2027: Atiku, Obi, others chasing shadows?

After previous failures, pundits and concerned Nigerians are wondering whether or not the proposed alliances ahead of the 2027 presidential poll will work. KEHINDE OSASONA in this piece gives more insights.

Echoes from the past

Ahead of the 2027 elections, the opposition a few days ago made another move to forge an alliance aimed at edging out President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Aso Villa.

Blueprint Weekend recalls that after Tinubu was declared the winner of the presidential election, a legal brawl ensued as Atiku and Obi dragged the former to court, claiming they won the election.

Atiku and Obi came second and third, respectively, as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The results of the final declaration by the INEC also put Kwankwaso of the NNPP in fourth place.

Political analysts were of the view that Atiku’s 6,984,520 votes and Obi’s 6,101,533 votes would have secured victory against Tinubu, who garnered 8,794,726 votes.

While making a move shortly before the 2023 elections, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku, had, in an interview, given a hint of a possible alliance with the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Peter Obi and the New Nigeria People’s Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, but it was an alliance that never was.

Prior to that, there was also a failed talk over an alliance between Peter Obi (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso (NNPP).

Unconfirmed reports had it that the inability of the duo to agree on who should become the candidate and who would be the running mate scuttled the arrangement.

As merger talks resonate…

The trio and their associates may have realised their shortcomings and are now ready to shift grounds.

As a pointer to their readiness, one of them, Peter Obi, held a closed-door meeting with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and a number of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts in Abuja a few weeks ago. This medium recals that the meeting was the first time since the elections were held.

Obi, the presidential candidate of LP, also met separately with a former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, and Bukola Saraki, a former President of the Senate. The media widely celebrated the meeting.

A few days after the meetings, rumours were already making the rounds that there might be a big coalition like never before which is capable of rattling the ruling party.

While confirming the developments, Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, who spoke to newsmen recently, said, “Yes, Peter Obi visited Atiku Abubakar. They met for about 20 minutes behind closed doors, so we wouldn’t know what was said, and they didn’t disclose anything to us.

“Since Atiku Abubakar mentioned coalition discussions and such, I believe that both of them must have been engaged in dialogue. And I did mention that they wouldn’t be discussing it in the media. So, they have indeed been in discussions and it is just a matter of those discussions bearing fruit.

“Regarding the coalition talks, perhaps, it is already underway. The possibility does exist.”

The chief spokesman of Obi’s Presidential Campaign Organisation, Yunusa Tanko, while also giving a hint, said the closed-door meeting with the PDP bigwigs bordered on discussions on how to rescue the ‘soul of Nigeria’ from the clutches of the ruling APC.

“I am not privy to their meetings. But what you are seeing are some of the long discussions we have had a long time ago. It is part of the discussions and efforts to battle for the soul of Nigeria,” he said.

The fears

Already, political commentators and analysts are predicting that the alliance may fracture along the way.

They hinged their analyses on the same factors that had derailed such arrangements in the past.

A political analyst, Serimi Odetola, in an exclusive chat with this reporter, disagreed with the possibility of the opposition causing any upset, saying “they will meet their waterloo as usual.”

He said, “You see, apart from having a diverse ideology with no clear-cut political leanings, these oppositions with due respect cannot fly against a more formidable party with good party managers and strong candidates.

“Then again, all the intra and inter-party wrangling is a minus and cannot quickly be resolved ahead of any successful merger talks.

“Tell me, if all the candidates’ associates will buy into the new deal. The thing is that while the candidates might be going into the alliance to talk excitedly, their parties, associates and think-tanks might not be kindly disposed to it because the alliance sometimes is full of pits.”

Another school of thought has argued that some of Obi’s supporters will abandon him once he aligns with Atiku, just as Atiku’s popularity is thought to be decreasing daily which has become a headache in the former vice- president’s camp.

The counters

Meanwhile, the APC has dismissed the planned alliance, saying it’s a ruse, adding that it amounts to nothing.

In a press statement signed by Felix Morka, the national publicity secretary of the party, he described Atiku and Obi as desperadoes whose coming together was as a result of mutual desperation to be president of Nigeria and ignoble disdain for President Bola Tinubu’s.

“Their restless drifts in search of convenient party platforms to execute their presidential run only belie the self-indulgent and opportunistic essence of their aspirations. Men without the staying power to build or fix their own parties, who flee at the slightest flicker of internal crisis cannot possibly be trusted by Nigerians to tackle serious and complex national political and economic challenges that confront our nation.

“What is unclear, however, is whether Obi would make a comeback to Atiku’s PDP or whether Atiku would dump his PDP and seek rehabilitation in Obi’s Labour Party or whether both men would abandon PDP and Labour, altogether, and sojourn into the political wilderness of Professor Pat Utomi’s mega party,” he said.

While also shooting down the possibility of any alliance, the Ohaneze Ndigbo has described the trending claim of alliance with the South-east by former vice-president Atiku in 2027 as a ruse.

The secretary-general, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, in a press statement, noted that the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation unequivocally dismissed Atiku’s claims of forming alliances and stepping down for Obi in the future, branding the declarations as “mere attempts to regain relevance through deceptive means.”

He said reflecting on past interactions with Atiku, including his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2007 under the Action Congress with Senator Ben Obi as running mate, where promises made to support Igbo interests were left unfulfilled, as well as his selection of Peter Obi as a running mate during the 2019 elections, “it has become apparent that Atiku’s actions often fall short of genuine commitment to the South-east region.”

“During a crucial meeting in Enugu in 2019 with Igbo leaders led by Professor Ben Nwabueze, Atiku declined proposals for a Mandela-like single tenure option, further exacerbating doubts about his true allegiance to Igbo causes. Additionally, his alleged interference in the PDP’s zoning formula for the 2023 Presidential candidate selection, which was expected to favor the South-east, raises concerns about his motives and political strategies.”

Mazi Isiguzoro emphasised that after enduring 17 years of perceived political deceit and betrayals since 2007, the assurances and pledges made by Atiku Abubakar “hold little weight among the Igbo Nation.” “His words are likened to tissue papers – fragile and easily disposable – failing to resonate with a populace wary of being duped once again.”

He said further, “Drawing from the poignant reflection of Former Premier of Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara, Ndigbo recalls the sage proverb in local parlance, ‘first fool no be fool, but the second fool na proper fool,’ underscoring the importance of learning from past follies and avoiding recurring deceptions.

“Ohaneze Ndigbo issues a call for discernment and clarity in engaging with political figures like Atiku Abubakar. Cautious vigilance and a steadfast commitment to accountability remain paramount in navigating the intricate landscape of Nigerian politics, ensuring that the voices of Ndigbo are heard and respected.”