Former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who is still planning to run for president in 2019 under the banner of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is said to be hedging his bets by secretly funding the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Atiku, according to a source close to him, is concerned that President Muhammadu Buhari, who he ran against in the the APC’s primaries, is being pressured by his (Buhari’s) “inner caucus” to run for a second term. While the source claims that despite the president being increasingly unpopular within the ruling party, with the exception of his inner circle and kitchen cabinet, and several question marks over his health, there is no doubt that Buhari, if he chooses to contest in 2019, would be the APC’s nominee.
This means that Atiku would have to go elsewhere to realise his presidential ambition. He was in the PDP as Vice President for eight years from 1999 and left when he fell out with then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who frustrated Atiku’s attempt to replace him as president. Atiku then joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and unsuccessfully ran as their presidential candidate in 2007.
Atiku returned to the PDP and lost the presidential nomination to Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. In 2014 he left the PDP again, this time for the APC. Now, he is planning to return if he fails to become the APC presidential candidate.
In preparation for his possible return to the PDP, Atiku has been helping out his former party pay its bills. Ali Modu Sheriff, who took over as PDP Chairman after last year’s presidential (s)election defeat, has been using the fact that he has been paying a huge amount of the party’s bills as a means to stake a claim for the presidential ticket. Several PDP governors are said to be unwilling to fund the party.
Atiku has stepped in to pay the PDP’s bills and reduce their reliance on Sheriff’s money and he expects this move should help the party block the former Borno State governor’s path to the PDP’s presidential nomination and clear the way for Atiku.