ATIKU ABUBAKAR’S PRESIDENTIAL AMBITION

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Atiku Abubakar

Besides Atiku’s age, it is the turn of the south to produce the next president of the country, argues Kassim Afegbua

Following my interrogation of the Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s presidential aspiration and the urgent need to cede the nomination of the PDP ticket to the Southern part of Nigeria, the alarm bells have been let loose. Expectedly, I have been called all manner of names and accused wrongly, just to extract a pound of flesh from me for daring to question the rationale for Atiku presidency in 2023. I do not have anything personal against Atiku Abubakar, but I disagree with his latest resolve at being a professional aspirànt or perpetual candidate from 1991 till date. Politics has a process and timing. The timing for a fresh mandate for Alhaji Atiku is misplaced at this moment. Having put up such a strong showing in 2019, I thought very sensibly, that was the climax of a journey that started in 1990 when he initially aspired to preside over the country with late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, easily called M.K.O Abiola. Atiku Abubakar was in that equation even though at the end of the day, he was prevailed upon to step down for MKO Abiola. And the rest is history.

Nigeria is a plural society with several political interests competing for attention. It is a country of many tribal leanings and clannish configurations. After the EndSars protest and the lukewarm attitude of the current president before he reluctantly addressed the nation, it became obvious that the age of Methuselah in Nigeria politics was no longer fashionable. Nigerians now yearn for younger leadership who is upwardly mobile to preside over the affairs of the nation, leaders who have the technical ability and managerial acumen to preside over our disparities and ethnicities, and create a balance towards national cohesion and stability. Nigerians are looking forward to welcoming a new dawn in our body of politics, some kind of paradigm shift that would give opportunity to our younger generation to politically assume a pride of place in the scheme of things. President Buhari has not helped matters. He has raised very curious remarks about the sanctity of travelling the road of the aged. Aside from being taciturn, President Buhari is not creative and result-driven. His go-slow style has affected our reading of the older generations who appear unwilling to quit the stage while the ovation is still loud. Buhari’s standoffish attitude and leadership weakness has become Atiku’s albatross. President Buhari has pointedly declared that at 79, working six to eight hours daily is no joke, reason why it will be an exercise in self-destruct to chart the course of an Atiku post Buhari era.

From 1990 till date, Atiku Abubakar has featured in our politics at regular intervals. Remove 32 years away from Atiku’s age, you will readily see the beauty of a young man who got involved at such a middle age to seek the presidency of the country. After 32 years, he should honourably quit the stage for others to try their luck. That is the beauty of life’s evolutionary process. Seeking for that same position which he sought for in 1990 at this age and time is like performing a surgical operation with a blunt scalpel. His closest was the 2019 experience. Bookmakers said he won the election, but INEC thought otherwise. After the 2019 election, when the dust of that election had not settled, when tempers were still high and emotions were still boiling, Alhaji Atiku simply vanished into thin air. He was nowhere to be seen. His next address was Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. When the party members wanted to see him, they had to travel to Dubai. The tribunal came, and Alhaji was nowhere near the courts. Imagine how it would have been seeing him with his Lawyers inside the courtroom, it would have given a sense of motivation and encouragement to all the factors that participated in that election. We waited, kept our eyes on the road, thinking he would join us. Alas! He was away in the comfort zone of Dubai’s architectural wonders while we remained here in Nigeria like orphans or fatherless children. The tribunal case ended on a loss note. That was to mark another evolutionary watershed in the history of electoral petitions in Nigeria. But in all of the actions, Alhaji Atiku was absent.

When they are seeking for election, they try to act as father-figure, pretending to have the interest of the people at heart, but when you need them to give you protection, they hide in the comfort zone of their empire. For those of us who were spokesmen of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, it was difficult getting to sit Alhaji Atiku Abubakar down to robustly engage, at least to glean from his perspectives on issues. After the election, and after his escape from the shores of Nigeria, there was no post-election thank you. And this is not about material gratification. Far from it! It was simply by way of hosting a meeting to say, ‘guys, you all are great. You made me proud. I appreciate.’ Instead, for two years, Alhaji Atiku was in Dubai, and left us in the lurch. When he returned to the country and the idea of recontesting struck his mind, he wrote personalized letters to some chosen associates, supporters and stakeholders. When I got my own letter, I asked a couple of questions. Aside from being a regular face in the political firmament of Nigeria, like Robert Mugabe to Zimbabweans, Alhaji Atiku’s aspiration was wrongly footed. The pendulum of the political equations and algorithms has to shift to the Southern part of the country in 2023.

After an unbroken eight years run by President Buhari, it will be immoral for any Northerner to aspire to govern the country on another run of eight years. That would be injustice of the first order. Even if the equation becomes so compelling, we could opt for a younger element to fill the void. Contesting for presidential elections since 1990 till date without success is enough indication that he was not destined to be. At this age and time, I would rather he supports a younger element from the south as a way to assuage the feelings of the people. Political greed and selfishness has its own undercurrent. Just like power and its aphrodisiac, it makes men blind to their real intentions. Their eyes will be fixated on the aplomb of power, its allure and appurtenances. But the dynamics of the moment and the learned experiences from President Buhari’s gloomy and uneventful leadership, have combined to hurt the dialectics of an Atiku aspiration. The country must consciously engage with diverse interests across the land. Individual and collective interests must be cultivated. Geopolitical zones balancing through robust interactions and constructive engagement are the required process to build national cohesion. And with the way the country has become, a Southern presidency is one that will invariably calm frayed nerves and put paid to some agitations that have been threatening the unity of the country.

The route I have taken is one borne out of my deep conviction that Nigeria needs to chart a new course of action. It is one that reminds me that if we choose to do things differently, we will achieve greater success than devote time, energy and resources in championing the aspirations of a man who has been a perpetual aspirànt and a recurring decimal in our national politics. I hold no grudge. It is out of love that I have spoken truth to the man, and I welcome all the insults and abuses. Not long, my interrogations would yield the desired result and I do hope that Alhaji Atiku would not end up gnashing his teeth to lament the turnout of events with the usual malaproprian bluff; had I know. The resources he intends to lavish at this political contestation should serve other purposes that could impact on the wellbeing of his followers and supporters. The binoculars for the 2023 presidential contest does not pick the image of Alhaji Abubakar. The earlier he quits the race, the better for his cherished history, the better for his political trajectory. Those who are waiting to profit from his involvement might not like my invocations, but in the long run, it will form a basis to assess the totality of his political emanations as he ages on. At 77 in 2023, I will rather quit politics, such a vocation where insults are hurled at you, than stay put in the name of putting up a try. When the sunshine of Mugabe of Zimbabwe was ebbing, he frowned at those who gave him honest advice and romanced those praise singers who said he was the father of the nation of Zimbabwe. At the end, his fall from glory was the denouement of a journey that ended in infamy and public disgrace. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, I still wish you well.

Prince Afegbua was a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State