If former vice-president Atiku Abubakar thought he was granting an “ordinary” interview recently, he touched a raw nerve when he mentioned the name Nasir el-Rufai. From el-Rufai’s response, it is safe to say the battle for 2019 has begun. Bring it on!
|Name||Atiku Abubakar||Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i|
|Born||November 25, 1946 (70 next birthday)||February 16, 1960 (57 next birthday)|
|Education||Diploma, School of Hygiene, Kano (1967); Diploma in law, Ahmadu Bello University Institute of Administration (1968)||Bachelor in Quantity Surveying (1st class), Ahmadu Bello University; LLB, University of London; MPA, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.|
|Party footprint||Peoples Democratic Party (1998–2006, 2009–2013); Action Congress (2006–2009); All Progressives Congress (since 2013)||Peoples Democratic Party (2003-2007); Congress for Progressive Change (2010-2013); All Progressives Congress (since 2013)|
|Claim to Fame||Vice-President for eight years; presidential aspirant 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015||Privatisation Czar and Mr. Bulldozer (in FCT)|
|Public Service||Nigeria Customs Service (retired as deputy comptroller general in 1987)||DG of the Bureau of Public Enterprises; Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT)|
|Electoral experience||SDP presidential primary, 1993 (lost); 1999 governorship election, Adamawa (won, but forfeited to become VP); running mate, presidential elections 1999, 2003 (won); AC presidential candidate, 2007 (lost); PDP presidential primary, 2010 (lost); APC presidential primary, 2015 (lost)||Kaduna governorship election, 2015 (won)|
|Social Media||Twitter: 638k followers; Facebook: 545k likes||Twitter: 955k followers; Facebook: 737k likes|
|Previous heavyweight bouts||vs Obasanjo (knocked out in final round, 2007); vs Obasanjo (lost rematch, 2010, “I dey laugh o!”)||vs Senators Ibrahim Mantu and Jonathan Zwingina (2003, won by split decision); vs President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007, abandoned); vs President Goodluck Jonathan (2015, won by technical knockout)|
|Best punch||“This is the same el-Rufai and others who incorporated Transcorp during my time as vice-president and offered me shares and I declined. I wrote to them officially to say it was unethical of me to have accepted those offers, so, where is the corruption toga coming from?”||“Our Alhaji Atiku is already running for 2019, and he thinks that he can make people like us collateral damage in his attempt to rejuvenate his image. This obsession for power inclined him to support the rebellion against the party that manifested in the National Assembly, and is continuing with obvious disrespect for the incumbent president”|
There are many things we know, and several other things we don’t know. We know for sure that Atiku Abubakar, former vice-presidential candidate, will take one final shot at becoming president of Nigeria in 2019. He has been nursing the ambition since 1993. He will be 72 by the time the presidential election is held in the first half of 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari won his own election at 72 in 2015.
What we don’t know for sure is if Buhari will go for a second term in 2019 — by which time he will be 76. Or, to make it more dramatic, he will be 80 in 2023 when his second term will end, assuming he runs and wins in 2019. But in case he doesn’t run, we still don’t know who he is likely to support to take over from him.
Now that would be tasty! Imagine the presidential campaigns of el-Rufai, as APC candidate, and Atiku, as flag bearer of maybe a new party backed by the New PDP, ANPP, APGA and ACN factions of APC, and other possible new coalition partners. Imagine the fireworks!
Atiku fires first shot
Many would say the battle has started in earnest. Atiku, in a recent interview with Zero Tolerance, the EFCC journal, sought to dismiss the corruption tag placed on him by el-Rufai in his book, The Accidental Public Servant.
He accused el-Rufai of betraying him even though “I was instrumental in bringing [him] into government and making him Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and eventually a minister”.
He said el-Rufai (along with former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu) was used by President Olusegun Obasanjo to cook up allegations of corruption against him in 2006.
“You also forgot that it was the same el-Rufai and Nuhu that my boss used in cooking up the indictment that was eventually thrown out. So, where is the evidence of corruption? It’s just not fair for you to say somebody is corrupt without substantiation,” he said.
“This is the same el-Rufai who testified on TV that he worked with me as DG of BPE for four years and there was never a time I asked him or instructed him to do anything unethical in those years.”
Atiku then threw in a key evidence to show his aversion to corruption.
“This is the same el-Rufai and others who incorporated Transcorp during my time as vice president and offered me shares and I declined. I wrote them officially to say it was unethical of me to have accepted those offers. So, where is the corruption toga coming from?” he asked.