Atiku’s Moments


As they always do, the kingmakers of Nigeria have chosen for us our next leader. Remnants of the coup plotters of 1966 have almost always determined “who gets what, when and how” in the country for the past 52 years. Last weekend, they picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the man to succeed Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

The choice came just days before the PDP presidential primary. Until then, some “young Turks” in the enclave of “our owners” had settled for Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto State, who had gone to Port Harcourt convinced he was the anointed one. The generals and their representatives promptly invaded the city to turn the tide.

There is nothing anyone can do now to reverse their decision. Although a cabal within Aso Rock is likely to put up a feeble resistance, its ranks will continue to be eroded as February 2019 approaches. Put simply? Those who put Buhari in office want him out. What is left is a show – the string of campaigns, debates, tantrums (especially on Facebook), “security” warnings, voter register, card reader, queuing, thumb-printing, voting, results, and tribunals all meant to convince the global community that Nigeria democracy is on course, and to reassure the electorate that their vote matters. The man that defined politics as “the madness of many for the benefit of a few” was not off the mark after all.

Atiku would be coming to power fully experienced in the game. The job he first coveted in 1992, which was within his grasp in 2007 until Obasanjo frustrated him, and which he has fought for at every election since then, now appears to be his on a platter of silver. To  Wazirin Adamawa I say congratulations in advance!

These then may be Atiku’s moments. Even as we appear helpless and hope that he would not go back on his promise to restructure the country (as Buhari has done), it’s necessary to beg him to do something great and leave footprints that would be the envy of his predecessors. He has achieved almost everything he desired in life; now in the twilight of his life, his goal should be to write his own epitaph while alive. And what is that legacy money cannot buy? Resurrecting the Nigerian state! I for one had pinned that hope on Buhari when we were campaigning for him. Perhaps Atiku also did. But since he has shown he is incompetent and assailed by health challenges, we have to keep looking for a messiah.

Atiku’s critics say he is corrupt. Maybe he is, but which Nigerian leader since independence was/is less corrupt? If we were to understand the true meaning of corruption, then, every Nigerian who has been in government at any level is corrupt. For it’s almost impossible for anyone living in Nigeria to be spotless. You can’t get anything done in the country without soiling your hands. To pay NEPA or water bills, to get admission for your child in any public university, to consult a good doctor, to get a job, to run a business profitably or contest an election, no Nigerian would pass the test of corruption. Never mind those packaged as “Mr Clean” – they are more “corrupt” than Atiku. The recent recruitment of hundreds of the children and wards of rich and powerful Nigerians in juicy agencies such as the CBN, NNPC and NDIC (without them attending interviews) should clear all doubts.

One gargantuan form of corruption I’m sure Atiku doesn’t – and won’t – engage in is nepotism. Not from his mouth would one hear, “I won’t treat those who voted for me 97% as I would treat those who gave me 5%.” Under his government, the nation’s security architecture won’t be restricted to one section. Just as his wives and workers in his private businesses come from different parts of the country, his aides and other key appointees are certain to be cosmopolitan.

Atiku is an old man. I would have preferred he came into office in 2007 or earlier. But the choice now is not between one in his 50s and another in his 70s or 80s. The owners of Nigeria, who are themselves becoming senile, have already taken a decision on our behalf! We can only pray that Atiku doesn’t get the health challenges associated with old age, at least before he strengthens our institutions and puts competent Nigerians in them. With strong institutions and a workable political system, everything else will fall in place.

Why wouldn’t a septuagenarian dedicate the rest of their life to doing what is right and just? Is it to make money or build influence? Is it to create a new paradise for their progeny? We live in a world we did not create and can never understand: there is no assurance of wealth or power passing from one generation to another in the same family. History is a guide. That’s partly why I consider an Atiku presidency most crucial to us at this time. The generation of looters and scavengers – the thugs of 1966 that drove this country into a horrible civil war and seized political power, and who have been choosing our leaders since then – is growing thinner every day. Likely, all of them will be gone or incapacitated by age before Atiku completes his eight-year tenure. We must prevent them from replacing themselves with their children or minions in their coven.

I have many pieces of advice to give Atiku before he mounts the saddle. It won’t be politically right to say much now, because he won’t give a reply without provoking the kingmakers and therefore prompting them to stop him even at this eleventh hour. For now, however, the anointed one should strive to constitute a team of go-getters who would use ICT to solve for us a mountain of problems including insecurity, election rigging and tax dodging. They should design a system that would make political office unattractive but make local and foreign investments attractive. Such policies are a better way of fighting the poverty and misery that currently threaten to annihilate Nigerians.

His list of ministers and other appointees should be ready before May 2019. It might be better to let them start work after the February polls, as a shadow cabinet, than to wait for six months before releasing a list composed of mainly deadwood.

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