BBC Report: Atiku combines civil service experience with business acumen, philanthropism to clinch Nigeria’s Presidency

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The man aiming to wrest the Nigerian presidency from Muhammadu Buhari has built a career circling the summits of public life.

Atiku Abubakar has been a top civil servant, a vice-president, and a prominent businessman and philanthropist, making his fortune in the oil sector and giving some of it away to charity.

The highest office in the land has, however, eluded him. On three occasions, he has tried for the presidency and fallen short. On 16 February, the 72-year-old tries again, offering his credentials as a seasoned political operator and serial entrepreneur as the remedy for Nigeria’s ills.

If elected, Mr Abubakar will be confronted by soaring unemployment, chronic poverty, a legislature gridlocked by regional rivalries, and a sluggish economy heavily dependent on fluctuating oil revenues.

His campaign is exploiting the contrast between his image and that of an incumbent who has become a target for much of the frustration over the economy.

Mr Buhari’s critics say his personality – austere, aloof and inflexible – has proven ill-suited to the demands of governing Nigeria, even if it helped him win the last election, lending credibility to his pledge to fight corruption.

Mr Abubakar, by contrast, is an affable, enterprising figure, moving adroitly between the worlds of commerce and politics – qualities that, his supporters say, will help him unite the country and revive the economy.

Both candidates are from the mainly Muslim north of the country, and have tried to reach beyond their power base by choosing running mates from the mostly Christian south.

According to Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based risk advisory SBM Intelligence, Mr Abubakar’s campaign will hope to attract some of the people who voted for Mr Buhari in the last election – particularly “the educated youth that live in cities and have seen their incomes fall in the last few years”.

Mr Abubakar is the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the dominant force in Nigerian politics for the last two decades. He was with the PDP when it was formed at the end of a military dictatorship, and has served as vice-president in two of its administrations. However, he has had a tempestuous relationship with the party he helped create, twice having left it for opposition groups.

BBC.

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