Former Vice President and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said no person or group of persons was strong enough to force him out of the party.
Atiku spoke amidst mounting concerns by his political associates and supporters on his political trajectory in the wake of caustic remarks on the former Vice President by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
The former Vice President said that he remained a very loyal member of the APC and was pre-occupied with helping President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling party to succeed.
Atiku spoke through his spokesman Mazi Paul Ibe.
“Atiku Abubakar remains a very committed and loyal memeber of APC. He is pre-occupied with helping President Muhammadu Buhari and APC succeed at all levels and therefore cannot be blackmailed or cajoled into dumping the party,” affirmed Ibe.
Atiku’s spokesman said the former Vice President personally resolved not to further join issues with Governor el-Rufai. He, however, stressed that his boss was elated by last weekend’s investigative report by Saturday Punch quoting an official of the United States’ Department of State as deflating el-Rufai’s claim that Atiku’s alleged involvement in the Halliburton Scandal had earned him a ban from entering the US.
“Considering that Turaki will soon be 70, this clarification by the US State department couldn’t have come at a better time and is the best birthday gift,” reasoned Ibe.
He continued: ‘This blackmail is over a decade old. Remember Atiku was Number 2 man the time some people began this campaign of calumny. Thank God he has been vindicated and the controversy laid to rest.”, stressed Ibe.
Atiku’s spokesman said the former Vice President was a firm believer in the maxim: “tomorrow belongs to God”, and it was therefore wrong to imagine that he is desperate about political office.
“Atiku Abubakar’s support for President Muhammadu Buhari has exceeded my expectations. In fact, there are several things I had tried to tell him to do for the president and was pleasantly surprised that he had done more than expected,” declared Ibe.
Atiku, who recently traded verbal fireworks with el-Rufai, served as Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. Shortly after Obasanjo was re-elected president, he appointed el-Rufai as Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) minister at about the same time the relationship between Obasanjo and Atiku hit the rocks. At some point Obasanjo accused his deputy of treachery.
Interestingly, el-Rufai, whom Atiku claimed to have helped into the administration, led the onslaught against the former Vice President.
In the build-up to the 2007 presidential election, el-Rufai, who was a very powerful minister in Obasanjo’s cabinet, aligned with his boss to stop the Vice President from contesting the presidential election. Surrounded on all sides, Atiku promptly defected to the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and after a torturous legal process, became the party’s presidential candidate and the first sitting Vice President of Nigeria to defect to an opposition party.
At the time, some had predicted that having hounded Atiku out of PDP, Obasanjo would annoint el-Rufai as successor. The former president, however, chose the then governor of Katsina State (now late) Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua instead.