Atiku vs Buhari: The battle to reclaim Nigeria has begun, by Mike Ozekhome


For over three weeks, Nigerians waited with bated breath (Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”), suspended animation and cryogenics as to who would be the presidential candidate of the PDP. The APC’s presidential candidate, sitting President Muhammadu Buhari, had been known for over six months.

I had predicated long ago, even before he indicated interest, that no one in the APC would dare contest against him. It was simply inconceivable that mere mortals would dare contest against their sacred deity, nay, their “sinless” and “stainless” god, at whose altar they worship and offer sacrifices, atonement and oblation. His cult-like followership conceives him as the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of Nigeria. They argue that he is imbued with a redemptive messianism. Buhari’s party, the APC, as presently constituted, is a fierce, ruthless amalgam of strange bedfellows, ensconced in a cabalistic coven that broods no opposition, dissent or plurality of opinions. Any perceived disagreement by a member is treated as high treason against the bacchanalian gods and patriarchs of the party that must be ruthlessly squashed and vanquished.

Turning Ambode to nobody
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State took the unusual detour of challenging his godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it was simply the hubris and swagger of a man stupidly wrestling with his personal chi. I knew what the outcome would be, and I said so loudly. I knew that the Jagaban would reduce Ambode from “somebody” to “nobody.” Tinubu had been bitten twice, in Ondo (Akeredolu’s emergence against his will and preference for Olusegun Abraham) and in Lagos (Fashola’s three-ministries-in-one cache, just to humiliate him). He knew that no tested general loads the gun, cocks and lowers it without shooting, just because of genuflections and pleas by interested parties. Such a general would have displayed his Achilles Heel, and his opponents would pierce it with éclat and flourish.

So, Tinubu detonated the “Ogbunigwe” bomb against Ambode, in an election in which Ambode stood no chance at all (never mind his later “gra gra”, swashbuckling and chivalrous grandstanding). Notwithstanding his name-calling of Jide Sanwo-Olu as a fake dollar fraudster and psychiatric patient who went through rehabilitation, little-known Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851 humongous votes to silence Ambode’s miserly 72,901. The very APC NWC panel that had been sent from Abuja to supervise the election, cried blue murder. Former Cross River State governor, Clement Ebri (a gentleman par excellence), who headed the castrated panel, sulked and literally wept. He cried foul, arguing that the very ballot papers and membership slips, which were to be used for the election, had not even been distributed. But, the APC Lagos State chairman, Tunde Balogun, demurred. He urged Lagosians to go and vote with only APC membership ID cards, a step Ambode had kicked against, as he argued it would disenfranchise his teeming supporters. In politics, anything goes. Fair is foul and foul is fair (witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, Act 1, scene 1).

Ebri had nonetheless gone ahead and invalidated the primary, as he posited the NWC never authorised the exercise. He said it violated laid down modalities, including the turning in of the list of officials that would supervise the election. What gentleman Ebri did not reckon with was that the fight was well beyond him. It was dirty “roforofo” fight for the soul, heart, pulse and, more importantly, purse of Lagos State, the richest state in Nigeria; a state whose monthly IGR alone is enough to cater for the entire annual budget of some other states.

It was a fight for power, influence and, more significantly, relevance in 2019. So, Ebri was crippled enough to eat his words, bite the humble pie, and later cajoled to personally declare Sanwo-Olu the winner of the controversial election. The APC leadership had made it clear to him he was sent to Lagos to merely “supervise” and not to “organise” the governorship primary election. Such is Nigerian politics, sorry, politricks. Such is the intoxicating effect of power, a stimulant and aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger). With power, you can access cheap money, fame, wealth and more power.

X-raying the APC and PDP primaries
Rewind to Atiku and Buhari. Let’s first inquire into the mode of emergence of Buhari and Atiku as presidential candidates of the APC and PDP, respectfully. The former’s primary was vulgar, outrageous, ugly. It insulted the sensibilities and self-esteem of Nigerians. Buhari, the sole candidate, against whom no serious person dared contest, allegedly polled 14.8 million votes to emerge the candidate. Even Aisha, his wife, has since pooh-poohed the APC primary, describing it in very strong words as “unfair and lacking in integrity.”

Aisha, who in 2016 had cried out about a powerful cabal holding her husband hostage, and, in 2017, describing the abysmal lack of health facilities in the Aso Villa Clinic wondered how “such impunity could take place under his (APC chairman’s) watch.” She immediately dissociated herself from “such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless.” Aisha should know better, even if PMB merely regards her as the woman “in za oza (in the other) room.”

This is not all. A coalition of five other APC presidential aspirants has also decried Buhari’s victory. Nigerians have been gasping for breath to decipher how Buhari could have single-handedly harvested a bumper 14,842,072 votes at an APC primary alone, which was merely affirmed by only 7,000 delegates at Eagle Square, Abuja. Nigerians are wondering how Buhari polled a colossal 2,931,235 votes from only 484 wards of the 44 LGAs of Kano State alone. Governor Ganduje of Kano State had told a bewildered nation that Kano State, which had posted only 1.9 million votes for Buhari barely three years ago, now suddenly has 3,720,000 registered voters, out of which Buhari alone garnered a galactic 2,931,235 votes in an uncontested primary! Nigerians wonder how one million voters could have emerged suddenly in only three years. Nigerians are scratching their heads because, in 2015, the entire votes Buhari scored in the nationwide election were 15,424,921 (53.95 per cent). And three years later, he is getting from only his party humongous votes that are a mere 582,849 less than his 2015 national haul? Many Nigerians are contending that the rigging of the 2019 election has actually commenced and is being fast-tracked.

Let us now go to the main bowl of the Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt. At a keenly contested election, whose transparency, integrity, freeness and fairness have been widely applauded, even by PDP critics, Atiku garnered 1,532 votes to dust his challengers – Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State (693); Senate President Bukola Saraki (317); former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso (158); former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido (96). The former Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, polled 65 votes, Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker chairman of PDP (74 votes); former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa (48 votes), former Senate President David Mark (35 votes); former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang (19 votes); and Dr. Datti Ahmed (five votes). The primary was intense, engaging, and had all the trappings of a major election. All aspirants had criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, pleading for votes. It is generally believed that the winner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, is the best candidate to challenge Buhari’s three years of lackluster performance, unfulfilled promises, economic stagnation, goodwill mismanagement, enthronement of more insecurity and fear (Boko Harm and the daily orgy by herdsmen across Nigeria), and the geometrical escalation of corruption (second most corrupt country in West Africa and 148th least corrupt country in the world, courtesy 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index).

Nigerians thus yearn for a candidate that would boldly and courageously interrogate Buhari’s opaque credentials as to why, under his very watch, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s poverty capital (Brookings Institution report), when in actual fact he met a Nigeria that was the biggest economy in Africa (over $500 billion, rebased economy, having overtaken South Africa). Today, Nigeria, with a population of barely 200 million people, has beaten India, with a staggering population of 1.324 billion people, as a the poverty capital of the world, with the highest number of extremely poor people. The number of poor people increases by six people per minute. Nigerians appear tired of the worn-out sing-song mantra about so-called integrity, alleged fight against corruption and a simulated false defeat of still very potent Boko Haram. They have since realised that these are mere propaganda stunts, having heard it over and over again, for over three years, like a stuck record. They behold their lives going down the drain of wretchedness, in strangulating and asphyxiating economic quagmire.

Why Atiku?
The national euphoria about Atiku is not without foundation. In 2015, Nigerians had queued up behind Buhari, expecting a momentous and apocalyptic rebirth, economic ressurgimento and earth-shaking standard of living, with their welfare and security firmly protected more than ever before. They argued then, upon Buhari’s alleged lack of academic qualification (mere WAEC certificate) being questioned, that they were ready and willing to vote for Buhari, even with an Agege bread paper or NEPA bill. Such was the national inebriation and political insobriety that when he won the presidential election, a Nigerian trekked all the way from Lagos to Abuja in celebration; while another rode a bicycle from Kaduna to Abuja. But, they have all since been greatly disappointed. Buhari has since displayed unbelievable cluelessness and total lack of capacity to govern and navigate the myriads of problems besetting Nigeria. He has even increased them, leading to mass hopelessness, haplessness, melancholy, dejection, destitution, insecurity, more corruption (now wholly privatized), abject penury and gnashing of teeth. Never before, since the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates to found the contraption called Nigeria, has there been so much divisiveness, hatred, nepotism, clannishness, ethnocentrism, cronyism, fascism, favouritism and mediocrity in government. It is, therefore, clear that Nigerians yearn for a change – a genuine change to change the change.

Those who had sworn that the PDP aspirants would come out tearing the umbrella apart were shocked at the spirit of camaraderie, conviviality and concession of defeat by losers. Atiku strolled in, thrown up by destiny. He would, like Buhari, be having his fourth shot at the Nigerian presidency. But, can he win? Can he defeat Buhari, with the power of incumbency? Yes, Atiku can. And he will. Very easily. Here is why. (Part 2 next week)

Culed from The Sun.

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