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‘Cameroonian Atiku’and other Tales

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Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar


It was in my first year in the university that I was formally introduced to African stories in the written tradition after my mother had taught me some tales about the crafty and cunning tortoise at home in the tradition of ‘shortening the night’, before the television took over our evenings, and the story-telling tradition disappeared, and we lost our identity and blended with the world and became ‘international’ citizens without roots.

She called it ‘gbosia’ (tell tales) in Urhobo language. In ‘Introduction to the Short Story’ as a course, I got used to the titles which were taught, for example, ‘Ajayi the thief and other stories’. The import was that the main story was‘Ajayi the thief’.

Armed with this knowledge I have elected to narrate the tale of Cameroonian Atiku today. Well, Atiku is a well-known name in Nigerian politics. I got to read about him when he ran for governorship in Adamawa State in 1998 and won and later Chief Olusegun Obasanjo picked him as a running mate while Governor-Elect of Adamawa State, and on a joint ticket they won the presidential elections of 1999 and Atiku became Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He contested the 2019 presidential elections on the platform of the PDP, came second, and has challenged Buhari’s victory in court. After the suit came up in court, Atiku was pronounced a Cameroonian by APC lawyers who, according to them ab initio, was not qualified to contest any elections in Nigeria.

If I may rewind a little, Atiku had fallen out with his principal Chief Obasanjo during the second term contestation in 2003.This is part of the other tales about the Cameroonian who became Nigeria’s Vice President in 1999 and indeed had a second term and could have become president if he had not stepped on the big toes of OBJ. Does my narrative read jagajaga to you? The whole tale is jagajaga like politics in Nigeria, as that musician Eedris Abdulkareem once sang and Father of the Nation Obj gave him a stinging rebuke!

This Cameroonian also fell out with the juggernauts in the PDP after 2015 and became a powerful force in the APC after crossing the carpet. He helped his new party and friends of his fought so hard to win the 2015 general elections. It is an open secret that the Cameroonian parted with his cash (hard earned?) for the party to dance into the sweet victory that brought President Buhari to Aso Rock in 2015. His aircraft, we are told, ferried the campaign team of then candidate Buhari from state to state. At the time the oracle in APC kept silent about hiscoded nationality.

A tale! Wikipedia assures me that a tale is a‘fictitious or true narrative or story, especially one that is imaginatively recounted”. In Nigeria, we call it ‘story story? Story!’ or fabu! When a story sounds incredible we refer to it as a tale. The ‘Adventures of Cameroonian Atiku in Nigerian Politics’ therefore is a tale we must use to laugh off the stress of the times, the type of tale which a bully uses to frighten foes.

I am not going to toe the line of bad belle people who associate the Atiku Cameroonian tale with the election matter which Atiku has insisted must be heard in court, and some people are not happy and have declared that foul is fair and fair is foul, you know, what the inimitable Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once described as ‘roforofo’ fight, what we used to call ‘ten minutes ugbo’ in our younger days in Sapele. You know, the tortoise is very cunning in all tales. I am sure some of you will bother your head now about who is the equivalent of the tortoise in the Atiku Cameroonian tale. Time will tell the tale!

Last year some mischievous fellow spun a tale about the nationality of the incumbent president. Of course no serious-minded person took the tale seriously. How could anybody believe the tale that the man who went to the UK for treatment was not the same man that returned to govern Nigeria and that he had a double from Niger called Jibrin? Great fabu.Fake news.Doppelganger trick on the entire nation? Naah! But the president did not find it funny and was forced to clear the whole matter somewhere outside the country if my memory serves me right and that was the end of the matter in spite of what Troublemaker Nnamdi Kanu keeps affirming and reaffirming!

I remember another tale from 1980 when the NPN government of Shehu Shagari issued a deportation order to one Alhaji Abdurrahman Shugaba Darman after stamping him with Chadian citizenship. Shugaba, a contemporary of Sir Ahmadu Bello was a politician from Borno State and a founding member of GNPP who had won a seat in the State House of Assembly in 1979 and became House Majority Leader, and he was quite charismatic and attracted large crowds to the chagrin of NPN stalwarts. What to do with this nuisance? The NPN oracle created a tale that recreated the identity of Shugaba. The borderline in parts of the region is so thin that one could walk from one country into another. The Shugaba matter went all the way through the lower courts and appellate system till it got to the Supreme Court. At all levels the government lost the battle because indeed Shugaba was a Nigerian. The tale did not stand. I remember we used to joke with the idea of being ‘Shugabaed! Now back to the CameroonianAtiku Tale!

Well, I read an online stuff which reported Atiku as saying that the identity of the president should be examined whether indeed he is the man we actually elected. And I remember the Benue-Plateau State saga that led to ‘if you Tarka me I will Daboh you’ after Godwin Daboh a private citizen had accused J.S. Tarka, a Minister of the Federal Republic, of corruption and Tarkawas forced to resign. This was after Tarka declared that the Gowon administration encouraged citizens to name corrupt politicians in public. So, is the return of doppelganger tale a question of ‘if you Tarka me I Daboh you? I am still scratching my head!

It is mischievous coincidence, isn’t it, that Atiku became a Cameroonian or was declared one after he challenged the Buhari victory in court. We wonder about the tales emanating these days from the government in Abuja! It is no news that governments tell lies to protect the State, or protect the government or protect the chief executive against himself. However, once a government is confirmed to be a spinner of tales or fabus or fake news no one will take that government seriously anymore. So Nigerian Atiku, former Customs boss, former Governor-elect, former Vice President, and Presidential candidate of PDP might just be a victim of desperate politics in the NPN-Shugaba tradition. Is somebody, are some people fiddling with truth and governance while Nigeria is burning? Time will tell the truth in the tale!


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Atiku Abubakar
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