ATIKU: Beyond the life of a defector

Ayuba Iliya | Wednesday, 29 November 2017 12:42pm | opinion

Atiku Abubakar | source: @atikuabubakar

The resignation of former vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on the eve of his birthday did not come as a surprise to not only political analyst but even those who have been following the news, vis-a-vis his political history.

The former vice president has lamented the disregard he has experienced under the APC-led government, especially considering that he was a pillar its building process.

In an interview with the Voice America, Atiku was quoted saying: “Honestly speaking, I’m still a member of the APC; I was part of all the processes, including campaigns until success was achieved.

“But sadly, soon after the formation of government; I was side-lined, I have no any relationship with the government, I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they’re but three years down the lane, this is where we are,”

His claims became even more glaring to onlookers when his company, Intels, was delisted from the government’s contractors list.

According to media reports President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier in April approved the recommendations of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, breaking the near-monopoly of Mr. Atiku’s Intels in the handling of oil and gas cargoes in the country.

These materialized on September 27, when Mr. Malami, wrote to the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, directing her to terminate the boats pilotage monitoring and supervision agreement that the agency had with Intels, saying that the contract was illegal.

While it is easy to assume that Atiku’s defection was selfish, as many partisan politicians say, it is important to see the man beyond the ‘bread and butter politician’ he is perceived to be.

The determination and qualities of leadership in Atiku are better appreciated looking at his rise from penury to plenty, even before he became a full time player in the Nigerian political scene.


Born on November 25, 1946 to a Fulani trader and farmer Garba Abubakar, and his second wife, Aisha Kande, in Jada village of Adamawa State, Atiku, the only surviving child of his family was never meant to succeed.

Atiku’s father was opposed to western education, but through fate Atiku was discovered by the authorities and was enrolled in Jada Primary School at the age of eight. Atiku proceeded to the Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, Yola in the year 1960 where he obtained his West African School Certificate.


Although Atiku got into the Nigerian Police College, in Kaduna, the defector in him began to manifest when he jilted the college for a work as a Tax Officer in the then Regional Ministry of Finance, where he laid the foundation for the business tycoon he is to become.

Either for his interest in science of by fate, Atiku obtained a diploma at the School of Hygiene Kano in 1966 and was later admitted at the Ahmadu Bello University on a scholarship to study law, where he graduated in 1969 and got employed in the Nigerian Custom Service.

Marriage Life

Atiku’s attraction could lure a woman, his first wife, Titilayo Albert who married him despite her parents disapproval for the union.

In January 1979 he married Ladi Yakubu as his second wife and they had six children: Abba, Atiku, Zainab, Ummi-Hauwa, Maryam and Rukayatu.

Four years later, Atiku the ‘son of a nobody’ married Princess Rukaiyatu, daughter of the late Lamido of Adamawa as his third wife, with whom he has seven children including; Aisha, Hadiza, Aliyu, Asmau, Mustafa, Laila and Abdulsalam.

In 1986, he married his fourth wife, Fatima Shettima, who also gave birth to seven children namely; Amina (Meena), Mohammed and two sets of twins Ahmed and Shehu, Zainab and Aisha, and Hafsat.

Atiku Abubakar eventually divorced Ladi, and got married to Jennifer Iwenjora, who later changed her name to Jamila Atiku-Abubakar. She gave birth to Abdulmalik, Zara and his youngest child, Faisal.

Married to five wives, the former vice president made sure he observed the federal character, having two of his wife’s from the South west and South East being a Northerner.

Public Service

As an officer in the Nigerian Custom, Atiku Abubakar was posted to Idi-Iroko, a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic. He was in charge of the Lagos Airport, Apapa Ports, Ibadan Customs Command between 1974 and 1979.

He later moved to the North where he served in the Kano Command in 1976, to Maiduguri (as Area Comptroller) in 1977, Kaduna in 1980 and back to the Apapa Ports in 1982. Atiku was promoted to the post of a Deputy Director in charge of Enforcement and Drugs in 1987.

When he turned 43 in 1989, Atiku voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Customs Service, subsequently engaging in different businesses, including real estate, agriculture, trading, buying and selling. As a beverage manufacturer, Atiku owns a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola, as well as an animal feed factory.

Political Career

As if all of his life experiences were building him up for a bigger public service, Atiku’s encounter with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who was then the second-in-command of the military government, changed the cause of his political career.

Yar’Auda would often carry Atiku along to political meetings, which were critical to Atiku becoming the National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria.

Atiku participated in the transition program initiated by then Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, and was later elected to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly. He also won the primary election to contest for the gubernatorial election under the platform of Social Democratic Party in 1991 but was disqualified by government from contesting the elections.

The selfless leader in Atiku manifested when he stepped down for the late MKO Abiola in the 1992 Presidential race. However, to compensate his sacrifice, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo choose Atiku as a running mate in the 1999 presidential election, despite his position as the then governor-elect of Adamawa state.

Having served as vice-president of Nigeria under Obabsanjo, Atiku was chosen as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in December 2006. Although he didn’t win the election, Atiku came in third place, behind PDP candidate Umaru Yar’Adua and ANPP candidate Muhammadu Buhari, with approximately 7% of the vote (2.6 million votes).

His determination to become President led him to re-contest in the 2011 Presidential election alongside Ex-President. Goodluck Jonathan, and Sarah Jubril of the People’s Democratic Party. Although he lost, Atiku re-contested under the All Progressives Congress with President Muhammadu Buhari.


As former Chairman National Council on Privatization, former Chief Coordinator of all public enterprises, and former Chairman of National Economic Revitalization Committee, Nigeria’s economic growth at the time could be attributed to his impact in the sector.

Professor Kevin Nwogu in his citation on Atiku Abubakar on the occasion of the conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by the Federal University of Technology, Yola in 2002, said: “Atiku Abubakar effectively presides over all major national institutions responsible for economic policy formulation, implementation and coordination.

“As the chairman of National Economic Council, he holds the major responsibility of steering the nation's economic mechanism, channeling efforts to optimize the opportunities of a potentially great country…”

“As a result, Nigeria's economic growth has picked up for the first time in nearly a decade. From a negative growth the economy is now at 3% and from a depleted foreign reserve of just above 2.6 billion dollars twenty three months ago, it is now over 10billion dollars”.