While speaking in an exclusive interview with The Independent, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Charles Idahosa, who was also a former Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Edo state, spoke on the defection of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice- President from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party.
Here are excerpts from the outspoken politician who also served as Special Adviser on political matters to former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole's interview;
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice- President recently dumped your party, APC for PDP and gave some reasons for his actions. But some Nigerians are saying his reasons are not genuine but he is only desperate to become President and he knows he cannot realise his ambition in APC. Do you also share this view?
The reasons Atiku gave for leaving APC can be likened to the old adage that says 'You give a dog a bad name in order to hang it'. I think he left the APC because he wanted to give a last shot to his presidential ambition and he strongly believes that that opportunity may not come if he remains in APC considering the fact that in the last presidential primary of the party in December 2014, he came a distant third. That is the major reason why he left APC.
Every other thing he said about his leaving APC because of lack of internal democracy and no future for Nigerian youths does not hold water. He needed to go but you don't expect him to tell Nigerians that 'I am leaving APC because I want to contest for presidency elsewhere'. If you remember, he said APC will be his final bus stop in 2014, meaning that he will not join any other political party again.
Atiku is a man I know very well and I have great respect for. I have worked with him before in the company of other notable Nigerians like Chief James Ibori, late DSP Alamieyeseigha and others. We tried to work for him in 2003 to realise his presidential ambition but he missed it at that point.
How did he miss the opportunity?
Atiku was a protégé of the late Shehu Musa Yar'Adua. He has a political machinery that cuts across the country. When Yar'Adua was in prison during the Abacha era, he confided in some of his lieutenants that in case he dies in prison, they should ensure they draft in Olusegun Obasanjo in order to compensate the South West for what happened to the late MKO Abiola. Yar'Adua's key man then was Atiku so Obasanjo was forced to work with him.
When Obasanjo was contesting as president, he had no money. Atiku provided all the funds. I know all this because I was part and parcel of the whole thing. Having agreed on Obasanjo, they needed people to execute the project. It was Atiku that called Chief Anthony Anenih to lead the campaign of Obasanjo.
I was the first person Chief Anenih took from Benin in 1998. We usually meet in one very popular hotel in Abuja. That was where the whole plans started before we went to Jos for the convention. Atiku had already won election as governor of Adamawa state because that was his ambition then. But Obasanjo insisted that he wanted him as his running mate so he contested as running mate to Obasanjo despite his position as the governor-elect of Adamawa state.
According to sources available to us that time, Obasanjo said he will do a single term but after that, he decided to go for second term. I was physically present at Rivers state Governor's Lodge when the heat became too much and Obasanjo in the presence of all of us knelt down in front of Atiku begging him to allow him do a second term.
I think that was how Atiku missed the opportunity by agreeing to Obasanjo's plea. His thought was that at least, if Obasanjo completes his second term, he will hand over to him but you all know the story of Third Term Agenda and that was how they fell apart. Atiku had the best opportunity to become president in 2003 and lost it. He had the support of PDP governors then. Now, in the process of another to realise his ambition, he has lost woefully.
If you look at the series of defections have done all in his bid to become president, do you see a man who is passionate about changing Nigeria for better or man who is driven by personal interest to rule Nigeria at all cost?
I think Atiku has an inordinate ambition to be president at all cost. If he is in one party and he knows his chances are not bright, he moves to another party and so on. Maybe he has a reason why he believes he must be president, I don't know but as far as I am concerned, he is in a better position to tell Nigerians why he wants to be president having been Vice- President for eight years. I think he is just being driven by the ambition to become the president of Nigeria and will stop at nothing to realise that dream.