By Femi Orebe
Were General Musa Yar’Adua to resurrect today, indicating he wanted to contest for the presidency of Nigeria, those who know Atiku Abubakar, his old protégé well, contend that the latter would also announce his own interest in the post.
This is the spirit that has seen Atiku contesting for the presidency since the 90’s, and for him, anything goes. Let us briefly sketch his 30 plus years odyssey, trying to actualize that ‘Maraboutian’ chimera. I am not going to be original here, as I would rather, respectfully, press into service, his one-time boss, ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo, who saw him close up for eight years as well as the inimitable journalist, Louis Odion, who has spent some quality time studying the enigma called Atiku Abubakar.
The contributions from these two distinguished Nigerians will show, very clearly, that nobody should be surprised when, before the entire Northern ‘eminence grise’, people who, eager to build a virile, peaceful and united Nigeria, had chosen to interrogate presidential candidates regarding their programmes, and plans, for the country, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar could only utter the following utterly unstatesmanlike drivel, following upon Hakeem Baba-Ahmed’s simple question as to why Northerners should vote for him: “What the average Northerner needs is somebody who’s from the north and also understands that part of the country and has been able to build bridges across the country”.
“This is what the Northerner needs, it doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a Pan-Nigerian of northern origin” – a most unfortunate response from a veteran presidential candidate, and a former vice president to boot.
Of course, haven’t the Holy Books say that from the abundance of the heart, a man speaketh?
That is the Alhaji Atiku Abubakar some people are dying to sell to Nigerians as a unifier, as if the word has changed its meaning, even as his party, the PDP, is in unspeakable turmoil. Without a scintilla of doubt, and as will be attedted to by the testimonies in this article, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is obviously being driven by an un-tameable desperation to be Nigerian president. This apparently is not because he has anything of note to offer a country in desperate need of rebuilding and re-engineering, but just so he could say his Marabouts are right again.
Even as vice-president, Atiku was more concerned with upstaging his boss and becoming the president as he had been promised by those who had once, uncannily, predicted his political trajectory.
Ex-president Obasanjo, therefore, had the following to say, and has promised never to change a word of it, come rain or shine, about his Vice: “Without seeking my view or approval, he started planning the installation of Chuba Okadigbo as the Senate president. I did a background check on Chuba, including his past as a student and made enquiries about him in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) under (President Shehu) Shagari and no one would recommend him for the post of Senate president.
“I left Atiku to go on his chase while I carried out a meticulous and detailed investigation and background check on each senator from the South-east. The one that appeared most appointable was Evan Enwerem. I canvassed the Senate across the board for his election and he was elected. Atiku did not expect it and he felt sore. He began to strategise for Enwerem to be removed and Chuba Okadigbo to be installed.
“His strategy worked because I was at the Abuja airport to receive a visiting head of state when the news reached me that the Senate had impeached Enwerem and elected Okadigbo. I was not perturbed. I came to understand from some senators, including Florence Ita-Giwa, who later became my Special Adviser/Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, that Atiku distributed US$5,000 each to some senators to carry out the ‘coup’.
“That was the beginning of bribing the legislature to carry out a particular line of action to suit or satisfy the purpose or desire of an individual or a group.
“The National Assembly had tasted blood and they would continue to want more. From the day I nominated Atiku to be my vice, he set his mind not for any good, benefit or service of the country, but on furiously planning to upstage, supplant or remove me at all cost and to take my place.
“That was what I brought him for, but he was impatient and over-ambitious. He was not ready to learn or to wait. His marabout, who predicted that despite being elected as governor, he would not be sworn in as a governor, which happened, also assured him that he would take over from me in a matter of months rather than years.
“All his plans, appointments of people and his actions were towards the actualisation of his marabout’s prediction. Once I realised his intention and programme, I watched him like a hawk without giving any indication of what I knew and letting down my guard. I could not succumb to the distraction, diversion and malevolence of an ambitious but unwise deputy”.
If that was eons ago, let us see Atiku in contemporary times in the exhilarating words of Louis Odion, writing in: ‘Atiku: The Peril of inordinate ambition’, (The Nation, 16 October, ’22) where he wrote, inter alia:
“Atiku is a conflicted bigot, consumed by inordinate ambition. He remains a bare-foot slave to an empire the Nigeria of the twenty-first century has outgrown. In 2011, he battled Jonathan for PDP ticket, on the argument that the ‘North has not used up its two term slots’, following Yar’Adua’s death in office on May 5, 2010. (In the meantime, forget that he stubbornly refused entreaties not to go to court when the same Umar Yar’Adua was declared winner in 2007 in the spirit of ‘northern solidarity’ and fought like a wounded lion up to Supreme Court.
“But he got a shellacking at the PDP primaries in 2011. In 2014, he, still driven by that inordinate ambition, again led the rebellion of nPDP to evacuate PDP in protest of Jonathan’s bid for 2nd (3rd?) term; that it was ‘the turn of power to shift to the North’ for the ‘sake of justice and equity’. In 2018, realizing he stood no chance against President Buhari’s winning 2nd term in 2019, he migrated back to PDP. Of course, he suffered another shellacking in 2019. With the power of Dollars, and a thoughtless invocation of the ethnic card at PDP’s May primaries, he overpowered Southern contenders (like Wike) to the presidential ticket.”
While Northern politicians, even of much sterner stuff, like the APC Northern governors, were more concerned with fairness, equity and the unity of Nigeria and, therefore, conceded the party’s presidential slot to the South, as Governor El Rufai said Sir Ahmadu Bello and the Northern founding fathers would have wished, Atiku would, in Odion’s words: “sacrifice national unity, put a knife on the fragile thread that holds Nigeria together, in the desperation to rig the fulfilment of the long-standing prophecy by marabouts (according to ex-President Obasanjo) of ruling Nigeria some day”.
But that is not all we see in the character sketch of the man who believes he ‘just must rule Nigeria’, as Nyesom Wike, a PDP chieftain and Governor of Rivers state, has severally attested to Atiku’s unreliability. For instance, Wike said:”Now, when we finished our convention, the candidate of the party (Atiku) came to see me in my house in Abuja on Monday, around 10:30am, and said ‘Listen, I want us to work together. Ayu must go.’
“I asked him why, and he said because when a candidate comes from the north, the chairman will come from the south. Today, Ayu is in office as PDP Chairman. Thanks to the same Atiku’s unreliability.
But there are other instances of his double dealing.
Speaking at a meeting with PDP stakeholders from the South-East in Enugu on Tuesday, September 27, Atiku said he was “interested in repositioning the region to play bigger roles in the country’s survival”, noting that “because of his love for the region, he twice chose Igbos as his running mate; and has now, for the third time, chosen another”. Therefore, dclared the man who is adept at trading the Nigerian presidency: “I confidently say, I will be your stepping stone to becoming president”.
But before the cock could crow, listen to Atiku talking to an estranged Governor Nyesom Wike.
If the promise to the entire Ndigbo was on Tuesday, September 27, 2023, Atiku soon turned tail, full circle, and the promise to the Southeast evaporated, pronto. Of course, for good reasons, he would say.
Worried by the danger posed to his presidential ambition by the camp of the Rivers State governor, Atiku thought nothing of offering Wike the same presidency, on a platter come 2027, on the one condition, however, that he must agree to sheathe his sword, and support him in the 2023 election. That was when both men met in Abuja in a fresh bid to patch up their differences. Thus vanished, in a twinkle of an eye, his promise to the entire Ndigbo nation..
Lo ba tan, as the Yoruba would say. End of story.
Pray, is this the same man going all over Nigeria, asking to be our president?
He must perish the thought because we won’t know when he would sell Nigeria to whomsoever he chose, and there would be nothing we can do about it, as character is key. I honestly do not think there is a better way of ending this article than as Odion did his own when he wrote:”This presidential ‘candidate of habit’ will soon find again that the Nigeria of his depraved, bigoted dream no longer exists”.
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