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Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

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 told The ROYAL NEWS yes­terday 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 Harli­burton 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 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. Sor­rounded on all sides, Atiku promptly defected to the now defunct Action Congress of Ni­geria (ACN), and after a tortu­ous 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.

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