If it was midnight and you were asked to identify 100 Africans whose lives stand out as shinning stars or points of light in a seemingly dark ecosystem, would the name of the former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and now the PDP Presidential candidate for the 2019 election be one of them?
Asked to identify 100 Nigerians who stand out as inspiration points and pathfinders in terms of the future of Africa and its 1.2 billion inhabitants, Ms. Sally Uwechue-Mbanefo, Anambra State Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism; and former Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation unequivocally and without any hesitation nominated the veteran politician to be in her 100.
On 6 Ocrober 2018, Mr. Atiku Abubakar was endorsed by a majority of the PDP delegates at the national convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It is his 5th time to bid for the presidency which seems to attract support, scorn and controversy depending on who you talk to.
If constitutionalism and the respect of the rule of law are important and fundamental tenets of any progressive, inclusive and prosperous Africa, then the name of Mr. Abubakar will always be there as one who as Vice President in his second term, chose to challenge former President Obasanjo’s attempt to sneak in a third term in the ecosystem.
It is often not easy and rewarding for anyone in Africa to get away with challenging a sitting Head of State in the manner in which Mr. Abubakar did and remain standing after the storm.
He was one of the founding member of PDP and served as Vice President to the former President Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007.
He was born in 1946 to a Fulani trader and farmer Garba Abubakar in Jada village of Adamawa State, and following the death of his only sister at infancy, he is the only child of his parents.
His father and mother divorced prior to the death of his father in 1957. His mother remarried but died in 1984 of heart attack.
In the circumstances, like many African children facing the odds of a parent who was opposed to any form of western education, his entry into formal education was delayed.
His father was arrested, jailed until he paid a fine for not letting the young Atiku to go to school.
He started his formal education at the age of eight at the Jada Primary School. After completing his primary primary school, he was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, Yola in 1960.
In 1965, he finished his Secondary School in 1965 with a Grade Three pass from the West African School Certificate Examination.
He then enrolled at Nigerian Police College, Kaduna, but had to leave the college to start work as a Tax Officer in the Regional Ministry of Finance.
In 1966, he was enrolled at the School of Hygiene Kano and graduated in 1967 with a Diploma.
In 1967, he enrolled for a Law Diploma at Ahmadu Bello University on a scholarship and graduated in 1969.
Following graduation, he got a job with the Nigerian Custom Service and in April 1989 at the age of 43, he voluntarily retired from Customs.
He is a businessman who has over the years ventured into different business activities including real estate, agriculture, trading, buying and selling.
His portfolio of businesses includes a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola, as well as an animal feed factory.
After retiring from Custom Service, he met his political mentor Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who had been the second-in-command of the military government that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979.
In 1989, he became the National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria which position allowed him to participate in the transitional program initiated by Head of State Ibrahim Babangida.
In 1989, he was elected to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly. In 1991, he won the primary election to contest for the gubernatorial election under the platform of Social Democratic Party in 1991 but was disqualified by the government of the day from contesting the elections.
In 1992, he was keen to contest in the presidential election but had to make way for MKO Abiola.
In 1998, he won election as the Governor of Adamawa State, but before his swearing-in, he was called by the PDP’s presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo to be his running-mate.
They eventually won the election on February 27, 1999, and on 29 May 1999, he was sworn-in as the Vice President of Nigeria.
On December 20, 2006, after his battles with former President Obasanjo, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC). He lost the election.
In January 2011, he contested for the Presidential ticket of People’s Democratic Party alongside President Jonathan and Sarah Jubril, but lost the primary.
On February 2, 2014, he joined All Progressives Congress. Ten months later, he contested for presidential ticket under the APC and lost to Muhammadu Buhari who is the current President.
In December 2017, he returned to the PDP and few months later, declared his presidential ambition leading to his nomination as the party’s candidate.
He has survived his own share of scandals including allegations of violating Nigeria’s currency import laws.
Under former President Obasanjo’s administration, he was assigned the responsibility of heading the state-run privatisation agency that oversaw the sale of hundreds of loss-making, corrupt or poorly-managed public firms.
In 2006, three years into their second term in office, relations between Obasanjo and Abubakar soured over former President Obasanjo’s plan to seek a third mandate which was contrary to the term-limits entrenched in the constitution.
He was forced to leave the PDP and ran for president himself, fighting a Supreme Court battle over his candidacy for the 2007 election due to allegations he had been indicted in a corruption investigation.
Only the the court came to his rescue by allowing him to stand.
“It is encouraging to note that in Africa, there are men and women like Atiku who refuse to go down on their knees but to stand on their feet. The resilience and consistency he has shown in seeking to serve the people of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, speaks to the spirit that should be democratized in the rest of the continent. Others would have given up or become bitter and not better. As we continue to identify the few shinning stars or points of light to add to the bank of excellence, the addition of Mr. Abubakar to this inventory will go a long towards inspiring a new generation of Africans to know that it can never be over until it is over,” said Mr. Mawere, the Chairman of the 1873 Network.