Atiku and Choice of Saraki, Others as Campaign Advisers


Udora Orizu x-rays the likely reasons that may have informed the decision of the Presidential Candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, to choose former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and six others as his campaign advisers

Last week, former Vice-President and PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, appointed former Senate President Bukola Saraki and six others as Special Advisers in his presidential campaign team.

The PDP is currently engulfed in crisis, which seems to be taking a new turn everyday. The party has been in turmoil since Atiku Abubakar was elected as the standard bearer of the major opposition party. Atiku and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike have been engaged in a feud over the need to remove the party’s national Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu.

Wike, who was a presidential aspirant, had vowed not to quit the PDP over his feud with the former Vice President and Ayu, insisting that he would remain in the party and fight for relevance. Recently some of Wike’s allies including Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Seyi Makinde (Oyo), had announced their withdrawal from the PDP Presidential Campaign Council pending the replacement of Ayu as Chairman.

But Abubakar, while responding to the withdrawal of the Wike camp from the PDP Presidential Campaign Council over Ayu’s retention, told the Governor’s allies that he cannot force Ayu to resign as national chairman, urging them to reconsider their stand.

Thereafter, he announced the appointment of his campaign machinery. Abubakar, in a statement by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, said the appointments were aimed at strengthening the team.

According to him: “Saraki is appointed as Special Envoy to the PDP presidential candidate, while Senator Anyim Pius Anyim is appointed as Special Adviser. Others appointed as Special Advisers are Senator Ibrahim Shekarau; former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun and Senator Ehigie Uzamere. Former PDP National Chairman, Mr Uche Secondus has also been appointed as a Technical Adviser to the presidential candidate.”

Saraki, speaking for the first time on the crisis, said he has been “working silently behind the scene”. In a tweet, the two-time former governor of Keara state said, “I just returned from my annual vacation and went straight to Akwa Ibom to join the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the state’s creation.

“As I moved around the country in the past few days, I got the feeling that many people are concerned over my seeming silence on recent developments in our party, the PDP. My response is that there are times to speak and be heard and there are times when working silently behind the scene is more productive. This is such a time.”

On the reasons for his appointment by Atiku, since the last presidential primaries of the PDP on May 30, 2022, in Abuja, Saraki, had indicated to party leaders and the faithful that he is moving on and that his next goal is the victory of the PDP in the 2023 presidential election. As is typical of him, he has embarked on subtle, quiet engagement with stakeholders in the party on how to resolve the disagreements arising from the presidential primaries.

While he maintains a close relationship with Atiku and has given his words to the former Vice President on his readiness to support him, he has also made it clear to Waziri Adamawa that the right move is to bring everybody on board and make the party approach the next election as a united, indivisible and solid platform. Unlike some elements around the candidate, he has made contact with the various aggrieved groups to achieve genuine reconciliation.

Up till today, Saraki remains one of the leaders behind Atiku that all the various tendencies in the party can trust and relate with. This is because of the general perception that Saraki stands for justice, fairness, equity, inclusivity, and peace. More importantly, Saraki is highly regarded as the only presidential aspirant in the PDP who has the most support among youths within and outside the party. The youths see him as one politician who understands their language, hopes, and aspirations and can relate very well with them.

It is for these reasons that Atiku has always believed that Saraki is an important element that will not only strengthen his campaign for the presidency but can also add value to his plan to provide effective and efficient leadership to the people. His appointment by Atiku as Special Envoy was designed as a unique post that will make him an interventionist with an open-ended assignment. As Special envoy, he is expected to bring on board his capacity, competence, and experience for devising a strategy that will keep the PDP candidate ahead of the opposition.

It is believed that his organizational ability, energy, and reach will be needed on the Atiku-Okowa campaign train. He is also expected to use his reach to function as a bridge between the various groups in the electorate – the old and the young, the north and the south, the private sector and the political class, the Muslims and the Christians. It is expected that he will be deployed by Atiku to reach the various divides in our country.

As a consensus builder, Saraki is also expected to deploy the skill he used in welding the 8th National Assembly together in the aftermath of the unprecedented change of party in government at the federal level. Therefore, many see his role as Special Envoy as being Atiku’s emissary in addressing the issue of reconciliation at the national and state chapter of the party. The new appointment is not just a move by Atiku to officially endorse the mediatory role that Saraki has been playing, it is also a continuation of the last assignment he handled for the PDP national headquarters where he served as chairman of the National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee (NRSC).

It will be recalled that the NRSC saved the PDP from hemorrhaging last year when most of the party’s state branches were engulfed in crisis. The committee headed by Saraki eventually resolved the crisis in Osun, Ogun, Borno, Niger, Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, and other states. It was the intervention of the committee that led to the successful national convention of the party in October, 2021 during which members of the current National Working Committee (NWC) were elected.

It is also believed that Saraki will bring to the table his international connections and good relationship with the foreign diplomats here in Nigeria and their home governments. He is also somebody with the right connections with necessary international bodies and groups needed to further get acceptance for Atiku in international circles.

Part of Saraki’s brief is also to rally the private sector behind Atiku’s candidacy and also get them to support the campaigns with much-needed funds, ideas, and facilities.

Many also see the appointment of Saraki by Atiku as a recognition of his ability to represent Atiku at high-level meetings and with various key stakeholders. Saraki has both executive and legislative experience having served at the highest levels at both levels.

With the appointment of Saraki, Udom, Shekarau, and Anyim into top campaign positions, the PDP presidential candidate has again proved to be ready to bring on board all tendencies. It is believed that he will soon resolve the problem with other groups. This aspect of the challenge is where Saraki’s acumen in reconciliation and bridge building will be much needed.

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