THE man who believes Nigeria and Nigerians owe him the Presidency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, set the ball rolling once again with the recent announcement of his intention to run on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) next year following the recent failure of 2019.
Already awarded the infamous tag as Nigeria’s perpetual candidate, 2023 would be Atiku’s sixth run for the number one position, with the first attempt dating back to 1992, a year many of those he hopes to convince to satiate his curious longing for the Aso Villa – despite presiding over Nigeria’s economy to amass a stupendous personal fortune – had not even been born.
Some have in fact joked that the country’s electoral body, INEC, should do him the honors of creating for him a permanent spot on the ballot in anticipation of what has now become a ritual of every four years in any political party Atiku believes he can purchase and blackmail into indulging his obsession for power and control.
The obsession has become all too obvious, even to those who hitherto offered him sympathies because they mistook his ego trip and mania for a determined aspiration to administer the country with a vision he is convinced will deliver growth and prosperity.
His case isn’t helped by what is considered a dangerous and arrogant disregard of the unanimous call for a power shift to the southern region of the country in honor of the informal power-sharing arrangement designed to ensure stability and promote a sense of belonging in all regions of Nigeria’s plural make-up, especially in high-stake political power negotiations.
Following the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim northerner like Atiku, the understanding and mood of the entire country is that the two major political parties should pave the way for the emergence of a southerner as his successor.
Despite this power transfer being a widespread wish and its importance to Nigeria’s precarious unity and stability, Atiku has shown no regard for the concern, thus leaving no doubt to all that he is no more than a political desperado hell-bent on completing his capture of the country – at whatever cost.
Even worse is the observed hubris in his reductive estimation of his southern counterparts as mere tools to be acquired and deployed in furtherance of his personal political advancement. As if to reinforce this suspicion, Atiku gloated in a recent interview about the near-impossibility of missing out on the party’s ticket regardless of what the southern extraction of the party had to say about it, and that the party’s road to power and continued existence lie in his emergence as its candidate in 2023.
It was a reckless assertion based on nothing but Atiku’s mountainous ego and self-delusion. The last time the PDP won the Presidency in 2011, he was not even a member of the party. And his last run in the previous general election resulted in a defeat that was followed by an embarrassing court trial which he did not bother to see until the end before leaving for Dubai to indulge in his self-confessed hedonism.
Perhaps Atiku operates with the notion that his ‘southern serfs’ must hold the fort for him to run every four years, invariably treating the PDP as his personal possession established for the primary purpose of securing the fulfillment of his dream to preside over the country.
Unsurprisingly, PDP Governors from the South and other leaders of the region have stood up to emperor Atiku. Besides the justifiable motive to push back against Atiku’s flagrant disrespect, it has become glaring to the Southerners that their goal of unseating the APC and Atiku’s unyielding insistence that only he is fit to fly the flag of the party are objectives that are mutually incompatible. This is even more so at the time Nigerians have expressed a clear preference for a younger, southern candidate.
Equally important is the need to rid the PDP of Atiku’s toxic superiority complex, a trait that spreads disaffection and causes the party to lose influential members who will not submit or bow to his totalitarian tendencies and what some might interpret as the ‘born-to-rule’ brashness he casually displays.
To this end, days back, the South-South extraction of the party met in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state to demand the party’s ticket in 2023. The rationale was clear and unassailable: the south-south region of the country has a genuine claim of being overlooked in Nigeria’s federal leadership conversations despite producing the black gold that sustains the country, and no other region in the country has shown the same level of devotion and loyalty it has to the PDP since the return to democracy in 1999.
Even when individuals like Atiku left the party for dead on multiple occasions in an opportunistic search of power elsewhere, support from the South-South region proved the lifeblood that kept it alive and going against difficult odds.
Their demand was, therefore, grounded in sound logic that holds the potential to douse persisting concerns of exclusion and lack of equitable leadership representation in Nigeria. For the PDP, it would prove a powerful way of acknowledging a region that has served it faithfully, while also invalidating the insidious idea that its presidential ticket is a commodity to be purchased in an amoral trade lacking in principles and values.
Clearly perturbed by the united stance of the southern region – as the demand of the South-South was reechoed by the South-West – Atiku has sought to inject division, as is typical of him. Unfortunately for the southern leaders, his seed of division has found fertile soil in individuals like Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State who, like Atiku, has no problem sacrificing the collective and a much bigger win in pursuit of a narrow, selfish ambition.
Renowned for his political backstabbing and cunning, Governor Obaseki and his next-door neighbor, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, are said to be salivating over the Vice Presidential position Atiku has dangled before them should they serve as pliant tools in undercutting the resolve of their region and the demands of their people.
Interestingly, Governor Obaseki was conveniently absent at the Uyo meeting where the courageous demand was made. He would not jeopardize his chances of following a lackluster two-term Governorship tenure with a promotion as the country’s second citizen, even if it means throwing his people – and Nigeria’s stability – under a speeding bus.
Atiku prides himself as politically shrewd, but there is little sense in his zero-in on Obaseki and Okowa besides the fact they are both the weakest links most eager to sell out their people for the proverbial pot of porridge. Presidential bids are powered by extensive political networks and access to private funding – two things that either Obaseki or Okowa can’t boast of.
In the particular case of Obaseki, his 2016 emergence as Governor was largely managed and influenced by his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, a man he later betrayed. Although Oshiomhole was a former labor leader and Obaseki brands himself an ex-stockbroker, it was the Comrade who provided the crucial links to industry leaders and private interests that oiled Obaseki’s campaign and eventual rise to power. He had nothing to show, not even the charisma to spur the crowd during campaign stomps.
Obaseki and Okowa’s support for Atiku’s doomed and desperate ambition may prove inconsequential in the grand scheme – but that won’t make it any less hurtful for the southern people. By offering themselves so cheaply to the power-monger, they, unfortunately, reinforce the disparaging stereotype that has long informed Atiku’s consideration of his southern counterparts: that no interest is so precious to them that they cannot be induced to surrender. That money is all you need to bring them on your side. Obaseki and Okowa sell their own people short