A few months after President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his ministers, I had a personal conversation with one of the 60 people who decide Nigeria’s fortune (apologies to Professor Pat Utomi). Perhaps my source may not be in the top 60, but he is a very influential player in today’s Nigeria. We spoke about the ministers, the vice president, the 2015 run of play and some things about the politics of 2019.
Note that this was just early 2016, less than a year after the new president was sworn into office. This individual told me a fascinating story about Atiku Abubakar; he said when Atiku was much younger, he met a “prophet”, who told him that he would someday be president, and he has since pursued that “prophesy”. My source added that Atiku, who lost the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket to Buhari in 2015, will run again in 2019.
So sure of what he was saying, the source added that if he does not get the APC ticket, Atiku will switch into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and if the PDP does not oblige him, he will run solo on a CPC-like party. As if he was making a prophesy of his own, this person went on to say if Atiku loses in 2019, he would run again in 2023. For him, becoming president is a must — it is a fulfilment of destiny.
Perhaps you have also heard this story, and like me, you really want to verify but no luck thus far. We may not get the chance to know the truth in the short-term, but we can interrogate the drive behind Atiku’s aspirations to lead Nigeria come 2019. He told TheCable in 2014 that APC will be his last bus stop party-wise, and only time will tell if Atiku will be true to his words.
Atiku’s past as Buhari’s Goliath
In the build up to the 2015 election, Atiku was so sure he would win the APC presidential ticket. He had gone to many states of the nation campaigning and making a strong case for his emergence. In my opinion, Atiku had the most tangible blueprint for Nigeria’s development at the time.
He contested against Rabiu Kwankwanso, former governor of Kano state; Rochas Okorocha of Imo state; Sam Nda Isaiah, the man with the “big ideas”; and Muhammadu Buhari.
In an interview with TheCable at the time, Atiku was so sure he would clinch the APC ticket. At the time, he said “the perception that the ticket is there for Buhari to take is a mistaken perception because Buhari has never participated in any primaries”.”In the three elections he contested, he was simply given the tickets. He did not go through any primaries. I believe that is not going to be helpful to him in this very case.”
I was at the 2014 APC presidential primaries which held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, and I know Buhari was not simply given the ticket. That night, a lot of money exchanged hands, and the winner was determined by the preferences of the people, at least so it seemed. Somehow, Atiku the great, lost out to Buhari who was seen as lacking the financial might to outmuscle Atiku’s economic warchest. The former vice-president was the goliath of the APC primaries.
Virtually everyone in the party rallied around Buhari and presented him to the nation with tall promises and volatile speeches. The APC became more guilty of what one of my favourite columnist Sonala Olumhense referred to as a “mountain of promises”, which was built by Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.
Like Jonathan, the Buhari team have gone on building a molehill as against the mountain promised. Over the past week, I have had discussions with friends from Ghana and Rwanda, who expressed how much hope they had in Buhari during the elections and how he has come to disappoint them. I have had to — as a matter of national duty — defend the president, whom I have also begun to lose faith in.
I hope Buhari does well with the few days he has left in office, but I am bracing up for a new dispensation, and this time, we must question anyone who promises to be more messanic than Muhammadu Buhari did.
Questioning this Atiku, Biafra’s Messiah
Since he kicked off his subtle campaign, Atiku has gone about the country, pushing for the restructuring of the Nigerian nation. He went as far as promising restructuring in six months.
“The country can be restructured in six months, all you have to do is return the items on the concurrent list to the states,” Atiku said at a lecture in Enugu in July.
He has promised to fight corruption like no one has ever done before, emphasising that he is not corrupt, and those levelling allegations of corruption against him have no shred of evidence.
The current administration has been rather hostile to the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), going as far as tagging the group a terrorist group, and ordering its proscription. Atiku on the other hand has been fraternising with Ndigbo in general, and has called for dialogue with the group, adding that “the history of Nigeria shows that anytime people are targeted and hurt based on their ethnicity, we all suffer”.
The businessman-cum-politician may be right on many fronts, based on his prevailing rhetoric. However, the mistake we all made in 2015 must not be made again.
In 2015, we ran into a political frenzy, which was the foundation of the hate speech we see today. The Jonathan versus Buhari, south versus north, Muslim versus Christian narratives did not give room for issues-driven debates. Before we knew what was happening, the politics had happened to us.
In 2019, this must not be the case; Atiku or any other candidate must show us the HOWs of their promises. I will restructure Nigeria. How? I will fight corruption. How? I will ensure devolution of power. How? Until we see their plans to the last detail, we should not be convinced that they can do it. 2019 must be for the real questions not the political frenzy.