By Tunde Akande
You don’t need a clairvoyant to tell you that if the planned February 2023 election holds, I don’t think it will, Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP, as in many other times in the past, will not win. Its not that he is a serial loser as some have said but that the gods know he may not fare better than anybody that has ruled the nation, more than Mohammadu Buhari, the worst so far. In 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo was given the ticket, he went for Abubakar Atiku as his running mate, on a platter of gold. The future looked so bright in the presidency for Atiku, he had so much to do because Obasanjo had confidence in him. He was to sell many of the national assets in a privatisation programme but as many are saying, many of the assets allegedly ended in the pocket of Atiku and those of his cronies.
Don’t call a man humble, my friend, Dare Babarinsa, veteran journalist, taught me, until you have given him money and power. Atiku in few years of disposing national assets became so rich that his character began to show. He thought he could be president immediately. And he organized his chorus singers to fill the press with cries of “Mandela option”. Nelson Mandela was the president of South Africa who left office after one term. So by that Atiku and his team of praise singers wanted Obasanjo to leave after just one term. That exposed Atiku’s pride and unbridled love for power to Obasanjo and to discerning watchers of power politics in the presidency. Atiku could not wait, he must be president at all costs. Obasanjo deployed his own tactics against his deputy including the Nuhu Ribadu, Chariman of EFCC, the agency that Obasanjo had set up to clean the nation of corruption. Atiku fought back through the courts and was able to retain his office but great damage was done to his reputation. From then on it was so clear that Atiku’s ambition to succeed Obasanjo had gone with the wind. Instead of Atiku, Obasanjo went to Umaru Yaradua, then governor of Katsina state to run as the presidential candidate of the PDP. Atiku had to seek his ambition on the platform of another party. He did not win.
Atiku isn’t new to money from government coffers; at that time he could boast of a diploma though he recently obtained a Masters degree from a university in the United Kingdom but back then, the nation’s system of incompetence favoured him, he was recruited to the Customs Department, an agency well known for sleaze. Many are saying that the Customs was Atiku first contact with wealth. Bola Tinubu the presidential candidate of APC, who himself has so much to do to convince Nigerians that his humongus wealth is clean, is now one of those asking Atiku to tell Nigerians the source of his wealth. Atiku said he sold cars but Tinubu and his media team are saying that Atiku couldn’t have engaged in car sale because as a civil servant, he was not supposed to, the civil service rules are against that. They didn’t say it openly but Nigerians are reading between the lines that the allegation is that Atiku cut deals the at the Customs Department. And they know you don’t have to be smart to cut deals in Customs Department, you just have to be crafty and audacious.
Atiku is ambitious, very ambitious. People say his ambition does not come with sterner stuff. Atiku said after he got to the post of Assistant Director in Customs Department, his restless spirit decided that if he was not promoted immediately, he would find something else to do. And he did, he resigned to join politics and was elected the governor of his state of Adamawa. But before he was sworn in, Obasanjo invited him to be vice president. Few wealthy Nigerians are really intelligent, their wealth is questionable. They obtain their wealth by dubious means. Atiku has used his weath to make many friends. He is a free giver, his friends say. He gives money and so he retains their loyalty. So also is Atiku’s chief opponent in the current election cycle, Bola Tinubu of the APC. Watchers say also that Tinubu allows his followers to take the crumbs while he sits on the big money. Atiku has taken wives from every corner of Nigeria, his first wife is Yoruba and the last is Igbo with whom she is currently having a dispute. To marry his Igbo wife, it is said he had to divorce one of his northern wives. Atiku is a Muslim and it is so easy to divorce in the religion. The man has the ace, all he has to do is to repeat a statement, “I divorce you”, three times and that’s it, that marriage is gone, the hapless wife has to go back to her father’s house. Atiku did that and brought in the Igbo woman. As a Muslim, Atiku could marry only four wives. He divorced one and brought in another so that he will maintain the four wives prescription of his religion.
With his wives spread across the nation, Atiku gives the impression of a unifier, and a detrabalized Nigerian. Atiku has contested every presidency since 2007. The only person that has come close to him in the number of participations in presidential contests is current president, Mohammadu Buhari who contested thrice before he won in 2015. In 2011 when Buhari lost, he openly wept at a ceremony in Abuja giving the impression that he missed something terribly. What Buhari missed has been given to Nigerians in seven years of misrule so far as president. Buhari has given to Nigeria nepostism ruling only for his Fulani people and inflicting on Nigerians the most ruinous economic policies. As of October, 27 the naira exchanged 780 to the US dollar on the parallel market. Nigerians should watch Atiku, he is Fulani like Buhari and his desire to be president at all cost should he held in suspect. Atiku’s secret agenda was laid bare at the Arewa house in Kaduna few weeks ago when he told the emirs and others present that the North needs a northerner to be president and not a Yoruba man or an Igbo man. The ‘unifier’ Atiku brought out his tribal bigotry clearly in that statement. Atiku is a tribalist and he will not unify anything. Buhari was touted as intelligent, disciplined and a unifier but now Nigerian know he is none of those.
It is very clear that with all the problems facing Atiku especially with Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers state who along with Seyi Makinde of Oyo state, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state, all of whom are fighting Atiku for lack of diversity in the top hierarchy of PDP since he is a northerner and the party chairman, Iyorchia Ayu also is a northerner. They say this is against the party’s constitution. They allege that the south of the nation is left out of power loop. They will not support his campaign and election in their states. With four clear states outside of the reach of Atiku, it will take magic for him to win. Atiku plans for the North to control both the party and the presidency. That gives teeth to his call for a northern president. Atiku certainly has an ethnic agenda and most likely he is going to be worse than Buhari in ethnic bigotry. Nigeria is in dire strait. Buhari does nothing but self praise and blame game. He has ruined the Nigeria’s currency which is not worth more than the paper on which it is printed. Nigeria needs a man or woman of intelligence who can think through the many problems of the nation. He must be a true unifier because Buhari’s ethnic politics and hatred for the south, especially the south east must be healed for peace to reign in the nation. Without peace there can not be economic progress.
Atiku, like Bola Tinubu has sourced and gathered very brilliant journalists around himself and they are deploying sophistry to cover his flaws like they did for Buahri in 2015. Atiku does not appear to posses the nous, mental magnitude and character to get Nigeria out of the woods and he must not win. Certainly, he has more problems than his schemes can surmount.
Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.