Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has revealed that when he contested in the 2007 presidential elections, he knew he was going to lose but that he remained resolute to preserve the sanctity of democracy.
Atiku, who made this known in an article he wrote to commemorate World Democracy Day, said that his determination to fight dictatorship in whatever form stems from what he suffered in the hands of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late General Sani Abacha.
Atiku added that after his first term as Vice President to President Obasanjo, he was faced with a fundamental question of remaining loyal to his boss, party or the constitution.
His words: “This might sound strange because that was two nights before the 2007 Presidential elections, and we were about to lose. It was my first, and only, run in a general election for president, and I knew it would be a heavy loss.
“At that point I knew if I did not run in that election, all those battles over the years would be lost. People in the future could potentially be banned from contesting elections because petty personal vendettas outweigh legitimate court rulings. I also ran because, win or lose, I would have given a gift of legitimacy to our democracy, even if I was not going to enjoy the results.
“So the next morning, I went out, voted, went home and waited for my loss as expected. I knew that while I was going to lose a battle, I had won the war – a war to preserve the sanctity of our democratic process.’’
In addition, he said, “Over the preceding four years – at great risk to my own political future – I had engaged in long, tough battle to maintain the viability of our young democracy by preserving the presidential term limits prescribed by the constitution. The issues that led to these battles were rooted in principle. The key element was that after a productive first term as Vice President, I was faced with a fundamental question of loyalty: should I remain loyal to my boss and party, or should I remain loyal to our constitution and democracy?’’
Continuing, Atiku said, “And Abacha went so far as to send a hit squad to open fire on my family and me at our home in Kaduna. That was the very night I vowed that when we defeated this military junta, I would never allow another despot to sit and rule over the people of Nigeria.
“This gift of life and of dreams is why I stay in the fight for justice, in the hope it will eventually bring the kind of government Nigeria truly deserves. This is what democracy means to me – freedom, opportunity and dignity for Nigerians.’’