Atiku’s chord that tickles
Particularly, he seems to be one of the most prepared political leaders of this nation after the first generation political leaders like Zik, Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello. But since Nigeria’s democratic top political leadership seems to often go to the most unprepared, Atiku has been a serial presidential aspirant, forcing him to criss-cross carpets so often. But to be sure Atiku remains an important constant in contemporary political equations of our country.
If he has not yet made a great success of his political ambition to lead the nation at the highest level, he has shown great success in his business pursuits and is actually perceived as a very successful business man with deep pockets. He has also been able to shrug off accusations of corruption, coming out from several accusations and investigations smelling fresh. For me, I am most impressed with what he has done with the ABTI American University of Nigeria in Yola. The quality of training of the students and the skills of the graduates, I am told, is globally- competitive. Though I have often been disappointed with his penchant to switch parties, I have been intrigued with his often clear headed understanding of the Nigerian political situation.
But his recent statements concerning Nigeria have begun to strike the right chords and that tickles me. When I read what he said at the launch of the book We are all Biafrans in Abuja, a few months ago, I was definitely taken aback. Against the background of the stout opposition to the issue of restructuring Nigeria by many of the Northern political elite and also the deafening silence of his party – APC- on this vexed subject, it was refreshing to see a man break ranks and courageously stick out his neck and address the issue of the critical challenge facing Nigeria. At that time, I heard speculations that Atiku was positioning for 2019! Well I went back to review some of his other less publicised statements in the recent past and noticed there was some consistency in his view of how to make Nigeria a truly united, stable and prosperous nation.
When last week I read his speech this time addressed to the Northern political elite at an event commemorating the death of late General Hassan Usman Katsina, former military Governor of Northern Nigeria at the Murtala Square in Kaduna, I broke out into a brake dance. In this very memorable speech, Atiku made very critical points, much of which are in line with my thinking and writings.
First he boldly justified why Nigeria must be restructured to restore peace and stability to the nation. Second he tried very hard to convince the Northern political elite that they should not fear restructuring Nigeria and that they should stop opposing this critical inevitability, because to continue to do so will continue to give credence to the widely held view that it is only the North that is benefitting from this inverted and unstable federation. He supported this argument by showing how things were better for the whole North during the Regional government of the 60s as against the current situation where most of the states had become almost insolvent and unable to deliver very simple services to the people.
Third, he asked the North and by extension the entire nation to begin to look at Nigeria beyond oil and that for several reasons the days of hydrocarbons or fossil fuels were counted. We should rather focus on education to produce skills that will drive agricultural value chains, solid minerals exploitation and industrial output, citing how nations like Japan and Singapore have succeeded without much of natural resource endowment. Fourth he asked us all to forget the “resource control” mentality as that will not help us to compete in the 21st Century global economy. We should focus on attracting investment, creating value and funding government through taxation.
Fifth and perhaps most appealing to me is his admonition that national integration and unity cannot be wished for only but must be deliberately pursued. His point that you cannot tell a man who says he is feeling pain that he is not , but rather you need to find out what is causing the man’s pain and possibly offer him remedies, resonates very strongly with me. Furthermore he argues that discriminating against citizens of Nigeria on the basis of State of Origin, rather than emphasising state of residency is a recipe for the continued lack of unity and patriotism.
I have repeatedly made this point which has now become obvious to most objective Nigerians, North or South, Christian or Muslim that this government is not consciously building a united nation. Rather, we are arming Nigerians to go and kill Nigerians as a way of forcing unity. I fully agree with Atiku that this will not work.
As I am writing this piece, I am reading a story of Nigerian soldiers being killed in Niger State, close to Abuja by armed militants. Who are these armed marauders? Are they Boko Haram terrorists or Niger Delta Militants? What of the carnage going on in the Lagos-Ogun axis? Is it truly caused by the same Niger Delta Avengers operating in Bayelsa and Delta states? Nigeria has never been this disunited and insecure since the civil war ended!
Sixth, Atiku’s final admonition to the northern political elite is direct and poignant. The North should be at the table where the restructuring of Nigeria is being discussed and negotiated. They must not allow the restructuring to be foisted on them. In his estimation, the restructuring will happen sooner than latter and it is better done peacefully around a table than when it is forced by circumstances beyond anybody’s control. Whatever may be Atiku’s motivation ( political or altruistic )for providing this wonderful treatise and speaking boldly and directly to our Northern compatriots, I stand with him.
Ohuabunwa is an officer of Order of the Federal Republic (OFR)