By Morenike Taire
In the heady days of the dawn of the 4th republic when governor elect of Adamawa state, Atiku Abubakar, was forced to consign that office to the dustbin of strategy in order to take up the PDP’s vice presidential ticket that would catapult him to Aso Rock; things appeared to be rather straightforward. Musa Yaradua, great friend and ally of General Olusegun Obasanjo, was also the political godfather of Atiku. Political analysts had considered it only fair that Yaradua’s godson would govern in his stead, in the country for whom he died.
Obasanjo’s clout was global and far reaching, and few men boasted the unique ability as he did at the time to stabilize a hurting nation, smarting still from the wounds inflicted on it from the wrestle to take power back from the military. And having governed as head of state before, it was permutated that Obasanjo would relinquish power after a term and it would be a seamless transition to Atiku.
The presidency would be just a matter of time- the icing on the cake.
It was not to be, as things would turn out.
If a period could be defined as idiosyncratic, the Obasanjo era would have been that time. OBJ failed to be the bridge he had been sworn in to be, and the statement of belonging to everyone and to no one, attributed to President Buhari upon his swearing in, really ought to have been said by OBJ. His agenda, as unclear as it was enigmatic, was so precisely articulated that most of the nation including those in government were left panting, confused and trying to catch their breath much of the time.
The rest, as they say, is history. Obasanjo made the Yaradua camp happy by bringing in Umaru, the younger brother of Musa himself after masterfully elbowing out bristling contenders for the presidency. Of course the entire time his eye had really been on Goodluck Jonathan, a political light weight at the time, to be his successor, but who said there was anything wrong with killing two birds with one stone?
With Atiku , the battle line was drawn . His fans and followers were also very sympathetic , and there were quite a few of them . So popular had Atiku been that even his fashion style was adopted, giving rise to the birth of a classic traditional male attire of the same name .
The beginning of the troubles bedeviling Atiku’s presidential ambition coincided with the mash-up in the Nigerian polity, when opportunism and pure brigandage swept away and took over from the relative idealism , elitism and even professionalism that had marked pre independence Nigerian politics and part of which juice had spilled into the sixties and 70s. One minute, a beautiful future was within our grasp, as the presidency had been within Atiku’s ; the next, it was more sorrows , more tears , more blood.
Nigerians were so tired of brutal military dictatorships and the bitter fruits of them that they opened wide arms to civilian rule – any civilian rule –regardless of the cost .We are still counting them, the costs, and they are heavy .
Once more we are travelling up the slippery road of building personality cults and the debates for and against an Atiku presidency have begun. Atiku’s personality remains larger than life- his tentacles are many and he has the perfect balance between a very public and a very private life.
Political detractors have little against him beyond his sizzling –almost blind –ambition .There is nothing wrong with political ambition and in fact one can dare say that a man with no ambition is a man with no vision; and a man with no vision is a leader that is dead on arrival . Good luck and merely being in the right place at the right time unfortunately do not qualify a leader for greatness. If anything, the minimum standards in a nation as complex and diverse as ours ought to be tested and consistent ambition. The man that will run Nigeria will be a man who has spent his life thinking of his country and how he can make it better. It that man Atiku Abubakar?
Who knows? Atiku Abubakar is every inch a bonafide member of the Nigerian political establishment. At the same time, he has proven himself a populist more than once. He definitely has what it takes to be a great leader even for these times, a million and one permutations aside. If Atiku enters the race for 2019 fully, it will probably be the greatest battle of his entire life. He will be needing a stroke or three of luck.