Atiku and The Game of Destiny By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, the story I’m about to weave is a stuff of folktales. But, please, find time to read and digest it carefully. It’s not for fun that I read Yoruba at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in the ancient city of Ile-Ife. I learnt a lot about the concept of Ori, which can be literally translated as Head but otherwise called Ayanmo or Destiny in Yoruba cosmogony. This theory or thesis presupposes that every Man comes to this world with a pre-ordained or premeditated mission on Earth. While there may be many cogent arguments against this so-called predestined fate, there are enough copious reasons to believe it as well.
Let’s leave matters of superstitions for now and move to the meat and reality of our interaction today. My crystal ball has been on overdrive since I saw former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, sitting pretty at the APC Congress in Abuja days ago. Something in me warned that I should watch that man closely and very meticulously. This has become more compelling for several reasons as you would discover if you read this epistle to the very end. The next Presidential election is less than one year away yet only one candidate is certain to run as at today. That candidate is President Goodluck Jonathan who has practically started his marathon campaigns across the states. From my sufficient experience in Presidential elections, it is shaky and dangerous that members of the opposition are yet to zero in on their flag-bearer by now. By the time they wake up, Jonathan would have completed one round of his frenetic drive for votes.
The seriousness of the challenge or threat posed by APC to the ruling party, PDP, would be put to test when it conducts its Presidential primary as it must do sooner than later. The APC has become top heavy with ambitious and irrepressible politicians like General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senator Bola Tinubu, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki, Governor Rochas Okorocha and others hovering in the wings. It promises to be the mother of all battles as I’m yet to see how anyone would persuade General Buhari to terminate his dream of ruling Nigeria again like General Olusegun Obasanjo. If by whatever stroke of luck or miracle Buhari and Tinubu bury and sacrifice their personal ambitions, the volatile race would shift to Atiku, Kwankwaso, Rochas and, perhaps, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal whenever he decides to end the current hide and seek game he’s been playing as well as his surreptitious but intimate fraternisation with APC. If he truly wants to be President, he must blow the lid and come out confidently like a genie that he’s portrayed to be. He should know that by now the PDP has given up on him and is merely being tolerated because of his grip on most of his colleagues at the House of Representatives who seem to love him to bits. Many of his fans like me are however are getting mixed signals. We expect him to take the risk and damn whatever consequences that come thereof.
This is where Atiku steps in. My oracle tells me unequivocally that by returning to APC against all odds and permutations, Atiku has played his last card as a quintessential politician. And when tomorrow comes, Atiku looks good to win the Presidential flag of the party. Please, relax a bit and ponder on the following configurations before you scream “impossible” like a typical Nigerian. Truth is Atiku has suddenly become the last politician standing. He’s the most prepared aspirant I can see in the race. He has been working, walking and waiting for this day since that fateful evening in March 1993 when he contested the SDP primaries against Chief Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe but was persuaded to step down for Abiola by his great mentor, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, one of the smoothest operators and great political gladiators of that exciting era.
Atiku was slated to run with Abiola at some point if the religious considerations would permit but that hope never materialised. When the auspicious moment came, the ubiquitous and ever-powerful Governors who were all routing for Kingibe pounced on Abiola and compelled him to dump Atiku like a sack of potatoes. Give it to Atiku, if he was angry and disappointed, he betrayed no emotion and bore his sadness with uncommon equanimity. If he was a woman, Patience would have been his name. He moved on with his life and continued to build bridges on platforms already provided by Yar’Adua’s inscrutable group called PDM.
June 12 came with all its cacophony of commotion. Abiola won the election but would not be allowed to assume power by the forces that control the life organs of Nigeria. The country would remain in political doldrums from 1993-99 when the military handed over to one of their own General Obasanjo. The lot fell on Obasanjo to compensate a key ally of Yar’Adua while Abiola was studiously ignored. As fate would have it, Atiku who had already won the gubernatorial election in Adamawa State was the man Obasanjo invited to be his Vice President. The romance between the two was enviable at the beginning before their love went sour.
For several agonising years, Atiku became a victim of vicious attack from his boss. He was called unprintable names, labelled a corrupt wimp and was thus sentenced arbitrarily to eternal damnation. Obasanjo sent his attack dogs in EFCC, ICPC and the SSS after Atiku. All manner of corruption allegations were levelled against him. Obasanjo’s security forces even enlisted foreign governments in their bid to nail him but, like the slippery eel, Atiku survived. He got a clean bill of health even as far as the United States. It remains one of those mysteries of life that Atiku was able to accept the insults and arrows hauled at him and maintain a dignified taciturnity in the face of voluptuous provocation. Members of his staff were summarily sacked on his behalf without him being consulted. At a point, he had to collaborate with his friends to start the Action Congress. Many people, including myself, dismissed him as showing too much desperation and foreclosed his chances of ever becoming Nigeria’s President. Atiku’s case moved from bad to worse, in our view, when he ditched AC and went back to Obasanjo to seek rapprochement. Before we reconciled ourselves to the shock of his visit to Obasanjo’s house, he announced his return to the PDP, a party that had tortured and subjected him to so much horror. We simply gave up.
Atiku’s aura seemed to have dimmed and his rating also took a plunge. An opportunity for a rebound provided itself on a platter of gold when some aggrieved Governors and company decided to stage a walk-out on President Jonathan during a PDP Convention. Atiku wasted no time in aligning with the rebels and the media was agog with the news of how he championed the unprecedented rebellion. In a jiffy, his supposed political decline or even demise bounced back and resurrected.
It must be noted that Atiku was a different kind of politician. Unlike his colleagues who lived perpetually and fed fat on the spoils of office only to become the wretched of the earth a few years after leaving office (‘edun arinle’ as the Yoruba’s will say), he has been able to grow a business of astronomical proportions. Equally importantly, he has built a formidable network of friends, allies and loyalists in Nigeria, across Africa and beyond. One of such good African friends is President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Not just that, he knows how to scout for brilliant people and nurture their talents to fruition. His support staff as Vice President was arguably superior to and certainly more cerebral than that of his boss, President Obasanjo.
His speech at the last PDP Primary enjoyed rave reviews because it was rousing as much as it was detailed and technical. When compared with the speech of his protagonist at that Convention, Atiku seemed to have droned his opponent, and if elections were won on speeches alone the contest would have been long over!
In his usual style and with the dexterity of a cosmopolitan political leader, Atiku has commenced preparation for his next offensive even as others equivocate and do nothing. He has invested heavily in social media platforms. Within a few months, he seems to have eclipsed and obliterated the much advertised Facebook and Twitter accounts of President Jonathan on matters of impact. This became obvious in the recent social media survey compiled by the highly respected Alder Consulting in the last few weeks. Atiku has suddenly become the trendiest Nigerian politician on social media, and this only a few weeks after engaging with the social media platform.
I dare say that politics, especially in Nigeria, is largely a game of raw cash. It is doubtful if the other frontrunners in APC would be able to edge out Atiku this time around because the Man is simply the proverbial moneybag. Even as at 2011 when he ran against Jonathan for the PDP ticket, he gave the President a run for his money, which as you must imagine carried the sovereign weight of the Federal Government behind it. This seemingly endless war chest of Atiku is what is sending cold jitters down the spine of some of the big fishes in APC at the moment.
What is certain is that APC needs to present itself as a truly democratic party. The inherent danger is that it becomes difficult if not impossible to impose favoured candidates, as has been wont to happen in the past. What may indeed happen in the event of Atiku trouncing the big guns and founding fathers of APC mercilessly with the whiff of money by an impoverished lot of delegates is a possible breakdown of the present marriage of convenience between odd couples.
After this major cup has passed over the party, APC would now have to contend with Jonathan who according to insiders is ready to throw anything and everything into this race. On a personal note, I will not write the President off even if he appears to be vulnerable at this time. The power of a Nigerian President is second to none, and that is the truth. He can turn day into night and night into day. Five years in power has turned Jonathan into a more confident and potentially ruthless leader. He has suddenly started to bare his fangs! He has learnt and mastered some of the bad habits that Obasanjo unleashed on the nation not too long ago. If recent appointments, and more to come, are anything to consider and go by, it is certain means the President is assembling his troops already. It is obvious he is not leaving his ambition to chance this time around, unlike in 2011 when he enjoyed some degree of monopoly.
However, the gang-up against him, if he prefers to call it that, is a clear indication that he’s not going to have an easy ride in the next election. His chances would depend to some extent on the chances or inability of the opposition to present candidates who can readily connect to first time voters like Obama did in America. Atiku is one such person as the success of his foray in the social media world demonstrates. He also has the unparalleled good fortune to be able to unreservedly call on a solid political structure which is much older than any of the current political parties, namely the PDM. The President’s supporters should be praying heavily that APC makes the mistake of fielding wrong candidates. Objectively, I can tell our friends in APC that there’s so much work to do but little or no time to accomplish them.
It is gradually growing in my consciousness that Atiku may possibly fit the opposition’s bill. It is as if fate has been steadily preparing him for this time. A date with destiny as the leader who would move his people towards the Promised Land or perdition!
The next few months should be interesting as two cats with nine lives each would most probably engage in a game of Destiny.
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