To many political observers and analysts, the resignation of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was long overdue. He never hid his unhappiness with being sidelined by the party.
Despite his role in APC’s success in the 2015 presidential election, which produced President Muhammadu Buhari after he lost the party’s primary, Atiku has no significant representation in the government — except for Aisha Al-Hassan, Minister of Women Affairs, who has openly declared her loyalty to him even as a Minister in Buhari’s government, and Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President.
No one needs to be told: If needed, these two will follow Atiku out of APC. But who else could follow suit?
Before his appointment in 2015, Shehu had been Atiku’s media adviser since 2003.
“When I left my job at the Triumph Newspapers in Kano, I went to the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi as the Pioneer DGM (Public Relations). It was from there that I joined the Vice President as Special Assistant Media. That was in 2003,” he once said in an interview.
Shehu is said to be the brain behind Atiku’s vibrant media office, which is arguably the most organized and structured by a Nigerian politician.
Of how he runs the media team, Shehu once said: “The media office is hierarchically structured but is operationally run like your regular newsroom. Decisions are made horizontally.
“The media operations staff sit around a conference table for daily editorial meetings. We review the print and electronic press and the new media that is now making huge inroads. Anything touching on Atiku is of interest to us. We discuss all the stories and determine our lines of action. We do proactive plans and we carry them out as well.”
As a man who says he derives fulfillment in Atiku’s trust in him and respect for his professional judgement, Shehu won’t find it too difficult relocating with his “boss for life”, especially as it was clear from scratch that Buhari always wanted only one spokesman: Femi Adesina.
‘Mama Taraba’, as Alhassan is fondly called, has her body with the APC and the Buhari government, but her soul is indeed outside the party and with Atiku Abubakar.
She stirred controversy back in September when she swore to Allah that she would support Atiku, her “godfather”, even if Buhari indicates interest in contesting in 2019.
“Atiku is my godfather even before I joined politics…,” she had said. “Let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that ‘Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister, but Baba just like you know, I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather.'”
Buhari was widely expected to fire her; and although he didn’t, Alhassan had already said: “If because of what I said, I am sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah that my time has elapsed.”
Alhassan to Atiku is like the Biblical Ruth to her husband: where he goes she will go!
Saraki is seen by many Nigerians and observers as not working along with Buhari. Many are quick to cite the circumstances of his emergence as Senate President and also his visit to Atiku just after he won the seat.
After the Saraki ‘coup’, the visit prompted suspicions that connived with him to circumvent the party’s arrangement, especially as both were both in PDP before the formation of APC. Their alliance since PDP days may still be alive.
Plus Saraki’s presidential ambition is no secret to followers of Nigerian politics. If Buhari remains a stumbling block in 2019, therefore, Saraki could follow Atiku out of APC. He did it with PDP before, why can’t he do it with APC?
Like Saraki, Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of House of Representatives, is seen by many political observers as not being completely loyal to the ruling party. He was a member of the defunct New Peoples’ Democratic Party (nPDP), which later fused with the APC .
Also, based on the events that led to Dogara’s victory at the lower chamber, he is still largely seen as a PDP member and by extension, one of Atiku’s few loyalists. However, it is only a matter of time for the coast to become clearer on Dogara’s romance with the APC.