Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will formally open his presidential campaign on Saturday, following “several months of consultations with critical stakeholders in Nigeria and members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),” his office said in a statement.
The former vice president will stand before a crowd in Yola, the capital of his home state of Adamawa, around noon Saturday, hoping to tap into the anger of some citizens towards the current administration to rally for a broader support for his long-time ambition.
Mr Abubakar, a retired customs official, first eyed the presidency in 1993, but said he was amongst those who stepped down for the late Moshood Abiola to emerge the candidate of Social Democratic Party at the time. In 1999, he won a race for Adamawa governor when civil rule returned to the country, but Olusegun Obasanjo, who had been elected president in the 1999 general election, tapped him as his running mate.
A Friday evening statement from his media office said he would also unveil a policy document soon after the declaration.
“The campaign policy documents being baked by policy experts from diverse backgrounds and youth professionals across the country will be unveiled as soon as the process is concluded,” the statement said. “The policy document covers a large area of Nigeria’s national life including the economy, restructuring, education, healthcare, agriculture, youth and women development among many others.”
Mr Abubakar, who frequently touts himself as a serial investor and economic juggernaut, would go on to spend two terms as the vice president of Nigeria until 2007. He pushed to succeed Mr Obasanjo, but a bitter rivalry between the duo frustrated the bid.
In late 2010, Mr Abubakar jostled for the then-ruling PDP’s presidential ticket for 2011 elections, but he was beaten to it by Goodluck Jonathan, who had assumed office as Nigeria’s acting-president following the death of President Umar Yar’Adua a few months earlier.
Following a series of disagreements between him and Mr Jonathan, Mr Abubakar joined other aggrieved members of the former ruling party to join the newly-formed All Progressives Congress in 2013. The APC went on to win the 2015 election and consequently heralded the first displacement of an incumbent through through the ballot box.
But no sooner had the APC assumed office than Mr Abubakr and other members of his flock began grumbling again in the new ruling party. Mr Abubakar’s disquiet was immediately recognisable in the open confrontation between logistics giant Intels and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
After months of back and forth between Intels and NPA, and backhanded political consultations with top politicians in the APC, Mr Abubakar finally dumped the ruling party in November 2017. The former vice president returned to the PDP, which has now become the country’s major opposition party.
Since returning to the PDP about eight months ago, Mr Abubakar’s ambition had become the worse kept secret in the country’s political grapevine. It had also been dogged by allegations of corruption against him. The issues surrounding his failure to travel to the United States remained on the front burner.
Although Mr Abubakar said he was not wanted in the U.S., and that he had actually applied for visa but was rejected, he had conspicuously ignored U.S. authorities’ demand that he should write a letter authorising them to release his immigration status to the public.
Nonetheless Mr Abubakar said the decision to formally declare his ambition came following intense consultations amongst those considered crucial to the success of his latest outing.
“After extensive consultations with his family, Nigerians of diverse dispensations at home and abroad, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar has decided to make a formal bid for the 2019 presidential election race under the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)”, a statement from the former vice president’s media office said Friday evening.
Ahead of Saturday’s event, Mr Abubakar has spent months on nationwide consultative visits to many states across the country where he met with stakeholders in the PDP. He has visited all but one of the states in the South-south geo-political zone, as well as some states in the South-east geo-political zone to explore his path to victory.
His office said he would visit other geo-political zones after the formal declaration Saturday.