Updated: March 8, 2021
By Emmanuel Ugoji
Just as you will not easily notice when he is tensed up except you study him or when he is offended except you find out why he positions the cap on his head, it will be difficult to read his mood. It takes such understanding to read the mood of Atiku Abubakar at the 2018 PDP elective national convention which held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Oct. 6 and 7.
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He arrived in the garden city a day before the convention exuding so much confidence and exchanging banters with friends, admirers and associates as if nothing was at stake. He presented as a student well prepared for an exam, waiting for the exam scripts to be handed down for justice to be done to the questions.
The fact remains that he has done his homework by traversing the country, meeting stakeholders of PDP as well as securing the assurances needed to win the PDP Presidential primary election.
According to observers what even made him so delighted is the way and manner respective individuals and groups rallied themselves and offered their services because they perceived success coming Atiku’s way and as such wanted to be associated with a man who so many Nigerians believe has the capacity and competence to change the fortunes of the country on several fronts.
Meanwhile, all these were happening when insinuations made the rounds that some governors had ganged up against him, that one of the candidates had started doling out money in foreign currency to woo delegates, that one of his biggest critics was in town to spoil his chances of picking the presidential ticket and that several meetings were going on to strategize on how to beat him in the election.
Though he heard all the stories, he was not shaken. He was like the proverbial bird, the eagle, which is said to have been washed cleaner by the rain that was supposed to soak its body, make it wet and mess it up.
One thing that obviously stood out in his preparation for the primary election was that he put personal touch to almost all the efforts and plans, instead of ceding such responsibilities to other persons. The Midas touch he puts in his complex business engagements was put into use because he desired the kind of result he records in business.
The happiness that was written all over his face before he left his residence to the venue of the convention on October 7 was so electrifying that those around him tried to find out what made the Waziri Adamawa so relaxed. It was obvious that the philanthropist has read the cosmos and had found out that success was on its way and that fortune will smile at him by the end of the day.
He arrived at the Adokie Amasiemeka Stadium, venue of the convention ahead of time fully prepared and armed with his well-crafted and well compressed manifesto that fitted into the three minutes allowed each of the aspirants to address delegates.
As a man who knows that time is of the essence, he repeated what he always did each time he chaired the Federal Executive Council in his days as the Vice President. The meeting hardly lasted for more than two hours. It was always business-like and journalists who covered media briefings that followed did better copies because of the qualitative information issued at the media interactions.
In his speech at the convention titled “To get Nigeria working again, we must defeat APC”, he never dwelt on frivolities. He went straight for the jugular of the opposition and identified the ruling party as the common enemy of Nigerians that has to be sent packing for the country to be put back on the path of growth and development.
The speech was so compressed that the essence was captured in seven paragraphs, portraying himself as a fully prepared presidential candidate who knows exactly the issues bedeviling Nigeria and how the challenges can be surmounted.
While most of the other aspirants mounted the podium to reel out their resume, without doing due diligence to national issues, Atiku hit the nail on the head within the little time allotted to him. It was to his advantage and that of the advantage of organizers of the event that he spoke first because he set the tone.
The Master of Ceremony did not hide his appreciation for the Waziri Adamawa’s high quality delivery when he said that Atiku went straight to the point and concluded his address within the prescribed time. He encouraged other aspirants to do same.
When tension soaked up many of his supporters when the votes cast by the 3,274 delegates were being sorted out and dropped into the boxes of the respective candidates, Atiku kept exchanging pleasantries with friends and party faithful for the over six hour duration that casting, sorting and announcement of results of voting lasted. It was as if he has seen worse days and therefore did not find it necessary to panic.
When the convention committee led by Delta State Governor, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa started sorting out the ballot papers, it was as if heaven would fall on the Waziri Adamawa’s supporters because most of the ballot papers initially sorted out put Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal in the lead.
The situation persisted for over 20 minutes before votes cast for Atiku started rolling in. By the time the committee started sorting out the second ballot box out of the four ballot boxes, his votes started cascading and never ceased until the sorting was over. During the early lead of Tambuwal some Atiku supporters were so disturbed that they were almost shedding tears.
Former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia who served as Atiku’s returning officer was looking helpless at that point. He bounced back to life when the ballot papers started pouring in ceaselessly into Atiku’s box. To cut the long story short, the former Vice President coasted to victory in an election that was adjudged transparent, credible and exemplary by the returning officers of the 12 aspirants who participated in the primary election.
The smell of victory was perceived when Dubem Onyia raised Atiku’s ballot box after the sorting exercise. Victory became more assured when counting started with Jonah Jang polling 19; Dati Ahmed, 5; David Mark, 35; Tanimu Turaki, 65; Sule Lamido, 96; Attahiru Bafarawa, 48; Ibrahim Dankwanbo, 111; Ahmed Makarfi, 74; Musa Kwankwaso, 158; Dr Bukola Saraki, 317; Aminu Tambuwal, 693 and Atiku Abubakar, 1,532 votes.
From all indications and going by his calm mien, Atiku has exhibited the maturity required of any seasoned leader. He attested to this in his victory speech when he said: “I am ever ready to work with all aspirants in ensuring victory in the 2019 presidential elections. I need your support, assistance, understanding and participation. It is not a one man’s job. It is a collective responsibility. I am ready to listen and take your advice, work with you and together we will succeed”.
The morning after, lyrics of late Reggae maestro, Bob Marley’s song, “who the cap fits, let them wear it”, readily comes to mind. Atiku now has the PDP 2019 Presidential ticket, it is time to take up the challenge of bringing all stakeholders of the opposition party together for the final onslaught to wrest power from the ruling in APC in February of 2019.
Emmanuel Ugoji monitored the PDP National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State