By Kennedy Emetulu
A month or two before Christmas last year, I happened upon a song by the 35-year-old Australian singer-songwriter, Dean Lewis. It was a single he released in September, 2022. One line in the song always gets me thinking, even outside the context of the song itself, which he wrote for his dad, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. The line says: “There’s so much to say but there’s so little time.”
I don’t know whether it was because I got to hear the song first in an election season or something else, but what I do know is that each time I hear that line, it conjures up images of Nigerians and politicians in an election season circling each other, each talking and talking and talking, day in, day out. In the beginning, everybody thinks there’s enough time to listen to the politicians tell us their plans if elected and the politicians too believe there’s enough time to get enough of the people to buy their ideas. Then, suddenly, the day of the election comes and the politicians wonder if they’d said enough to get them elected and the people too wonder if they’ve heard enough to get them to vote whoever they are considering. So much to say on all sides, but so little time. Always. But, now, the die is cast and we must vote.
Political philosophers and scholars might wonder eternally why the vote is so important because no matter the beautiful essays they churn out regularly to confirm the stock answer that it is important for citizens in a democracy to periodically vote to elect their leaders, when all is said and done, it is the individual that determines how important it is to him or her because there is no compulsion. Also, people vote for a variety of reasons and these reasons are not all the same for even people that vote the same candidates. Let’s just say voting is a very private thing with huge public consequences. That is why it is important to always say the little that is necessary to say before any election because there is a lot of truth in the saying that a people deserve the government they elect. Once you have thumbprinted your decision on the ballot, you can’t take it back. It’s done, sealed for the next four years. So, even if all you had was just one day to think before making the decision, once you make the choice you rise or sink with it. We as Nigerians must have learnt our lessons by now, or have we?
Now, why is this decision so important? It’s a difficult question to answer directly because the answer is usually beclouded by the collective emotions of the moment, even in their diverse expressions. People mostly see its importance from the limited but hugely experiential perspective of the perennial failure of the choices of the past and the perennial hope of better choices for the future without any guarantee at the time of making the decision, especially in a system where there really are no ideological differences between the political parties and with political actors transmuting to new persons just by jumping from one party to the other and back again, all of which makes it difficult to make an objective evaluation for the purposes of a decision.
Thus, the contest is never about ideas, but about loyalties to personalities and parties sometimes with just the benefit of mere association and nothing more. That is why in every presidential election in every election cycle in Nigeria, we come out to repetitively declare that the current election is the most important. We do not have to back it up with any objective facts, just the fact that it is happening is enough. We are just comfortable defining the future as though it depends on what happens with any current election. Yet, the election comes, and after we’ve done our usual thing of voting in mostly awful choices of candidates, we still waddle through and brace the storms of the four years thereafter only to return again to the starting block during another presidential election cycle. Where the benefits never come or are never fairly distributed, elections become zero sum games. That is where we are again now.
However, this time, it is truly different. President Muhammadu Buhari has made it different, Bola Tinubu has made it different, Nyesom Wike has made it different, Peter Obi has made it different. The only thing familiar about it all is that Atiku Abubakar is running again. Not only that, Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa’s presence on the ballot this time is the only reason we can hope that the Nigeria we know, the Nigeria we were familiar with, that Nigeria which has almost been obliterated by national discontents of all kinds masquerading as politicians and patriots this season, can still be rescued and restored intact. This is the reason why in acknowledging that there is a lot to say but little time to say it, I have chosen to present myself this election cycle as a single-issue voter. That single issue for me is the matter of saving and stabilizing the Nigerian nation from the many dark human, environmental and institutional forces threatening to lay the country and its people to waste just because we are in an election season.
Ordinarily, single-issue voters who ignore every other issue on the ballot only to focus on that which appeals to them, no matter how seemingly irrelevant that issue is in the whole scheme of things, are generally not considered relevant to outcomes. But when the fabric of the nation is being viciously torn apart by desperate politicians selling snake oil as patriotism and fight for equity, rescuing the nation with your vote becomes the only compelling thing to think and do. Indeed, it has come to the situation where we have to first chase away the hawk before returning to chastise mother hen. This election is not about chastising mother hen; it’s about chasing away the hawk.
Of course, in deciding to make a single-issue case for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa in this election, it is not that one is unaware of the fact that there are many issues on the ballot that deserve attention. But as MKO Abiola would say, why struggle to hold the body of the cow when you already have the head? In other words, no matter the many issues to be addressed in relation to what is needed to get Nigeria going – issues we naturally find addressed in the manifestos of the candidates – if we do not first rescue and secure Nigeria, of what use are those other things we want to talk about?
Yet, it’s important I provide an insight into something essential with regard to these other issues. That is why before I go on to make the one-issue case for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa, I want to put on record here that Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa did their homework diligently, so that we all know that it is not for lack of substance that I have chosen to not fully make this a discussion of their manifesto. Indeed, Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa were the first amongst the viable candidates in this election to produce their manifesto. Bola Tinubu struggled to finally produce one; Peter Obi initially said it was unnecessary, but when his scandalous position was repeatedly questioned, he promised to produce one and finally did.
For the reason that the manifestos are not my focus in this piece, I wouldn’t want to comment in detail on them, except refer us to summaries of each made by Civic Hive, a civil society group established by BudgIT Foundation. They fully analyzed the policy documents of the three leading candidates: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (All Progressives Congress, APC) and Mr Peter Obi (Labour Party). This is published in the Vanguard of Sunday, the 19th of February, 2023. For our purpose, let’s look at their summarized comments on the manifestos. In each section dealing with each candidate, there is a subheading titled “Originality and Coherence,” which qualifies as some sort of summary of each manifesto. Let me quote them verbatim:
On the manifesto of Atiku Abubakar:
“The 20,337 word and 74-page document is well designed and themes are discussed per chapter, with the copious use of the candidate’s pictures. The policy document is largely original and passed the plagiarism test, however, it is laden with buzzwords and socioeconomic terms that are not defined to reflect any specific orthodoxy.
“The policy document is consistent and coherent, moving from identified problems to proposed solutions, sequentially. The document also projects the candidate’s experience in economic reform and political transformation.”
On the manifesto of Bola Tinubu:
“The 80-page document is serialised into 18 chapters and each focused on thematic governance areas, with the candidate summarising in the foreword his aspiration for Nigeria, using his performance as the governor of Lagos State as the foundation of his proposed presidency.
“While the content is largely original, the title ‘Renewed Hope, 2023’ is similar to Chief M.K.O Abiola’s ‘Hope, 1993’, campaign documents. Whether there is an ideological correlation between the candidate’s worldview and Abiola’s or just plain similarity in phrasing remains to be seen.
“The policy document is coherent and well laid out, however it is filled with aspirational statements, with very limited quantitative commitments against which performance can be measured.”
On Peter Obi’s manifesto:
“The candidate’s 72 pages policy document is chaptered into eight thematic sections, with the final section focusing on the biographies of the candidate and his running mate. The title of the policy document – It’s Possible – is similar to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s 2011 presidential election campaign slogan – It is possible. The document is largely original, with heavy usage of international-development-related lingo and platitudes. While there is some clumsiness and incoherence in some sections (for example, Article III, page 13), the document lucidly discusses the problem of governance in Nigeria and makes bold commitments to restructure Nigeria’s federalism. On the other hand, for a candidate framed as an alternative to the current political establishment, the manifesto’s overall non-quantitative commitment to the provision of public goods and services, non-distinction from existing policy directions in many parts, and absence of appropriate clarity pose questions on capability and overall preparedness.”
Appearing in an interview of Channels Television on Tuesday, the 22nd of February, 2022, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, observed that there is no striking difference in the manifestos of the four major candidates (that is including Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party). She said: “They have all published their manifestos. What is quite striking is how similar they are. I did not see huge policy differences among the big four. They have all told us how important it is to take those difficult policy decisions. But are there differences? In terms of policies, I did not see much differences.”
Personally, I think Madam High Commissioner is being naturally diplomatic and understandably so. But Nigerians can see the differences in the manifestos. Nigerians know that if anyone is now claiming they are similar, those who wrote and presented their manifestos later could only have copied from the real original, which is the Atiku Abubakar manifesto. Reading closely the comments of the Civic Hive people, it’s obvious that there is only one manifesto with original ideas, there is only one that is “consistent and coherent, moving from identified problems to proposed solutions, sequentially.” Only Atiku Abubakar’s manifesto “projects the candidate’s experience in economic reform and political transformation.” They say Tinubu is “using his performance as the governor of Lagos State as the foundation of his proposed presidency.” Well, Nigeria is not Lagos. For all the claims he’s made about Lagos, Lagos remains the second worst city in the world. It’s only rated slightly above war-torn Damascus in Syria and a place behind war-torn Tripoli in Libya. So, what’s all that noise about Tinubu and Lagos? Obi really has nothing to run on, except his repeated claim of doing magic as Anambra governor, which is no more than a small-vision view of government that can never work at the national level. Obi and his small-market economics isn’t what Nigeria needs now. This is the 21st century.
The Civic Hive people say Atiku’s manifesto “is laden with buzzwords and socioeconomic terms that are not defined to reflect any specific orthodoxy.” But that is like criticising water for being liquid. A manifesto will naturally be laden with buzzwords because that is the nature of a campaign document. Also, to say it has “socioeconomic terms that are not defined to reflect any specific orthodoxy’ is to judge Atiku with an impossible standard, a standard not used for the rest. I mean, is there really any candidate that is running on an ideological platform? Even Peter Obi running on the Labour Party platform is not ideologically one with Labour. Honestly, I don’t think this is an issue because Nigerian politics is not ideologically structured. That is why people can look at the manifestos and say they sound the same. But we know the candidates through their personal history and life work. Atiku Abubakar is a political, social and economic liberal who believes in the free market. He’s is a proactive politician who will put policies in place to solve the many problems of the nation without the circumscription of any ideological orthodoxy. His biggest strength is that he has the character and will to take the tough decisions and act decisively.
The Saturday, 7th of January, 2023 edition of The Times of London carried a feature on the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi. In the piece, the writer, Richard Assheton, went to town delivering on the job with a picture of a revolutionary Obi ready to take Nigeria to Eldorado. It even introduced the feature with a rider about Obi enjoying “a rapid rise from outsider to frontrunner” and then with the question: “Is his country ready?” So, Obi is this futuristic leader that Nigerians should, if they know what is good for them, embrace now. But despite the piece being a hagiography, truth seeped out reluctantly in some respect.
Talking about Obi and his manifesto, here is the 14th paragraph of the piece:
“His manifesto includes plans to refocus the military from fighting insurgencies to external threats instead. He also intends to introduce an hourly national minimum wage, support export entrepreneurs and save costs by merging government agencies. But much of it reads more like a wishlist than a programme of action. “On policy, Atiku’s is better than Obi’s and better than Tinubu’s,” said Ayisha Osori, of the Open Society Foundation, who nonetheless hopes Obi will win. It is the style, rather than the content, of what Obi is offering that seems to resonate.”
And there it is in black and white! The whole thing about the election is a conspiracy against reason and seriousness. The same style rather than content that resonated with Nigerians in 2015 to herald the plague that is Muhammadu Buhari as President is the same thing they are using to sell Obi and Tinubu. It is not about substance. If it were about substance, anyone can see that Atiku is above the rest ideas-wise. Even Obi supporters, like Ayisha Osori, admit this; but, no, we have to go for sentiments. That’s always the way with Nigerians, the way we always miss our way.
I have taken the time to address the issue of the manifestos, so no one can tell us Atiku has no ideas. We have proven that ideas-wise, as it concerns everyday bread and butter, kitchen table issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerian, Atiku Abubakar has the best answers in his manifesto. He did not start campaigning to be President today. He’s traversed the country selling his ideas and I’m confident Nigerians have heard him. I just pray that this time, we don’t go for style over substance. Our nation has suffered enough from the merchants of empty style.
Now, back to the one-issue that is the main purpose of this piece, I dare say that this nation has been pushed to the brink by desperate agenda-driven charlatans who’ve worked every section of the country and mostly the youth demographic in certain sections into an emotional frenzy along our ethnic and religious fault-lines that today we are hearing things like if one candidate or the other does not win this election, there would be war and that will be the end of Nigeria. How insulting! Whose candidacy amongst the perorating lot is worth us sacrificing the unity of Nigeria? Only Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa amongst the candidates with a viable chance of winning the election have shown that they value the unity of the country and will never play politics with it.
It’s not surprising that when Nigerians survey the national firmament today, all they see is carnage. This is the future foretold when in 2015, we cheerily voted in the APC in the name of some indefinable ‘Change’ and when in 2019, we looked the other way as they rigged themselves back to remain in power. You cannot give what you don’t have. The APC has never been a political party; it is a contraption put together by strange bedfellows purpose-built to strip Nigeria bare. They were not prepared for governance from day one and they never sat to prepare for government thereafter. They just remained drugged for eight years in a nation-destroying frenzy.
As we speak, one word that defines the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling party, the APC, is dysfunction. How did we get here? For the first time in our history, we have turned a simple redesigning of our national currency into a life and death matter. For the first time, we are witnessing the governors of the ruling party openly fighting a President they installed over a policy of the government for reasons that are openly and unapologetically criminal. I mean, a state governor, Nasir El-Rufai actually sat on his big chair in his small Kaduna and delivered a national address countermanding the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while making monetary policy of his own, inciting citizens against the Federal Government with absolutely no consequence!
The presidential candidate of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu and the gang of APC governors supporting him are angry because the Naira redesign policy has rendered the loot they’ve stashed away to buy votes out of commission. The man says the Naira redesign project and the nationwide fuel scarcity are contrived to ensure he loses the election. He wasn’t just releasing friendly fire; he was desperately detonating nuclear bombs!
In fact, there are many contours in the tapestry that is the APC shroud over our prostrate nation. One of it is that Buhari and Tinubu have been having a long-running personality clash on the sidelines of this dysfunctionality. The signs have always been there from the moment both divvied up the party and nation into spheres of influence as a condition for Buhari being helped to the presidency by the Tinubu political machine.
Of course, Tinubu was expecting that after Buhari’s tenure he, the incongruously titled “National Leader” of the APC, would be taking over the baton from Buhari as his secretly designated successor in the ‘rub-my-back, I-rub-yours’ Faustian bargain they’re reported to have entered into. But we do not need to burrow into Buhari’s mind to see on his face that he has endured Tinubu’s hubris long enough that now he really has no scruples looking the other way while Tinubu struggles on the campaign trail. Buhari is not ready to line up the forces of the state and the not-so-inconsiderable benefits of incumbency to help Tinubu. In fact, Tinubu himself precipitately declared this war with his ‘Emi l’okan’ speech in Abeokuta that he thinks strong-armed Buhari and delivered the party ticket to him. This just made Tinubu to believe more in his own hype as a master political strategist. But Buhari simply licked his chops, rubbed his hands and just waited for this moment. And now, Tinubu is crying blue murder along with his gang of governors who’ve built castles in the air of Tinubu’s Aso Rock post-Buhari.
But while there is so much drama to get us guffawing, there is more in it to make us not only cry, but to strike the fear of God into us. There is every reason to believe that Tinubu and his gang are in conspiracy against Nigeria in the name of campaigning for the presidency. On Friday, February 3, 2023, at the Ado-Ekiti presidential campaign, Tinubu openly declared that the fuel scarcity that’s been the lot of Nigerians for many months now and the scarcity of the new Naira notes are being deliberately orchestrated against him, to sow confusion, so the election can be postponed to give room for the creation of an interim government. In subsequent attempts to walk back the comment, his media people claimed he was not referring to the government of Muhammadu Buhari, but to “fifth columnists” and “opposition elements.” But how could people not in government be accused of making policies from Aso Rock to undermine Tinubu, the ruling party’s candidate in the forthcoming election?
As the backlash against Tinubu’s Ado-Ekiti comment rolled on, the Tinubu campaign went one step further to rev things up by deploying Femi Fani-Kayode, one of the Spokespersons of the APC Presidential Campaign Council to tweet on Saturday, February 11, 2023 that Atiku Abubakar and some serving military generals had a secret meeting to plan a coup d’état. The DSS had to invite Mr Fani-Kayode to come spill what he knows about the coup plans and the man has been panting ever since.
But a confirmation that the story line was well-orchestrated soon came in the form of the pint-sized governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai’s breathtakingly treasonable address to Kaduna residents and Nigerians following on the heels of President Buhari’s address to the nation earlier that day, Thursday, February 16, 2023. After rubbishing the President’s broadcast and his attempt to douse the tension occasioned by the poorly-executed Naira redesign policy with a compromise that the old N200 note should still be in use and in circulation till April, El-Rufai incited Nigerians against the government and then topped it up with a convoluted story about how some Aso Rock elements who “completely lost out in the Gubernatorial and Presidential Primaries of the APC in June 2022” picked a grudge with Bola Tinubu for not picking one of them as his running mate and how they hatched a conspiracy to conceive the currency redesign policy “to ensure that the APC presidential candidate is deprived of what they alleged is a humongous war chest.”
He then concluded that these people also sought to achieve any one or more of the following objectives:
“a. Create a nationwide shortage of cash so that citizens are incited to vote against APC candidates across the board resulting in massive losses for the Party in all the elections;
b. Ensure that the cash crunch is so serious, along with the contrived and enduring fuel shortage existing since September 2022, that the 2023 Elections do not hold at all, leading to an Interim National Government to be led by a retired Army General;
c. Sustain the climate of shortage of fuel, food and other necessities, leading to mass protests, violence and breakdown of law and order that would provide a fertile foundation for a military take-over.”
This was shocking! The same DSS that invited Femi Fani-Kayode did not invite Nasir El-Rufai to come explain this nonsense about a coup and what he knows about it. Of course, the excuse would be that he is a state governor with immunity, but in reality he has no immunity from being interrogated. That is the least they could have done. However, not for the first time, El-Rufai strutted away untouched like a sacred cow, while the nation reels from his reckless and irresponsible talk. Even Festus Keyamo, a serving Minister in the government of Muhammadu Buhari, who unashamedly doubles as a Spokesperson for the APC Presidential Campaign Council and who still cowardly holds on to his ministerial post, is out there doing the media rounds as a cheerleader for Fani-Kayode and El-Rufai against the government he serves.
Now, we may wonder what type of desperation would make the campaign organization of the ruling party frame up the presidential candidate of another party and their main challenger for treason of all crimes. But the reason is not farfetched. Atiku Abubakar presents the stiffest challenge to their nation-destroying agenda and getting him out of circulation and off the ballot is the only way they think they can put an end to his challenge. They were playing on the military mentality of President Buhari, the head of their ruling party, who they had calculated would jump at the opportunity to scuttle Atiku’s chances with such a perfect pretext. In fact, if we had a man like Sani Abacha or Olusegun Obasanjo as President, Atiku would have been fighting to save his life from the gulag. Yes, I’m talking the same Obasanjo that lied that President Goodluck Jonathan was recruiting snipers to take out his political opponents. There is no length Tinubu and his promoters will not go to grab power.
Nigerians know that underlining this rebellion by Tinubu and his gang of desperados is the seemingly uplifting story that the APC Northern governors, in a bid to protect national unity, insisted that the presidential ticket of the party be zoned to the South. Of course, this is not true. The ticket was not zoned to the South and many Northerners contested in the primary. The governors made their move to support a known Southerner (Tinubu) only after they were sure that President Buhari had no candidate. The revelation later that Buhari was supporting the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal was shocking to every section of the party. It also revealed Buhari’s political naivety, especially as he left it late to the party Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, to surreptitiously announce, giving him an opportunity to deny later. The failure of that jingoistic gambit by Buhari gave the scheming Northern governors the opportunity to present themselves as some nation-saving wise men when in fact, they were only lining up behind Tinubu like vultures waiting for their carcass because they know he is an infirm candidate who they can manipulate everyday and twice on Sunday. Of course, his bullion vans of dollars did help too.
For El-Rufai, he wants to be the most powerful Chief of Staff Aso Rock has ever seen. He had hoped to be the closest Svengali to Buhari in government when they came to power, but late Abba Kyari and Ibrahim Gambari, the two Chiefs of Staff the President has had, have, to his chagrin, kept him at arms length from the President. With Tinubu, he is a shoo-in for the post of the Chief of Staff, while moonlighting as the Kaduna godfather once his boy, Uba Sani, gets elected. Abdullahi Ganduje, the notorious fellow caught on camera stuffing his agbada with bribe money in dollars sees Tinubu as his role model. He’s been preparing a post-governorship career of seizing Kano, the way Tinubu seized Lagos, playing the eternal godfather. He needs Tinubu in Aso Rock to protect him the way Tinubu himself was protected in Lagos by Buhari. It’s telling that this man that Buhari put his neck on the line for after his shameful episode of stuffing himself up with dollars, a man who actually lost his re-election, but which Buhari forced INEC to conduct again until he “won” could on account of Tinubu and his selfish post-governorship ambition insult Buhari publicly to high heavens.
There are different versions of El-Rufai and Ganduje amongst the Northern governors looking for something in a Tinubu Aso Rock. Of course, that’s normal in politics, but the point is their act of supporting Tinubu has got nothing to do with zoning anything to the South. They are all invested in a selfish motive, which is why they are now fighting Buhari tooth and nail. If a strong, healthy and independent-minded Southerner like Professor Yemi Osinbajo or Rotimi Amaechi had looked likely to emerge as the party candidate, they would have conspired with Buhari to make Ahmed Lawan the candidate. With Tinubu, they want to secure their legacy project of protecting the terrorist Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram with Kashim Shettima, a man strongly linked with them, saying openly he would be in charge of defence, something the Constitution specifically put in the hands of the President.
Obviously, the governors are doing all this because they know Tinubu does not care about policies. With Tinubu, it’s just plain personal ambition and it is the nation we all love that is the prize of his putative presidency. He does not care about the fact that he is not in any mental or physical shape to run the nation. All he wants, all he ever wants, is to win the presidency and boast to his Yoruba people that he is the one who did what Obafemi Awolowo and MKO Abiola could not do. He does not mind whatever happens to him or Nigeria thereafter, as far as he sits as President of Nigeria, even if only for one minute. One of the evilest conmen to traverse Nigeria’s political space, he presently holds the Yoruba, his ethnic group, by the balls, even though he is the antithesis of what the Yoruba would call Omo’luabi. His life of supreme shadiness is everything the Yoruba person does not want to be, but he’s blackmailed most of them into trooping behind him as the best this proud and resourceful people can offer Nigeria. A tragedy, no doubt, but, sadly, that’s where we are.
Of course, Nigerians note his failing attempt to draw parallels with June 12. His ‘Renewed Hope’ campaign is supposed to be an offshoot of the MKO Abiola ‘Hope Campaign’. His supposed support from the North is supposed to mirror Abiola’s as exemplified by his defeat of Bashir Tofa in his Kano home base in 1993. The rebellion he leads now is programmed to look like Abiola’s rebellion against the stealing of his mandate by Abacha and he, Tinubu, is now to be seen as the arrowhead of the new pro-democracy movement being suppressed by Buhari, the old military general that he helped install as President. Naturally all this choreography is as fake as Tinubu himself.
But, the APC and Tinubu’s antics are just one part of a three-pronged attack against Nigeria with Atiku Abubakar standing in the gap. While it’s easy to justify or rationalize what they are doing as normal in partisan politics, it’s difficult to understand the second group of discontents who are Atiku’s own partymen. This group led by Governor Nyesom Wike have invested in the politics of division and national instability by crying wolf pretentiously over the presidential ticket and chairmanship of the PDP. Nyesome Wike who must qualify as the sourest loser of an election (second only to Buhari who roused his supporters to violent action after losing the 2011 presidential election) has recruited four other governors and some others who’ve joined him to amplify his misguided case against simple reason in the name of fighting for equity for the South. Immediately after Wike’s loss to Atiku at the PDP primary, they injected ethnic and sectionalist bad blood into the PDP by claiming that the North has seized the positions of the presidential candidate of the party and the chairmanship of the party leaving the South with nothing. They claim this is against the zoning principle in the party constitution. The fight is seemingly being programmed as a fight against Professor Iyiorcha Ayu, the Chairman of the PDP, but in truth, the target is Atiku Abubakar who they definitely do not want to win the presidential election.
The thing about politics and politicking is that anyone can sell poop as ice-cream once he has enough chutzpah and money to sell it to the gullible. All it needs is propagandistically pulling all sorts of emotional strings and before you know it, a stone-cold lie becomes truth in public space. Such is the case with Wike and co.
Wike was a candidate in an open party primary. He fully and knowingly participated in the primary hoping to win because he had amassed so much money as governor of Rivers State, which he had used to run roughshod over everyone in the party for the past few years. Every contrived crisis and seeming solution revolved around Wike as he intimidated everybody and rendered the PDP prostrate as an opposition party. His specialty was installing and removing party Chairmen once they don’t serve his purpose anymore. Ayu was the latest on his Chairman installation gimmick.
He had worked to install Ayu, removing Uche Secondus, with the hope that when it’s time for the presidential party primary, the way would be open to a Southern candidate with the North already having the party Chairman position. Nyesom Wike, who has used Rivers State people’s money to make himself the outstanding Southern candidate, was waiting for a coronation. Then the primaries came and he was trounced by Atiku Abubakar who had a better political game plan. Wike blamed his erstwhile friend, Aminu Tambuwal and everyone else he could think of, yet he began to secretly scheme to be Atiku’s running mate, while publicly declaring he wasn’t interested. Atiku then exercised his right to choose a running mate, settling for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State. All hell broke loose! Wike could no longer be controlled, he took his madness to the road with a band of praise singers and an atrocious wardrobe, supported by a cast of other disgruntled people ranging from serving governors to former governors and some supposed leaders of the party, all leeching off Rivers State people’s money being distributed like a drunken sailor by Nyesom Wike. The thing connecting all of them is their commitment to ensure Atiku Abubakar loses the election. As has now become clear, a sizeable number of them, including Wike, are actually fifth columnists working for the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu. Their thinking is based on the belief that President Muhammadu Buhari will rig the election for the candidate of his party and they would be beneficiaries thereafter for playing the role of spoilers within the PDP.
For people interested in considering the case Wike and co is making, it shouldn’t take long to see through their charade. Wike quotes section 7(3)(c) of the PDP constitution which states that the party shall pursue the aim and objective of “adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.” This is supposedly to support his fight, but in typical fashion of an obscurantist, he mixes up things.
First, it is an aim and objective, which is to be implemented sensibly, not stupidly. The provision did not say if one person is occupying a position today, that person must be removed immediately to effect zoning once someone else wins another party seat or position. The constitution recognises it is dealing with people, not automatons. Yes, the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices will always be respected, but none in isolation! That Atiku from the North won a temporary party post as the presidential flag-bearer does not mean Ayu, the elected Chairman from the North must give up his office because Atiku has only won a party position preparatory to contesting for and hopefully winning a public elective office in the form of the presidency. In other words, a temporary party position towards an elective office/position is not the position the party constitution is referring to in that section. A presidential candidate is not a party official neither is he a publicly elected official yet. Until he wins the position the party is putting him forward for, he has won nothing. In other words, it is only when Atiku wins the presidency that the position of Ayu becomes untenable and the party reverts to its constitution to make amends.
This is not something new in the PDP. Ahmadu Ali from the North was the Chairman of the PDP when President Umaru Yar’Adua from the North emerged the party candidate and eventually won the presidential election in 2007. A year later, the party organized its Convention to elect a Southerner in the person of Vincent Ogbulafor from the South to replace Ali. Ogbulafor from the South was the Chairman when Goodluck Jonathan from the South became President and when he was indicted by the ICPC and had to leave, he was succeeded by John Nwodo from the South as stipulated in the constitution in the circumstance. Wike and co know that is exactly what will happen if Ayu resigns. The seat will not go to any Southerner. Instead, another Northerner, this time, the Deputy National Chairman from Yobe State, Umar Damagum, will take over constitutionally. The South will only have an opportunity to present a Chairmanship candidate in a Convention and that is never going to happen before the election. But Wike wants us to believe that for expediency, they will run roughshod over the party constitution and put a Southerner there. Assuming he does that, will he stop the rightful person to the position from going to court? And if Damagum goes to court, will Wike have a moral right to accuse him of trying to scatter the party when that is exactly what he is doing?
Wike is making out that remaining to fight in the party is a sign of fidelity to the party. No, it isn’t. It is him threatening to sabotage the party from within. He has tried and failed. He thinks he can deceive the claque clapping for him as he goes on his wayward way, but that won’t happen because ultimately, everyone will have to decide on which side their bread is buttered. Today, he’s like a lost soul hovering around the Tinubu campaign, directing his appointees and political supporters to vote for Tinubu in the presidential election, but he would be humiliated. If Wike is thinking that all those people clapping for him (amongst whom are persons already chosen to run for elective positions at the national, state and local government levels for the party) are going to follow him into his rabbit hole, he’s joking. Rivers people have repeatedly showed that they cannot be led by the nose. Wike’s old boss, Rotimi Amaechi tried it even less crudely and got his hands burnt. His saving grace was that his party won at the centre and he got appointed the Minister of Transport. Wike, the Rumuepirikom motor-mouth, will find out the hard way that you can’t play God with Rivers people and Nigerians.
Wike’s attempt to sell himself as the faithful partyman who remained when Atiku, Aminu Tambuwal and Bukola Saraki migrated away to the APC is not a story worth anything. It’s politics and people are free to pursue their interests under any legitimate platform. It was his choice to remain in the PDP where he was a Minister and, at that point, a governorship candidate. Others looked elsewhere. Atiku Abubakar went to the APC and contested against Buhari in the APC primary and lost, Saraki went on to be Senate President and Tambuwal became Governor of Sokoto State. None of them left PDP saying because they wanted the presidency to come to the North, at least not after Jonathan had won the primary. Atiku particularly stated that he left the PDP because he was being marginalized and screened out. He was constructively pushed out, but what the Jonathan people didn’t realise at the time was that there was already a wider conspiracy against Jonathan by other partymen and women from the North working for Buhari of the APC. Each of these men have since returned to the PDP because, as we predicted then, the APC is not a democratic party or a political party properly-so-called. It is a conglomerate of sharks just interested in divvying up our national patrimony under the supervision of Buhari and Tinubu. These men have committed no wrong to come back to the PDP and seek to lead the party into the forthcoming election. Atiku has been back for a number of years now. He contested the last presidential election and has fairly won the primary to contest this one. In fact, of all those who contested against Atiku Abubakar, it is only Wike still smarting from the loss and using it as a springboard to disrupt the party and ensure Atiku loses at the general election.
The agreement for the presidency to come from the South that he and his followers are claiming was made in Asaba was not made in Asaba. It was in Lagos. It was not even an agreement, just something discussed under AOB at the meeting. Again, typically, Wike is making out as if this is some sacrosanct agreement between them, rather than a political position canvassed by a group. The country is not made up of only Southerners or Southern governors. It’s not a problem if people or groups canvass positions, but at the end of the day, it’s politics. It’s about negotiations. You don’t always get what you want in politics, but as far as the outcome is achieved democratically, all should be happy. Atiku clearly stated at the beginning that if the party zones the presidency to the South-East, he will step down and support whoever the party chooses from the South-East. This same Wike was the most vehement in opposition to that to the extent he actually went to the South-East to campaign against Obi so aggressively and insultingly that Obi left the PDP in a huff.
The whole story that after Buhari’s 8 years, power should come to the South is not a position adopted by all. I personally do not believe in this zoning nonsense for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere. But, by any stretch of the imagination, even if this is used as a yardstick, by the end of Buhari’s term the North would only have served 10 years in the presidency to the South’s 13 since the return to democratic rule in the Fourth Republic. More importantly, Buhari and Atiku belong to two different political parties and zoning is not meant to be applied as a cross-party principle. The last President produced by the PDP was from the South 8 years ago after serving 5 years, so a Northerner contesting for the PDP presidential ticket wasn’t unjust or unfair, especially as the party made the contest open. Wike is pretending that somehow the decision to keep the primary open was manipulated and unjust, yet his friend, Samuel Ortom was at the head of the committee that had a member from every state and the Federal Capital that voted on the matter. All, except one, voted for an open primary, so what is Wike’s case against that?
In fact, Wike himself had been a more brazen beneficiary of this system when he first contested to take over from a fellow Ikwerreman, Rotimi Amaechi, as Governor of Rivers State. He succeeded at the December 2014 party primary precisely because the party allowed him to shunt out other contestants in the party’s war against the decamped Rotimi Amaechi. Wike was shoehorned into the Rivers State Government House in a sham of a primary boycotted by 17 contestants and he has since won re-election making it 16 straight years of Ikwerre rule by the time he hands over next year. He does not see the injustice in that, but he sees injustice in a Northerner succeeding Goodluck Jonathan as the next presidential candidate of the party with the possibility of winning the presidency for the first time since Jonathan in 2011.
The point is if Wike had issues with the party primary in Abuja, he should not have joined others to contest the primary. He cannot join and then only begin to complain after losing simply because one candidate stepped down for another. He’s a politician and he knows if Tambuwal had stepped down for him, he would have grabbed the opportunity with both hands and both legs. That Tambuwal came later to step down for Atiku after he had first spoken at the Convention is an irrelevant point because there is nothing unlawful in stepping down anytime in a party convention. In fact, horse-trading usually goes on until the end, even during voting. This is normal. This happened in the SDP party primary that produced MKO Abiola in 1992 in Jos, the PDP primary that produced Obasanjo in Jos in 1999, the 2011 PDP primary that produced Jonathan and so on.
Wike blamed David Mark, Chairman of the Convention Committee, for not asking if anyone wanted to say something after Tambuwal, yet he admitted in an interview with journalists later that he raised no objection. So, how was Mark to know what was in his mind? Delegates have chosen who they want to be their flag-bearer and the flag-bearer has chosen his running mate. Everyone should be joining hands to deliver the presidency to the PDP, not for Wike to be pretending to be fighting for a Southern interest not threatened in the party out of bitterness for losing the party ticket to a better man.
Wike himself undermined his case for wanting to be Atiku’s running mate by claiming that he never wanted to be the vice-presidential candidate. Even though he had insisted he did not want to be because all he wanted was the presidency, he also said in the same vein that he did not want to be be vice-presidential candidate because he did not trust “these people.” Yet he said he ultimately relented because many people wanted him to go for it. But, of course, that does not compel Atiku to choose him. Atiku in his Arise interview had stated clearly that there was no case of a vote for Wike against others. He said he was given a list of three and he simply chose one, who happens to be Dr Ifeanyi Okowa. Ortom never contradicted him. It was Atiku’s right to choose whoever he wants as running-mate, no matter what Wike or anyone thinks.
In all honesty, Wike’s problem is that he’s come to believe too much his own hype. What this whole Wike rebellion has proven is Atiku’s capacity as a leader who cannot be intimidated or stampeded into doing anything desperate. He simply ignored Wike as he huffed and puffed, continued with his campaign confidently and when Wike tried to turn his Rivers campaign into a bloodbath, Atiku simply cancelled the campaign and said, much like Goodluck Jonathan, that nobody’s life is worth his ambition. He’s not a desperate man. Wike has been left now holding the short end of the stick. His final humiliation would be when Atiku wins Rivers State or gets his 25 percent after the vote. The Greek tragedy that is his fate is already unfolding even before the vote is cast. He is a lesson to all political tin-gods who think they are more than what they are.
The final group of discontents invested in taking Nigeria down with their ambition consist of Obi and some of his supporters. I have chosen my words carefully here because I am not accusing all supporters of Obi. I am only accusing those led by Papa Ayo Adebanjo of the Afenifere who has proclaimed there will be war or no more Nigeria if Obi loses the election. With all due respect to the old man, I just thought that was quite irresponsible.
Obi himself has campaigned quite responsibly, but the signals his campaign is giving, despite his talk to the contrary, is that this is an ethnic campaign to install an Igboman as President based on some mythical notion of injustice to Ndigbo. There has been a decidedly Christian slant in the campaign with Obi crisscrossing churches and being welcomed in those worship centres like a rock star, while he repeatedly enjoins Christians to claim back their country. It’s also obvious that in the North, Labour is engaged in a divisive campaign of the religious kind based on the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.
I have not said Obi himself is behind all this because I have no evidence to that effect, but this is how his campaign is now being sold and this is how it’s being seen in the North. We warned it was going to come to this because we know our history, so there really is no surprise. It is what it is. However, the main reason I class the Obi campaign as amongst the discontents fighting against national unity is because unapologetically, my singular aim in this election, my most fervent wish, is that the APC is not re-elected back to Aso Rock because in my book, they are a curse to the nation. I believe that the only patriotic thing for any Nigerian to do is not vote APC at least at the national or presidential level. But the only campaign I see capable of undermining that outcome is the Obi campaign. It can’t win, but it can make the APC win because a lot of people angry with the system, who traditionally would have voted the PDP to see off the APC, are today happily saying they would vote Obi. But if voting Obi only makes Tinubu more possible, why should I be happy with the Obi campaign?
But, I’m really not too worried about Obi and his campaign because everything points to the fact that he will not win. When we talk of his lack of structure, they counter with claims that he is in the race to destroy the structures in place that have given us all our national problems. Well, such naive but bullish response won’t cover up the facts. Facts are stubborn and they will show when they will show. The time for truth is here and Labour will fall short. The APC and the PDP are already mobilizing their structures on the ground, Labour is still talking they’re not giving shi-shi. The PDP and APC have people contesting all elective offices, Labour cannot find people to fill up their spaces. It’s one thing to shout “Obi! Obi! Obi!” in the cities, who is shouting Obi in the electoral hinterlands where the numbers will roll out from?
All I want to point out at this point is that the anti-nation campaign championed by the APC and Labour has made Atiku Abubakar more acceptable to a lot of Nigerians. The irony is that the North has never before now warmed up to Atiku Abubakar because of the propaganda unleashed against him up there by his Northern and Southern opponents all these years he’s been on the ballot. Thy tell us that in the North they don’t consider him a true Muslim, they say he’s done more for the South than the North, they say his social, family and political associations with the South is stronger than his associations in the North. They say all sorts and Atiku over the years has borne all the insults with equanimity. But now, the way and manner he has been fought by Southern politicians making out that they are against the North has brought him closer to the Northern electorate who are looking at the hostility of his opponents towards him as hostility against the North. The stone that has been rejected has become the head cornerstone.
Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is just the right partner Atiku needs. Okowa represents the best in public service in Nigeria. He left his medical practice to start in public service at the lowly level of Secretary of a Local Government. He became Chairman of the Local Government and then became a Commissioner in three ministries in Delta State before taking over as Secretary of the State Government. He was elected a Senator for Delta North and then returned to the state as an elected Governor, now serving his second term. Today, he is his party’s Vice-Presidential candidate in the forthcoming election. What else does he need to prove in politics or in life? If the PDP ticket wins, Okowa would be the most experienced Vice-President in Nigeria’s history. Nigerians have been exposed to his uncommon brilliance, temperament and capacity as a public servant. He can only be a big asset to Atiku Abubakar in the task of rescuing Nigeria.
At this juncture, I do not want to go on and on about the virtues of the Atiku-Okowa ticket. I believe most Nigerians already know whatever I’d like to say. I cannot for the life of me understand the reason why anyone would think a severely sick Bola Tinubu should be our President and Commander-in-Chief, but I am humble enough to know that in politics some things need not make sense because people have different interests, even self-sabotaging interests. Hopefully, when Atiku wins, as I expect, he would get Obi into the cabinet to continue from where they were before Obi let himself be talked into this present political misadventure with Labour. The PDP must still keep with the plan of creating an Ekwueme from an Obi because as far as we remain one nation, the day will come when an Igboman or woman accepted by all will become President to put a closure to a bad patch of our history as a nation.
In conclusion, I’d want to tell Nigerians why some of us are driven to support Atiku Abubakar. It’s based on those same three words Peter Obi bandies about – character, competence and capacity. Obi is preaching that he is the only one who has these amongst the candidates, but the truth is the only man who really has these in abundance is Atiku Abubakar and Obi himself has said that much in 2019. Atiku showed his competence as the Vice-President of Nigeria, he’s showed his character over the years. In the face of all sorts of accusations, he’s remained focused and strong. Today is his time, not Tinubu’s turn. He’s paid his dues and God who answers prayers will answer the prayer of some of us who know the man’s capacity. The most frustrated Nigerians today are those of us who as young pro-democracy activists put our lives on the line to fight the military. Today, many who were part of that movement and a lot who weren’t mock us with claims that there is a growing disenchantment with democratic rule and party politics. While a clear majority of Nigerians still believe democracy is the best form of government, this same majority believes they are not getting the benefits of democratic rule. The reason for this is because the power of the state has been undermined unchallenged for a long time by two groups of actors. The first are elements of the political class who have wantonly eroded the power of the state with acts of impunity largely because they are part of a government or have influence in a government that holds nobody accountable. The second are the terrorist non-state actors who get away with murder in cahoots with elements of the state who benefit from their rackets. Thus, delivering democratic dividends such as employment, economic advancement and opportunities, improvement in educational delivery, improvement in healthcare, infrastructure, etc. proves near impossible in a state under elite capture and terrorist siege. The President Nigeria wants now must be a person who has a global view of these problems and who has the character and capacity to mobilize civil society to strengthen the state. He must be able to inspire us to believe again in Nigeria. That man is Atiku Abubakar and he has an able lieutenant in Dr Ifeanyi Okowa.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.