The Atiku Conundrum, By Akintokunbo A Adejumo

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That Mr Atiku Abubakar resigned from the APC a few days ago certainly did not come as a surprise to me and many other Nigerians; it has always been a matter of when he will leave the APC and not if he will dump the APC. I suppose every Nigerian who considers him/herself a political pundit or analyst now will be talking about the Return of Atiku to mainstream Nigerian politics from now on till 2019 when we would have had the Elections; in the buses, the markets, the pepper soup joints, the exclusive recreational and social clubs that provide entertainment of sorts for the high and might, on the tennis courts, parties, etc. The newspapers, the radios and the television houses are having a field day too.

Now, at least as of present, the former Vice President of Nigeria’s Third Republic, has only resigned from the ruling APC; he has not declared for any party, not even the PDP, but I guess Nigerians and himself know which side  his bread is buttered and where he stands a good chance of actually contesting for the Presidency – the Peoples Democratic Party, a party that has been decimated by internal strife and bad publicity from Nigerians and lost access to the apparently bottomless  treasury of Nigeria will be glad to accept Mr Atiku Abubakar. He’s the only chance they have now of clawing their way back in Aso Rock and ruling Nigeria.

That means the PDP needs Atiku; and Atiku himself needs the PDP. Everything is there for him, after all, he was one of the pioneer founders of that party, and knows everything about the party and its members, notwithstanding the pretenders and the remnants.

And you know what? If Mr Atiku secures the PDP ticket to contest for the Presidency in 2019 (in a few months’ time in 2018, this will be sorted out), there will be a bit of panic to the fainthearted and finicky former PDP deserters who went to the APC and they will troop back to the PDP again. At least, this is what in my opinion, the current PDP members will be counting on. They will be welcome back, their numbers and resources utilised, but they will not be forgiven for defecting in the first place, after losing the Presidency in 2015. The exception to this rule, of course, is Mr Atiku Abubakar himself.

In my opinion, I think Mr Atiku missed the chance to become President, the moment he could not wait for Obasanjo to complete his two terms of eight years (this assertion from me is subject to my understanding of what went on), and then as an interested VP, he would have been able to contest in the Primaries and with Obasanjo’s backing for being a loyal lieutenant, would have secured the ticket in 2007 with ease. But alas, Atiku thought he was more powerful politically than the man who invited him to come and become his VP, and not aware of the cunning of Balogun of Owu, got himself negated politically. Since then, Atiku has been put to grass, a kind of ghostly Flying Dutchman, the legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever, never dead but floating about endlessly in search of some elusive port.

I will not delve into Mr Atiku’s career as a Customs Officer, but in fairness to him, other people that have shown interest or contested for the Office of the President in Nigeria are no better than him morally (Sorry, the exception is the current President, Mr Buhari and probably, late Umar Yar‘Adua). This is the stark truth. In the Federal or States level, all of them are the same. In fact, the States are even worse.

Is he a political prostitute? Again, I will hesitate to agree. The incumbent Present has contested four times under four different parties, yet I do not see him as a political prostitute, so it will be hypocritical of me to label Mr Atiku as such. But, is there any Nigerian political party known to be pro- poor or pro-Nigerian youths, as Mr Atiku is now projecting himself? I really don’t know which party is visionary enough to think ahead of time. As far as I can remember our politicians would do or say anything sweet to win over electorates and Atiku is no different.

Is he desperate to become President? If ambition to be something is desperation, then perhaps he is. I do not dislike him anymore as I used to. In fact, I have followed his course and appreciate him for his generosity, courage, and his political doggedness has obviously kept him going through all the bombs and ordeals thrown at him from all sides.

Was he or is he corrupt? To be frank, one of the things I have had against this man since the beginning of this democratic experiment is that whiff of corruption that is always following him around.  Ex-President Obasanjo, who was his boss wrote a very scathing and damming opprobrium on Atiku in his book, “MY WATCH (2)” which I would not repeat here.“A damning report on his erstwhile deputy, Atiku, would be damaging if not fatalistic to Atiku’s presidential ambition. Atiku had never helped himself.  It is not as if he is not as corrupt as any other politician including Obasanjo. He believes too much in the use of bribes and other illicit inducements while he offers nothing else in terms of management, education, industry, purpose, ideas, and loyalty. Atiku made himself a very bad sell to Nigerians and the international world”. (this is courtesy of Mr Kayode Nathan, a political observer and commentator).

Obasanjo might be a loathed politician/former President, the fact is he has been the most influential figure in military and civil politics in Nigeria since over 40 years ago.  There are more influential or prominent Nigerians who would listen to Obasanjo rather than anyone else. Many of us may not like most of his politics or persona, but that could not wish away his ever presence and influence on Nigerian politics and its effect on Nigerians.

In recent times, however, I have come to realise that it may be wrong of me to condemn Mr Atiku because of alleged corruption when in the current government, there are more and even worse corrupt people than him tinkling with our collective lives. I am still convinced he’s a corrupt Nigerian, even if has never been convicted (which of them is not?) but I would not crucify him alone. It is on this basis that I would be hesitant in helping him get elected as my President.

All our politicians, save a minute few, are corrupt and insincere. A lot of them have even used Atiku’s money, generosity, and influence one time or the other to get something, to be something. I have ceased disliking Mr Atiku; I now give him some respect and sympathy. But that does not mean I am endorsing him to be my President.

So, Mr Atiku, like ninety-nine percent of Nigeria’s politicians, is tainted; he’s not clean and it will be very difficult for him and his supporters to convince many Nigerians of different political divide, to the contrary. Even, many in the PDP, which he may re-join are of this same view.

If he had remained in ONE political party, even the PDP since 1999, I am a hundred percent sure he could have achieved his goal of ruling this country for the maximum eight years allowed.

In recent times, Mr Atiku has shown archetypal maturity politically; he has rebranded and re-defined himself and his goals. He has been saying the right things, e.g. he has been calling for Restructuring long before it became a noise. He has been playing up to the young people and reaching out to the Next Generation of politicians. In other words, he has upped his game and become more polished in his utterances. That’s the sign of a Nigerian politician who has evolved. He seems to have a very deep pocket too.

So, integrity is the problem. He has a problem of Integrity. When I scour the social media to gauge their reaction to Atiku dumping the APC and apparently gunning for the Presidency in 2019, it was of course, mixed reactions. But I see some core PDP people happy that Atiku leaving the APC might prove to be their redeeming quality. But with all kinds of worms crawling out of the woodwork in the PDP – Gov.Fayose of Ekiti State is one of them – and an internecine warfare going on in this depleted and almost moribund political party which thought it was going to rule Nigeria for sixty years, maybe Atiku Abubakar is the tonic they need to re-invigorate them and bring the party in line.

I have been having online warfare with some of my compatriots who wrongly think that I have been slandering Mr Atiku, on his career in the Customs, his perceived corruption, etc. but I see these people as hanging on to,unarguably their last thread of hope for the PDP. Atiku is the only thing they can hope for as far as deliverance of the PDP and chasing Buhari out of Aso Rock is possible. Good luck to them! I don’t really care. What I care about is Nigeria and Nigerians; not about politicians who, for the past six decades have not made any impact on our lives and still seem to continue that way, while the gullible still celebrate them.

Remember, when Atiku left the APC, he’s not leaving alone. He has his people who followed him to the APC, and these same people will also follow him back to the PDP, if it is PDP that he will return to.

To his supporters, followers, and those who see him as a “saviour” of the PDP, they never keep saying that it was the resoluteness and courage of Atiku that put a brake on the Third Term Agenda and ambition of then President Obasanjo (I disagree with this assertion because it was the collective efforts of the NASS and others, including Atiku, that scuttled this Agenda, and not Atiku alone). And it was this that sparked the vindictiveness of Obasanjo to ensure that Atiku never succeeded him, and still working to ensure that Atiku never becomes the President of this country in his lifetime.

Will he make a good president of Nigeria? This depends on what is meant by “Good”. To me, a good president for Nigeria is one that emancipate the people of this country from poverty, injustice and corruption, that will ensure justice, fairness and equity; that will ensure the development of this country and make life better for all Nigerians irrespective of ethnicity and religion; that will be disciplined, accountable and sensitive to the plight of my people and willing to tackle the problems of this country headlong, without fear and favour, and will not succumb to arrogance in power and sycophancy from his acolytes. In short, a President that will do things for his people and ensure good governance for the benefit of all and not for a few.

Another take to this, is that impatient and desperate politicians, bent on taking power at all costs, never make good leaders, especially in a democratic environment as warped and aberrant as ours in Nigeria. Our country is replete, if not suffused with examples of such leaders.

Maybe what I have listed (and even many more that I have not listed) are dreams that may not be realised in our lifetimes, but we keep hoping. Is Atiku that man, or even half the man to accomplish these ideals? But as earlier written, the man has leant his lessons, he has become very astute and knowledgeable about politics, if not governance. He’s a very generous man, sympathetic and may mean very well for this country.

But, that whiff of corruption is my problem with him, but he’s not the only one in that category, and Atiku’s condemnation or disqualification on this criterion will smack of hypocrisy on our part. And for Nigerians, does it matter anymore?  But it will be left to him to convince Nigerians otherwise and up to Nigerians to see him as an alternative to the present.

For me, I will sit back and enjoy the politics – the intrigues, strategies, tomfoolery, jostling, mudslinging, even bloodletting and all the associated characteristics of a crude democracy. As you will observe, I have neither condemned nor endorsed Mr Atiku as credible, trustworthy, dependable, sincere,and alternative candidate. I just try to throw it open. That is why the title of this article is called The Atiku Conundrum – a poser, a mystery, a puzzle!!

For you, and of course me, I have sufficient option, intelligence, and experience to decide who I will vote for come 2019.

God bless Nigeria!!