Sometime in 2014, my uncle- in -law, the late Professor Babalola Borisade, requested I help him organize a meeting between Atiku Abubakar and South West Senators. Atiku was about to go for the season’s primary election that will enable him bid for the Presidency.
He and President Mohammadu Buhari were front runners for the ticket of the then recently formed All Progressives Congress (APC). About ten or twelve of us showed up for the meeting and with rapt attention we listened to both him and Borisade, his then campaign Director General (DG).
I was the first to respond.
I praised his business acumen and told the story of a female friend of mine, an award winning former Cable News Network (CNN) Correspondent in South Africa who, when invited to give a convocation speech in Atiku’s American University in Yola, sought my advice on whether to accept the invitation or not. It was at the height of the rampage by Boko Haram across the North East.
I strongly encouraged her and told her the university would ensure her security. She went and gave her speech and after the event she sent a message to me that what she saw in Yola , at the university, was ,in her words, an “oasis in the desert”.
I also cited my experience in Rivers State when I, in company of a committee of the Senate, visited Intels, a company in which Atiku has substantial interest . I was impressed with what I saw, the work environment, the goals and objective of the company as enunciated by one of his sons who received us at the company. The vibes I picked up in Intels was a mark of can- do, particularly when we were told the company was about picking up a multi billion dollar contract to build a port from scratch in a southern African country.
At the meeting, I told Atiku that with those testimonies, I would have loved to vote for him at the coming APC convention in Lagos but, and there is a big but… his image and reputation had been sufficiently damaged by no less a person than his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo.
I told him with all emphasis I could muster that he is a damaged product and he should not just waste his time. He tried to explain why his erstwhile boss chose to say and write those damaging words about him. He indicated he was not corrupt and challenged anyone who thinks otherwise to bring the evidence of his corruption.
Truly most of the accusations of under- the -table deals done by the regime in privatizing government enterprises that were laid on Atiku doorstep were actually Obasanjo inspired as we found in the course of our investigation . We invited Obasanjo then to shed more light on the allegations against him as well as our findings but he failed to show up. Our attempt to subpoena him was stalled by the Senate leadership then.
As we have come to see Obasanjo is the one who calls everyone thief when the entire community could see his fingers dripping of palm oil.
Branding is very important in public life. Atiku and his supporters didn’t give much attention to this . They rather spent their time building up and promoting lies against the opponent. If the amount of money , Social media space time and resources committed to demonizing President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo had been expended on rebranding Atiku, maybe things would have turned out differently.
Atiku’s first major error in his last bid was going back to the same Obasanjo to mend fences or seek forgiveness when he should have gone after him with the ferocity of a wounded lion to show he lied against him , if he did ,or demonstrate his innocence.
I can’t remember any major decision taken by this politician in his entire political career that didn’t turn out to hurt him .
The moment Atiku went on that journey to Abeokuta with his band of peace makers I knew he had lost the bid for the Presidency again.
Young partisans of Atiku’s opponent went out, combed every available source and researched into all Obasanjo has written and said about him to find materials, consolidating Atiku’s branding as a very corrupt politician.
Omoyele Sowore AAC dug his teeth and nail into him and presented him as an example of what is wrong with Nigerian leadership. Madam Ezekwesili was not left out until she herself got an uppercut from the Chairman of her party who doubled as her running mate.
The campaign saw a mincemeat and couscous made of his reputation and credibility. Obasanjo, who he courted to add value to his campaign became his albatross.
How dumb could he be as a politician!
It is difficult forgiving Atiku for his political blunders. He has all it take to educate himself properly and to hire people who have the capability to advise correctly.
His political faux pas kept recurring all through his career.
Let us cast our mind back to 2010 .
Rather than stick with his party, ACN, Olagunsoye Oyinlola lured him to Abeokuta to prostrate for Obasanjo.
He thereafter quit Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and went on another adventure. He was at a meeting with Bola Ahmed Tinubu the night before . Both took time to strategize on how to build a party that will defeat Jonathan. He gave no inkling of his visit to Abeokuta the following day. His advisers had billed the meeting as a private consultation with Obasanjo but the old, never forgiving fox kept journalists somewhere in the premises and soon as the meeting ended they pounced on Atiku like a hound of watch dogs will on an unwanted visitor.
What can one say of his attitude as Vice President . Atiku could have waited the time out, demonstrate loyalty and serve the country truly. Instead of waiting for the appointed time Atiku embarked on setting up a political machine that thrashed and undermined his boss.
He allowed himself to be deceived by some governors then who met with him during the day and scurried to Obasanjo in the night to inform him of Atiku schemings.
If money making were same thing as political acumen, Atiku would have towered above any other politician in Nigeria.
His political understanding and sensibility has almost been numb. Whatever he has achieved in politics has been purchased with money and there is limit to how far that could have taken him.
Let’s not talk about his choices of running mates on the two occasions he ran for President. He has an untrammeled love for Obis. Could he have made better choices? He sure could have if he had been a much more savvy and calculating politician.
His utterances? Gosh! Every statement that came out of his mouth is politically awful. I will sell NNPC, I will enrich my friends, I will give amnesty to looters. I insist on selling NNPC even if they will kill me. Haba! Won pe e lole o ngbomo eran jo ( you are said to be a thief, you are playing with someone else’s lamb).
Some internet brats could not stand his determination to sell NNPC and quipped that it appears he has already taken deposits from buyers.
He was even quoted as saying that he will only complete the 2nd Niger Bridge because the Igbos are his in laws.
Atiku’s party hopping proclivity is astounding. A man of such means could have organized a movement around himself and his ideology if there is any. He rather chose to look for parties to hop into each time he dreams of becoming a president. Often they were parties he had abandoned before with such loud condemnation and reproof. Talk of going back to ones vomit serially.
As it turned out Atiku didn’t build a base. He support came mainly from those who hated Buhari’s guts and many others who lost undeserved entitlements .
Whenever he quits a party to join another, the reasons he often give are banal, self serving and contradictory. One often wonders why he never get to hire a sound strategist. Or is it just a question of a swollen headed wealthy, fat cat who assumes he knows it all.
I remember the mess he was made of by a young South West politician who had allegiance to three candidates in the APC primaries that produced President Buhari. He invested so much dollars in the politician who promised him many delegates.
The same politician had collected money from another aspirant from the North while he at the same time pledged support for President Buhari who he clearly knew was the favorite of the party leaders to pick the ticket.
Our man advised Atiku to stay put in his hotel suite and not to show up at the convention venue until late while he went about his deals.
It was one of Atiku’s confidants who I learnt at about 10.00 pm on the convention day roused him from this deception and scolded him for listening to the advise of someone who was everywhere on the convention ground doing deals.
Atiku eventually arrived at the venue and the young man refused to go say hello to him or even walk close to where he sat. Thousands of dollars thrown away, wasted.
I pray Atiku is not being set up by political yahooist to part with whatever is left in his war chest for the 2019 expedition. Your excellency shine your eyes well well.
-Senator Babafemi Ojudu is a Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters