa is a Special Adviser on Political Matters to former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview, Idahosa, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, states that the reason given by former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, does not hold water adding that the former Vice President is not a threat to the APC. He also bares his mind on other burning sundry issues. Excerpts:
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice- President recently dumped your party, APC for PDP and gave some reasons for his actions. But some Nigerians are saying his reasons are not genuine but he is only desperate to become President. Do you also share this view?
The reasons Atiku gave for leaving APC can be likened to the old adage that says ‘You give a dog a bad name in order to hang it’. I think he left the APC because he wanted to give a last shot to his presidential ambition and he strongly believes that that opportunity may not come if he remains in APC considering the fact that in the last presidential primary of the party in December 2014, he took a distant third.
That is the major reason why he left APC. Every other thing he said about his leaving APC because of lack of internal democracy and no future for Nigerian youths does not hold water. He needed to go but you don’t expect him to tell Nigerians that ‘I am leaving APC because I want to contest for presidency elsewhere’.
If you remember, he said APC will be his final bus stop in 2014, meaning that he will not join any other political party again. Atiku is a man I know very well and I have great respect for.
How did he miss the opportunity?
Atiku was a protégé of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. He has a political machinery that cuts across the country. When Yar’Adua was in prison during the Abacha era, he confided in some of his lieutenants that in case he dies in prison, they should ensure they draft in Olusegun Obasanjo in order to compensate the South West for what happened to the late MKO Abiola. Yar’Adua’s key man then was Atiku so Obasanjo was forced to work with him.
When Obasanjo was contesting as president, he had no money. Atiku provided all the funds. I know all this because I was part and parcel of the whole thing. Having agreed on Obasanjo, they needed people to execute the project. It was Atiku that called Chief Anthony Anenih to lead the campaign of Obasanjo. I was the first person Chief Anenih took from Benin in 1998. We usually meet in one very popular hotel in Abuja. That was where the whole plans started before we went to Jos for the convention.
Atiku had already won election as governor of Adamawa state because that was his ambition then. But Obasanjo insisted that he wanted him as his running mate so he contested as running mate to Obasanjo despite his position as the governor-elect of Adamawa state. According to sources available to us that time, Obasanjo said he will do a single term but after that, he decided to go for second term. I was physically present at Rivers state Governor’s Lodge when the heat became too much and Obasanjo in the presence of all of us knelt down in front of Atiku begging him to allow him do a second term.
I think that was how Atiku missed the opportunity by agreeing to Obasanjo’s plea. He thought at least if Obasanjo completes his second term, he will handover to him but you all know the story of third term and that was how they fell apart. Atiku had the best opportunity to become president in 2003 and lost it. He had the support of PDP governors then. Now, in the process of jumping from one place to another to realise his ambition, he has lost woefully.
But do you see Atiku as a threat now that he is in PDP?
Atiku is not a pushover. The political machinery of the late Yar’Adua is very awesome and still intact. But Atiku as I speak today cannot be a threat to APC or President Muhammadu Buhari if the president decides to run which I believe he will do. We must understand that it is easier to destroy than to build. Buhari is taking Nigeria through a building process and he is doing a great job.
You said you don’t see Atiku as a threat to President Buhari. What if the votes of the South- South and South- East goes to PDP and both Atiku and Buhari share the votes from the Northern region and South- West in 2019?
Yes, it is going to be a very difficult election. There is no doubt about that. I have been part and parcel of these things for a long time, so I understand the political narratives in these areas you mentioned. One thing we must understand is the fact that the 2015 election was easy for APC because it was Jonathan. Jonathan does not have any idea of governance. He was just fortunate to become Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice- President, Acting President and President.