Atiku: Will he or will he not?
The Supreme Court has brought the 2019 presidential election to an end with its October 30 verdict that the petition filed by the PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar lacked merit. Any discussion as to the fairness or otherwise of the verdict by anybody at this point is purely academic and an exercise in futility. Since the matter has been brought to a closure it is appropriate that we examine the fallouts and what Atiku may decide to do in the days ahead.
As for President Muhammadu Buhari he has gone into the history books as the only Nigerian who contested for the presidency of Nigeria five times and won twice. At the end of his tenure in 2023 Buhari will also become the second person after Olusegun Obasanjo to run Nigeria as a military dictator and also as an elected civilian President. He will also be recorded as the second longest running ruler of Nigeria after Obasanjo. Those are pieces of historical facts that Buhari can choose to be proud of but I believe that he would be a much prouder man if he restructures and transforms Nigeria by 2023 into a modern country that is safe, sane, inclusive, fair, self-reliant and egalitarian. If Buhari leaves Nigeria a much better country than the “shit-hole” country that President Donald Trump says it is then we will have every reason to venerate him. He, too, will have every reason to return to Daura in blissful retirement and to happily look after his cattle and grandchildren. As for Atiku Abubakar he, or those around him, might think that there is an unfinished business that needs to be brought to a closure in 2023. In 2023, there will be no incumbent looking for a second term as President. And President Buhari has assured us that he is not looking for a third term, a situation that could have come with a bag of unpleasant complexities. In 2023 the coast will be clear. That is why the hustling has started quite early.
It is doubtful if there will be any method to the madness that is about to come. Those who are threatening to throw their hats into the ring that is not yet visible seem to be oblivious of the north-south zoning arrangement which has been adopted by the major parties since 1999. Of course, since the arrangement was not cast on stone there have been greedy violations by some politicians who have emphasized their constitutional right to stake their claims to the presidency. With the 2019 presidency having been decided by the Supreme Court Atiku Abubakar must be pondering his own future now. He has to decide whether he wants to run in 2023 or not. By 2023 he will be about 76 years old. Would he be considered too old to run? That is an important question, important because if he runs and wins he will end his first term when he is 80 years old. That will be the definition of gerontocracy. And if he is tempted to do a second term he will end up as an 84 year-old President by the time he completes two terms. But age is not the only factor to speculate on. Zoning is an issue that has received robust attention since 1999 and we seem to have found a fairly acceptable but not universally accepted formula for dealing with the ticklish issue. If the zoning formula works as it is expected to work by the ad hoc arrangement, then the presidential ticket of the two major parties should move to the South in 2023, possibly to the South East if fairness is a factor. But politics is not a fair game and is far less so in this part of the world.
Therefore those who want it must fight for it, work for it, campaign for it and prove that they deserve it much more than others who are laying claims to the trophy. If Atiku is interested in making another pitch for the office he must reckon with two possibilities (a) that the PDP in the South East which controls four out of five states will show more than a passing interest in the affair (b) that those younger aspirants from the north who contested for the party primaries in the recent elections might still be keeping their ambition alive. Such men include Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto, Senator Rafiu Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano state, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Senate President. As the time draws near there will be some more aspirants that may want to get into the fray. If in 2023 the PDP aspirants in the north want the presidential trophy there will be an obvious schism in their party.
If Atiku Abubakar decides to run in 2023 it will be evidence, if any was needed, that politics is, like alcohol, addictive. Atiku has run a good race. This village boy who became an orphan at an early age has done very well to get to the top in business and politics. After working in the Customs Service for 20 years Atiku started his own business which he ran with admirable success before joining Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in his political platform People’s Front (PF). He contested election as the Governor of Adamawa State and won before Obasanjo picked him for the Vice Presidential position, a position he held for two terms. Atiku has been, like Buhari, a serial contestant for the presidential position. He has been an aspirant or candidate on four occasions namely 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In all of these instances he fought ferociously but MotherLuck did not smile on him. Many analysts thought he had a brighter chance in the 2019 election after he had a reconciliation union with Obasanjo who had blocked him in the past because of some disagreements between them. As it turned out, the result was more of the same thing as he recorded in the past.
Atiku’s journey through life is very inspirational. How he was able to rise from zero to hero, overcoming hurdles and travails along the way is a narrative from which epic stories are made. One incident that epitomizes his life of courage and perseverance took place in May 1995 during the Sani Abacha Administration. According to Dr. Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba who wrote his biography titled Atiku: The story of Atiku Abubakar, Atiku was attacked in his home in Kaduna shortly after Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was arrested. His attackers overpowered his guards, pounced on his first son Adamu who was watching television, beat him up severely and tied his hands behind his back. Atiku emerged from his room and told the attackers: “It is me you want. Here I am. Leave my son alone.” One of them fired a shot that narrowly missed Atiku. They took him to the toilet, locked him up there and ransacked all the rooms. His wife, Titi was ordered to open all the bedroom doors. She complied. They collected money, car keys, Titi’s jewelry and Adamu’s clothes. One of the guards in the house managed to escape and to alert the police as the raid was going on. Six policemen arrived in a pick-up van as the looting and harassment was going on and rushed noisily into the compound. The six of them and one security man were gunned down by the gang.
That incident saved Atiku’s life because the assailants had to escape in a hurry. It was obvious that Atiku, just like Shehu Yar’Adua was a marked man, a man put on the enemies’ list by Sani Abacha. Yar’Adua paid the supreme price but Atiku lived to carry on the fight for the liberation of Nigeria from the pangs of dictatorship. I believe he has done well in that department and can do better by joining forces with people of like minds to offer an effective opposition to the government of the day. It is possible that with his experience in politics, business and life generally he would have been a good President but that opportunity has eluded him. Instead of trying to run for the office again in 2023 I think he should help Nigeria in two ways (a) offer transformational, alternative, critical policy ideas to the government in power and (b) give some serious attention to the issue of the high rate of illiteracy in Northern Nigeria.
It is a bit disappointing that apart from establishing tertiary institutions some of the political elite from the north who had had ample opportunities to do a lot for education merely stopped at just setting up these tertiary institutions. If they had paid some attention to western education all the slave camps set up in the name of Islam would never have existed; all the young people being indoctrinated and used as suicide bombers would have been in schools or in jobs. Without education the north will remain poor, extremely poor, extremely indoctrinatable and an extreme danger to themselves and to all of us. Atiku can do the north a favour by spearheading an education revolution that can transform the lives of the young people in the north from malleable dogs of war and drug addicts to normal, regular, discerning citizens who will aim at achieving what other young people in the world are achieving for themselves and their communities. That is the norm in other countries.
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