Perpetual contender for the presidency, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP turned to a familiar political ploy on Tuesday during a meeting with South-East Zonal Stakeholders of his party in Enugu. He professed his undying love for the region and dangled the Igbo Presidency carrot with an unlikely promise to serve as a ‘stepping stone’ for the region to produce the country’s next president if he is supported to serve an eight-year term.
It was a declaration that drew criticism from critics who labeled it a desperate exploitation of a regional yearning from a man who has himself recorded a pronounced failure in the bid to clinch the position, despite repeated attempts that date back to 1993 and which have seen him crisscross multiple political parties.
The bristling criticism nevertheless, sources are confirming to PODIUM REPORTERS that Atiku’s ‘vaguely-worded’ promise was a fulfillment of a key demand in the deal struck in London with Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate, in which both parties agreed to collaborate in uniting the southeast behind Atiku and the PDP.
Obi met with Atiku and other leaders of the PDP, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in the UK for fence-mending following concerns that the parallel dissident groups of the PDP to which Obi belongs may chip away at the party’s votes in important states and regions of the country, including the southeast.
The Labour Party candidate who served as Atiku’s running mate just an election cycle ago was said to have been the main bride at the reconciliation meeting, given his relative success in the southeastern region where he enjoys the backing of some political groups, including the murderous secessionist IPOB organization that has since offered its propaganda network to Obi.
He was reportedly enjoined to return to the PDP’s fold and help consolidate the numbers for Atiku in the southeastern region to make up for predicted losses in the northeast, Atiku’s own region where the soaring popularity of Kashim Shettima, the APC Vice Presidential candidate, has all but completely eroded support for the PDP.
Perceiving Atiku’s vulnerability and desperation, particularly in light of Governor Nyesom Wike’s rebellion in the south-south region, Obi allegedly demanded that Atiku commits to backing him as his replacement after serving an eight-year term as a condition for his support – a demand Atiku agreed to, per the account of multiple sources.
Atiku’s ‘stepping stone’ announcement, therefore, was a signal of his fidelity to the agreement, with multiple sources confirming a joint timeline between the camps of Atiku and Obi on when the Labour Party hopeful, who has raised millions in donations from Nigeria’s diaspora, will officially announce his exit from the race out of ‘larger interests of the Igbo people’.
“Atiku had to make that announcement to assure the Obi camp that their deal is still alive and well. The arrangement is for him to do eight years, during which he will empower Obi before announcing him as his successor. So expect Obi to start tactically promoting the PDP before he finally announces that he is stepping down,” one source who requested anonymity told PODIUM REPORTERS.
Another source also confirmed the collusion but expressed doubts that Atiku has any serious intention to follow through. “Obi may think he has gained the upper hand now that Atiku is clearly vulnerable. But the dynamic changes completely once the results are in. Eight years is a very long time in politics, and there is nothing preventing Atiku from offering a fresh interpretation to his deliberately worded ‘stepping stone’ promise in service of other interests,” he said.