By Bola Bolawole
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On June 8, 2020 when Adamu, son of former Vice-President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, hinted that his father could contest in 2023, my thinking was that he was either flying a kite, as it were, or testing the waters. Atiku has contested the presidency more times than any Nigerian, living or dead. He beats the current holder of the office – fumbling, wobbling, inept and clueless retired General Muhammadu Buhari – to the record.
Atiku has contested the presidency five times, failing all the way. He eyed the SDP presidential ticket that the late MKO Abiola eventually grabbed; going on to win the June 12, 1993 presidential election in grand style but Northern conspirators allying with their Southern lackeys prevented Abiola from exercising the mandate. But Abiola himself was part of the cabal that had truncated the destinies of many, riding roughshod over the polity as they played god again and again. Beware! What goes around comes around and whatsoever a man soweth that shall he reap also.
Between Buhari and Atiku, who is more desperate for power? Buhari contested and failed three times. At his third failure he wept like a baby and made incendiary statements that triggered the political violence that led to the death of innocent citizens in the 2011 presidential election. In the run-down to the 2003 elections, Atiku as the sitting vice-president nearly torpedoed his principal, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo had to dip deep into his bag of native wisdom, even tricks, to disarm Atiku who had since then run against virtually every other contender for the post. He has shifted alliances and defected severally, returning even to his vomit now and again. Beware of desperate politicians! Beware of politicians without scruples! Beware of politicians without principles! Rolling stones gather no moss. Disciples of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “the means justify the end” are often a terrible band of selfish and self-centred politicians who seek power basically for personal aggrandisement; when they present the front of a messiah or change agent like Buhari did, and Adolf Hitler before him, it is to worm their way into the heart of a gullible and or unsuspecting electorate.
Latest reports again have it that Atiku, truly, is intent on contesting the 2023 presidential election – if Nigeria survives to that date! He is said to have oiled his political machinery. Evidence is that Atiku has been upbeat in the media of late, criticising the incumbent and his administration and offering solutions to problems that have overwhelmed Buhari. But who is fooling who, as that musician crooned! Was this not how Buhari himself took Jonathan to the cleaners in the run down to the 2015 elections, offering solutions to all our problems with sound bites that sounded reasonable, workable, and achievable? Buhari promised to bring the Naira to parity with the US dollar; today, the Naira which was under N200 to the US dollar under Jonathan hovers around N500 to the US dollar. Buhari said on roof tops that there was nothing called petrol subsidy; that it was a camouflage that Jonathan and his administration used to siphon trillions of Naira from the Federation account: Today, Buhari has paid more trillions as petrol subsidy than Jonathan did, and while Jonathan paid subsidy on the table for all to see, Buhari has largely paid his under the counter. Whatever should be made open but is concealed has corruption as its base. A litre of petrol sold for N87 under Jonathan; today it sells for close to N170.
The economy that Buhari said he would fix has experienced two recessions already; whereas, under Jonathan, it was one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the largest and strongest in Africa. Cost of living has hit the roof. Unemployment runs riot. Insecurity of the Jonathan era has given way to tell-tale signs of a failed or failing state under Buhari. Yet, this self-same Buhari had promised to make a mince-meat of Boko Haram within three months! Today, it is not just Boko Haram but also ragged bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen that spit right in Buhari’s face. But the Oga pata-pata of them all is Buhari’s tribalism and religious fanaticism. All the critical offices and appointments go to his tribesmen and religious cohorts and bigots. The South and Middle Belt are marginalized. Christians and the other faiths are marginalized. Most of the princely projects are sited in Buhari’s part of the North. To rub salt into injury is the reckless statements oozing out of the mouths of Northern leaders. Its stench is like when a man who over-eats and suffers constipation belches! And, truth be told, the North is pampered and over-fed with the largesse plundered from the South – VAT (where Lagos contributes close to 60 percent but receives less than 20 percent) and crude oil and gas sales where the North contributes zero percent but seizes the lion’s share)!
The pretence of Northern leaders on the “State of the North” rankles. They shout from the rooftop that the North is the worst place on earth to live. Ask them: Na today day break? They created this monster; now, it is turned on them to devour them. As the Yoruba would say, “eni bi’mo oran l’o n pon” It is the mother who gave birth to a weird child that must back it! When the US created the Taliban monster to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, it inexorably, even if inadvertently, created a Frankenstein monster that later sired the Osama bin Laden of this world. Ultimately, the US had to pick up the gauntlet to get rid of the then world’s Number One terrorist in grand style. The North must buckle up and do similarly with its own self-inflicted monsters.
I will tell this story here today. In the heat of the battle for the revalidation of June 12, Dozie Okebalama, the PUNCH correspondent in Enugu and one of the newspaper’s finest writers of the time, wrote an opinion article in which he stated an Igbo proverb, to wit, that when a man hears the sound of gunshot in his father’s compound, it is his duty and responsibility to go in there and find out what had happened, rather than waiting for other people to perform that sacred duty with or for him. To rub it in, Dozie then described June 12 as that proverbial gunshot in the compound of the Yoruba and that the Yoruba should not expect anyone to fight the battle for or with them. Dozie nearly lost his job that day because our Oga at the top got pissed off but rather than come for Dozie frontally, he detoured to pick up faults with Dozie’s grammar in the said write-up and said “Sack him!” But I stood up for Dozie. I told our Oga I, too, had felt bad with the write-up but that we must respect Dozie’s right to hold opinions. Besides, I informed him that Dozie was one of the best hands around – a fact known to everyone. Not only did Dozie keep his job, he went on to work many more years there, even long after I myself had been shown the way out. Morals: The problems of the North, created by the North, are for the North to solve. My regrets are the Southern youth reportedly being poured into the theatres of war to die untimely death and the South’s resources being wasted on what has now become a bottomless pit.
Since 1999, two military men and two civilians have occupied the presidency: Obasanjo and Buhari (military/little learned) whose tenures have been worse than Yar’Adua’s and Jonathan’s (civilians/well learned). Atiku is of the Customs/little learned. Once a paramilitary force, the Customs, today, bear arms. The story is told of a new Customs boss who asked Atiku to compile the names of corrupt Customs officers for them to be fired. Surprisingly, when Atiku turned in the list, his (Atiku’s) name topped the list! Atiku may want to confirm or deny this story! But we are conversant with the sordid accusations and counter-accusations of “you are corrupt” and “you are more corrupt than me” between Obasanjo and Atiku that soiled the country’s image! Well, Obasanjo later played the Adams Oshiomhole card as he tried hard – though unsuccessfully- to whitewash the same godson he had earlier said was unimaginably corrupt.
Finally, Buhari is Fulani/Muslim/North/Military; Atiku is Fulani/Muslim/North/Military. The havoc that Buhari has visited on this country is enough to make anyone sharing the above similarities with him to be too circumspect, if not ashamed, to venture out to seek the same public office so soon, not to talk of wanting to take over from the same King Nero. This is so insensitive, so audacious, and so disrespectful of Nigerians smarting from the calamities visited on them by Buhari. This is the kind of Northern impunity and undeserved sense of entitlement that is tearing this country apart. If this country survives Buhari in one piece, the presidency MUST rotate down South. The South will then decide where it goes – West, East or South. There is no place at all for Atiku Abubakar in it!