2023, ATIKU AND THE CONSPIRACIES.
By Kassim Afegbua
I got a call from a senior friend of mine last week Friday 7 October 2022. The meat of our conversation was very simple. He queried my outspokenness on The Atiku Presidential Candidacy and stated why I should “slow down”, in my hostile demarketing of The Atiku Candidacy. When he finished on the other end, my response was very simple too. I posed the first question; Is it fair to have another Northerner succeed president Buhari after eight years? There was dead silence from his end. I asked another one. Would it not have been better for the opposition PDP to field a Southern candidate in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice? He wasn’t forthcoming with any response. I waited for a few seconds, and I heard him mutter some incoherent monologues; “ehm, ehm, you know, PDP is different from APC, so Atiku Abubakar still has a chance under PDP”. I reminded him of the plural status of Nigeria and how such inconsiderate aspirations can hurt the very stability, cohesion and unity of the country; how dangerous it would be to keep power in one section of the country for sixteen unbroken years. Further, I asked him what he thinks would be a better approach in ensuring that Nigeria maintains some semblance of unity; is it the ambition of one individual, or the sanity of the nation? This senior friend of mine was mute for some time, and concluded with a rather cynical comment; “hmm, it is difficult for anyone to engage you in an argument because your points are valid, but for us, politics is our only industry; and some of us want to see how to continue to hold on to power for the sake of relevance”.
His views are shared by many Northern folks who feel democracy is all about numbers, so the North can do away with the South in their quest to perpetuate its rulership of the nation based on sheer numbers. It is this growing sentiment that makes Atiku Abubakar think that he would pull through with his aspiration in 2023 of becoming Nigeria’s President. It is this thinking also, that makes some Aso Villa power apparatchik sell a dummy to Atiku that he is preferred by President Buhari. Babachir Lawal, the modern day Apostle of christian presidency, has suddenly become a habitué of Aso Villa to keep vigil with President Buhari with the sole assignment to drum Atiku Abubakar’s candidacy into the ears of the number one citizen. Babachir’s assignment, I gather, is to always keep a tab on President Buhari and continue to remind him of why a muslim-muslim presidency would not be a parting legacy for him in 2023. There are other footsoldiers in this mission. Former Speaker, Yakubu Dogara falls into this fray and a couple of other less important spokesmen; who are using the faith basis as a launch pad to demarket The Tinubu Presidential Candidacy. I was told that The President gave a directive that all monies being owed to Atiku Abubakar by The Government should be paid to him; particularly in the Transport and Aviation Ministries. I wouldn’t know the contracts he did in the first place, but a contractor deserves his pay after completion of his job, if it is fully certificated to have met the standard. So, if President Buhari feels that the PDP candidate who is reputed to be broke, has to be paid his owed contract sum, so be it. It doesn’t take away the barefaced fact that Atiku Abubakar is running against the run of play. His ambition is wrongly footed in a country of several configurations where deliberate political balancing is eternally required.
Atiku’s chances in the North are slim, irrespective of the conspiracies that are presently being woven to harm a Southern Presidency. Also, lately, Northern leaders have been too much in the news; mostly as nuisances. Even leaders that cannot deliver their polling units, go on television to talk about negotiation. This exposes schisms in the zone. Atiku’s chances are not just slim, they are very slim. First, the North is yet to forgive him for his role in leaving most of them in the civil service out of job when he was president Obasanjo’s Vice, in trying to witch-hunt his perceived political enemies. That has remained an albatross hanging on his neck for which many are still angry. Secondly, it is difficult for any candidate to contemplate winning election with Northern votes alone. President Buhari tried it three times and failed despite his popularity in the North. It was not until he was able to build alliances with the South, that he unseated the then incumbent President Jonathan; whose government was largely seen as colourless. The idea that the North alone can make a president is a mirage. Thirdly and very instructive is that the peculiarities such as existing frictions in the states of the North do not make for a seamless political endorsement as some political analysts and Aso Villa gossips would have people believe. The PDP is largely unpopular in the North. With five governors in its fray against APC’s fourteen governors, it will be a herculean task to strike a deal in Atiku’s favour. Among the states in the North, there are several political debacles that may not help the cause of anti-party. PDP is almost absent in Zamfara state despite and in spite of having a candidate for Governorship. The mere fact that former Governor Yari and Senator Marafa had consummated their political alliances with that of the Governor, Bello Matawallen is enough to present a formidable front against PDP in the state.
In Kebbi state, Adamu Aliero, a staunch Atiku man; his man friday, because he was a customs officer and colleague of Atiku, has taken a stranglehold of the politics of the PDP in the state. Coming together with Governor Bagudu to prosecute an Atiku project would appear impossible. The political tensions in Kebbi state presently are too vociferous to ignore. In Sokoto, Senator Wamakko plays politics of mass mobilisation than the present Governor Tambuwal. In 2023, Sokoto would undoubtedly be the stronghold of APC and the Governorship may fall into its fray also. The Director-General position given to the Governor may become his undoing. It would seem like what happened when Senator Saraki was the PDP Director General in 2019; when he abandoned his Kwara state. He was defeated by the O’toge mantra and the rest has become history. Jigawa state has its own headaches. Governor Badaru controls a strong political following that would be difficult to uproot. Again, Governor Badaru deposed the son of Sule Lamido as a District Head; a thing which has put both of them at loggerheads. It will therefore be difficult for the two political camps to unite for Atiku Abubakar, especially as the deposed District Head is seeking to succeed the governor also. The politics of Kano is fluid, and will surely go the way of APC as soon as President Buhari shows his body language in favour of the APC candidate. Kaduna state is another tough turf as El’rufai’s performance is no joke. Governor El’rufai of Kaduna state is one politician whose direction is always known. He doesn’t genuflect like some others and his record of performance has been cheering news for a lot of the people. You may not like his style, but you cannot fault his transformation of Kaduna state in the last seven years.
So, in analyzing the politics of the North for 2023 with a zoomorphic experience across all the states there, it looks quite clear that Atiku Abubakar does not truly enjoy that kind of popularity being erroneously touted; this reason why some dubious politicians are trying to drag the name of the presidency to the fray, so as to accord him unmerited support, in the face of obvious stigma of being a perennial contestant does not also hold water. Tell you what, as hard they try, the internal politics of the PDP is taking the shine off their saddle. The push for Ayu, the embattled chairman of the PDP to resign from his position has been a cog in the wheel of progress. With Ayu as chairman, Atiku and his conspirators have northernised the PDP. The Chairman is from the North. The Deputy Director of the Youths Directorate is the son of the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu. The Director General of the campaign Governor Tambuwal is from the North, the Spokesmen of the campaign; Bwala, Dino, Ologbondiyan and others, are from the North. The director of field campaign, Umar Bature, is from the North. All the efforts of Governor Wike to strike political balancing have further been sharpened by the new appointments that obviously rub insult upon injury. Corruption, financial profligacy and embezzlement have been a recurring decimal within the ranks of the party. At the Uyo campaign of the PDP, Governor Wike, the Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Dan Orbih, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Governors Ikpeazu, Ugwuanyi, Ortom and other principal officers of the zone, were conspicuously absent. That is a notice that all is not well within the PDP.
The 2023 election therefore will be an interesting one; one in which conspiracies will contend with conspiracies; where contradictions will contend with contradictions. These will further deepen the imbalances in the political emanations of PDP. At Uyo, Atiku spoke about Akwa Ibom as a consistent PDP state since 1999, a self indictment of his defector mentality, a political traveller if you like; one in search of political relevance. Atiku Abubakar was part and parcel of those who helped APC to defeat PDP in 2015. He donated money as well as his Spokesman of many years, Garba Shehu. Having trounced PDP and seeing that his grip within the APC would be asphyxiated, he quickly sneaked back to the PDP, begged the leaders before he was re-admitted, and then given the nod to run for the presidential election in 2019 in the party. But for the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Iyorchia Ayu, Saraki, Tambuwal, Babangida Aliyu, Dino Melaye and many others, PDP would still have remained in power till date. This is the history they want us to forget; the conspiracy they wouldn’t want to talk about. It is clear that when Governor Wike raises his voice to talk about the grave injustices in the PDP, he surely has a point. His style may not suit the elegance of your self righteous indignation but his messages are footnotes that are hard to puncture. Governor Wike has eloquently captured the realities that dominate the PDP power process, the deliberate attempt to capture power through the back door would only expose PDP’s double standards and dual personality features. It’s low rating in terms of financial profligacy is a sore thumb within the PDP. Too much corruption and lack of accountability and prudent management of its resources and opportunities. From the National Chairman to the last man in its National Working Committeee, there have been accusations and counter accusations over handling of revenue that accrues to the party.
A party that is truly desirous to lead Nigeria must come out clean in its determination to prove bookmakers wrong on its score sheet. The perception that PDP is manifestly corrupt is high on the radar. The accusations over mismanagement of funds have also confirmed that perception. The presidential candidate cannot visit America because there are copious cases of corruption and money laundering indictments hanging on his neck. The zoning formula of The PDP was recently jettisoned, making the party a lawless one that offends its own rules and regulations that are encapsulated in its body of laws. The PDP body politics is one that is poisoned by pills of deceit, manipulation and subterfuge. Therefore, to cede the fortunes of Nigeria to a party that has shown a deep mentality of acquisition and crass materialism is to sound the death knell for our collective prosperity and progress. Irrespective of the conspiracies that abound everywhere, Asiwaju Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate remains the man to beat in the 2023 elections.