- At The 3rd City People Political Award
At the recent City People Political Awards held in Lagos, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, won the most coveted award. He won the Politician of The Year Award and his handsome son, Aminu, picked the award on his behalf. Right now, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is the most popular politician on the national scene, but many people don’t know the story of this former Vice-President, who wants to be President come 2019. He is the astute politician and businessman, who served as the second elected Vice-President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, on the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has put 29yrs into active politics
Abubakar worked in the Nigerian Customs Service for 20 years, rising to become the Deputy Director, as the second highest position in the Service was then known. He retired in April 1989 and took up business and politics full-time. He ran for the office of Governor in the old Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) in 1991, and for the Presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primaries.
In 1998, he was elected Governor of Adamawa State. While still the Governor-elect, he was selected by the (PDP)’s Presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, as his running mate. The duo went on to win the election in February, 1999, and Abubakar was sworn-in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected vice president on 29 May, 1999.
Abubakar’s 2nd term as Vice President was marked by a stormy relationship with President Obasanjo. His bid to succeed Obasanjo did not receive the latter’s support, and it took a judgment of the Supreme Court to allow Abubakar contest after he was initially disqualified by the (INEC) on the grounds that he had been indicted for financial misconduct by an investigating panel set up at Obasanjo’s behest. The Supreme Court ordered the electoral commission to restore Abubakar’s name on the presidential ballot. Abubakar ran on the platform of the Action Congress (AC), having quit the PDP on account of his issues with President Obasanjo. Atiku lost the election, placing third after Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).
Who is this easy-going politician whose influence reverberates across the country? We can tell you. Atiku Abubakar was born to an itinerant Fulani trader and farmer, Garba Abubakar, by his second wife, Aisha Kande, in Jada village in what is in today Adamawa State, formerly Gongola state. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Atiku Abdulkadir. An older sister died in infancy, making Atiku the only child of his parents, who divorced before his father’s death by drowning in 1957. Atiku’s early years were spent in Kojoli, 30 kilometres east of Jada. His mother later remarried. She died of a heart attack in 1984.
As many of his generation, Atiku’s father was opposed to the idea of Western education, and tried to keep Atiku out of the traditional school system. When the government discovered that Atiku was not attending mandatory schooling, his father spent a few days in jail until Aisha Kande’s mother paid the fine.
At the age of eight, Atiku enrolled in the Jada Primary School, where he performed well. In 1960, he was admitted to the prestigious Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in Yola where he did well in English Language and Literature, struggled with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. He graduated with a Grade Three WASC/GCE Certificate in 1965.
After secondary school, Atiku studied a short while at the Nigeria Police College in Kaduna. He left the College when he was unable to present an O-Level Mathematics result. He worked briefly as a Tax Officer in the regional Ministry of Finance, from where he gained admission to the School of Hygiene in Kano in 1966.
He graduated with a Diploma in 1967, having served as an Interim Student Union President at the School. In 1967, he enrolled for a Law Diploma at the Ahmadu Bello University Institute of Administration, on a scholarship from regional government. After graduation in 1969, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was employed by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Atiku started out in the real estate business during his early days as a Customs Officer. In 1974, he applied for and received a N31,000 loan to build his first house in Yola, which he put up for rent. From proceeds of the rent, he purchased another plot, and built a second house. He continued like that, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola.
In 1981, he moved into Agriculture, acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola to start a maize and cotton farm. The business fell on hard times and closed in 1986. “My first foray into agriculture, in the 1980s, ended in failure,” he wrote in an April 2014 blog.
He then ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar.
His most important business move came while he was a Customs Officer at the Apapa Ports. Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, invited him to set up Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company operating within the Ports. NICOTES has provided immense wealth to Atiku. NICOTES would later be rebranded INTELS, and went on to feature prominently in accusations of money laundering levelled against Atiku by the US government during his Vice Presidency days.
Atiku’s business empire also includes a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola, as well as an animal feed factory.