Atiku, Nda-Isaiah and denials of presidential ambitions

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By KAYODE OJO

THAT former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has gone back to grin alongside some of the same politicians who roundly chastised him into leaving the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria with his tail between his legs is amusing to say the least. It is even more amusing how he has been trying to convince Nigerians that his new adventure with the All Progressives Congress (APC) is about achieving “change” and not about him taking another shot at winning the presidency for himself.  At this juncture, it is only natural to wonder what sort of “change” Atiku—a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a long-time politician of note—can be talking about today.

Meanwhile, in a BBC Hausa Service interview, Atiku reportedly reiterated that his move into the APC was not about his presidential ambition since he had clear chances to win the nation’s number one post when he was the number two citizen under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.  If this declaration was not humorous as the joke Atiku obviously meant it to be, one would have assumed either Atiku has problems remembering issues or has been misguided into believing Nigerians are suffering from collective myopia.

Lest anybody forgets, Atiku was most unstatesmanly after running back to the PDP in a desperate attempt to clinch the presidential nomination ticket at the party’s 2011 primaries.  In a manner that made many other politicians and most Nigerians cringe with disgust, Atiku poured vituperation upon vituperation on the person of the then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan all in an attempt to sway PDP faithfuls to his cause.  Alas, Atiku learnt that day that insulting your opponent is simply unpresidential and will never carry the day!

So when Atiku talks about “change” today, it is possible that he means he will no longer resort to insults when he eventually comes round to admitting what every Nigerian knows, which is that the Turakin Adamawa still desires to be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.   This is the fact and no amount of denials from Atiku will make Nigerians believe anything else.

If Atiku is to be excused for treading with caution, considering that he has been severely trounced every time he has taken a shot at the presidency, what is one to make of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s eye-popping prevarications? Nda-Isaiah, chairman of the Leadership group of newspapers, recently embarked on a media tour in order to sensitise his adopted constituency—the print media—that he is throwing his hat in the ring for the 2015 presidential elections.  Nda-Isaiah, who in the past has served as a spokesman for the three-time presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), made it clear to his newspapering colleagues that he is no longer content to be a mouthpiece for another power seeker.

While Nigerians were watching to see how Nda-Isaiah hopes to redeem the reputation he has built for himself as a columnist who often peddles vitriol through his Leadership newspaper to that of a worthy presidential hopeful, the pharmacist-turned-publisher did an about-face and said he had not yet declared any presidential ambition.   In a press statement distributed to media houses, a full page of which his own newspaper carried as an advertorial this past Monday, February 3, 2014, Nda-Isaiah said, “It is not correct, as was contained in some reports, that I have already declared my intention to run for president.”

If this was a sitcom, Nda-Isaiah’s press statement will draw a round of studio laughter.  But this is real-life and even though many politicians have the dubious reputation of not always speaking the truth, to see a newspaper publisher engage in such open prevarication more than raises eyebrows.

Even if Nda-Isaiah accuses his adopted print media constituency of misrepresenting the statements he made on his recent media tour—which is exactly what he did in his press release—what are we to make of his words in an interview published by The Union of January 19-24, 2014?  In the interview, Nda-Isaiah said: “When CPC was registered, I was a member.  After the merger, I have become a member of APC. So there is no doubt that my 2015 presidential ambition will be on the platform of the APC.”

Moreover, as the interview progressed, Nda-Isaiah was asked: “Your boss, Buhari, who is one of the leaders of the APC, has said he will run in 2015. What’s your take?”  Nda-Isaiah gave a lengthy response, part of which reads: “If he says he is going to run, I will not step down for him. It may not be comfortable running against him, but I will do it.”

How then can Nda-Isaiah come out to say he has not yet declared his intention to run for president?  What are we to make of his denial in the face of the evidence to the contrary?  Has he already grown cold-feet? Or is this a preview of the inconsistent nature of the man who wants to be president?  The answer, one is certain, lies in the womb of time.

*Mr. Ojo, a political analyst, wrote from Lagos.

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