By Dele Sobowale
Buhari contested for the Presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and lost. Each time he had rushed to the Electoral Tribunal to lay claim to a mandate denied him by the Nigerian electorate. The loss in 2011 to former President Jonathan was not without horrible repercussions for Nigeria. After making a remark about making Nigeria ungovernable, which his army of fans regarded as an order to attack, widespread violence was unleashed on innocent citizens in various parts of the North. As fate would have it, history would record that there was a return match at the polls featuring Buhari and Jonathan which Buhari won in 2015. Instead of calling on the Niger Delta Avengers to scuttle the elections, Jonathan voluntarily conceded victory to Buhari; there was no post-election violence in the Niger Delta or anywhere else. No lives were lost. The difference in nobility of spirit is clear.
It was not only in 2015 we have had a presidential candidate demonstrating that he was not desperate to be President of Nigeria; that he has “an alternative address” (Dr Muiz Banire). Long before that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, had twice been put in position where he exhibited all the wonderful traits of practicing “politics without bitterness”.
In 1992, Atiku contested for the presidency under the banner of the Social Democratic Party, SDP – one of the two political parties forced on Nigerians by General Babangida, IBB. The convention to select the SDP candidate ended in a three-way deadlock with late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and Atiku running neck to neck. Without a clear winner, a run-off election was inevitable. Atiku could have asked his delegates to vote for his fellow Northerner; but, instead he released his delegates to vote for Abiola – a Southerner. The rest as we all know is disgraceful Nigerian history which should not delay us here.
In 2006, Atiku, then Vice President to self-serving, and immortally ungrateful President Obasanjo (aka OBJ) announced his intention to run for the office in 2007. OBJ would have none of that. With the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, formed by late Alex Ekwueme, GCON, firmly in his grip, he made sure that Atiku was forced out of the PDP which he formed with Ekwueme and others. OBJ then proceeded to unilaterally impose Yar’Adua and Jonathan on the party and the nation. It was the most unpatriotic step a leader in Nigeria has taken.
Even as Governor of Katsina State, it was generally known that the man was very sick. As imposed presidential candidate, he proved it by, in a manner of speaking, collapsing on the stage during a campaign rally and had to be rushed abroad for treatment. By then the terminal nature of his illness was known to the Federal Government which illegally paid the bills. With a prospective president on his last legs, OBJ must have reckoned that the inexperienced Jonathan, who took over, will take orders from him. Like most individuals clever-by-half he failed to anticipate what followed.
After a few months of rushing to Baba for advice Jonathan struck out on his own and the advice of his people. The battle line with selfish OBJ was drawn. However, there was an election in 2007. OBJ placed all sorts of obstacle in the way of Atiku to prevent him from contesting. As some old readers would recollect, it took a last minute Court decision for Atiku to be on the ballot as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress, AC. He lost and returned to his “alternative address” to build one of the strongest entities in the maritime sector in Onne, Rivers State. Meanwhile, Buhari headed for the tribunal once again. Obviously, according to Buhari, an election is not free and fair unless he wins. Two younger men – Atiku and Jonathan have taught their older brother a lesson which he should have been teaching them. The Presidency is nobody’s birth right. Not do or die.
Unconfirmed rumours have it that Atiku might again be gunning for the Presidency. Apart from the fact that he has a constitutional right to do so, he was already on my short list of those who could succeed Obasanjo in 2007. Below are excerpts from an article published in August 2005.
“So Obasanjo must leave in 2007, in his own interest and ours to allow the nation to march on to its “manifest destiny” after him. But from now on we must start by assessing his possible successors. Since we practice the presidential system borrowed mainly from the United States, the first person under consideration is usually the Vice-President. Despite the observation by John Adams (1735 – 1826 ) who as Vice-President to George Washington lamented that the “ Vice-Presidency is the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”, he went on from there to become America’s second President. And one is very much aware of the dismissive statement by the Nigerian politician who called the Vice-President “ a spare tyre”. Yet a nation like a traveler embarking on a long distance journey would be well advised to carry along a sound “spare tyre” – just in case. That is why the more favourable view of the Vice-Presidency held by Americans describe the position as “ a heart beat away from the Presidency”. Several American Vice-Presidents have succeeded their former bosses in office. From World War II alone Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George Bush have used the Vice-Presidency as a launching pad to the Oval office. So, it is conceivable that Atiku can also move from the number two spot to become the nation’s first citizen. The main question is what qualifies him for the post. Given the length of weekly columns, it is impossible to cover in detail all the variables in his favour. Thus the few mentioned are suggestive, not exhaustive, of the factors that make him the number two candidate; after Obasanjo, who despite denials remains number one.
The variables to be covered include: experience at the highest levels of decision making in government; political clout; campaign finance and grassroots loyalty. Permit me to take the last first because it is one that might be most easily missed or misunderstood. Among the governors, except those with strong presidential ambitions of their own, Atiku remains quite popular and the governors will definitely control the delegates from their states to the National Convention of the PDP – whenever it is convened. Secondly, Atiku has built a debt of gratitude in the South-west which for now is out of the race. In 1993 he released his delegates for Chief M.K.O. Abiola, instead of “his own brother” Babagana Kingibe, at the SDP Convention, and went on to work for he success of the ticket despite the fact that Abiola chose Kingibe as his running mate. Again in 2003, when the situation within PDP became uncertain, his self-sacrifice, which was initially acknowledged by Obasanjo, ensured a smooth second ticket for the President. The South-West certainly owes the man a debt of gratitude. Besides, he is “our” in-law by marriage or more appropriately “our son”. That has been the tradition in Yorubaland and not just a new invention by Dele Sobowale.
OBASANJO IN SLICES –2
“We now have more than enough to eat and we can now export to other countries.” President Obasanjo at a Workshop in Abuja, July 2005.
When Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945, embarked on the political career that led him to the pinnacle of power in the world, he started with one principle summarized in his book Mein Kampf (My Story) written in 1924. He wrote as follows: “The great masses of the people ..will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.” (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 130.
When Obasanjo embarked on his attempt at the Third Term in office he also started with that big LIE about Nigerians not having sufficient food to eat and to export in 2005. He fooled people like former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim mantu, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Bode George, Dr Peter Odili, Colonel Alli (rtd) enough to support his bid to subvert the Nigerian constitution. He even went about foreign lands denying his ambition. Yet in House Number 7, in the Presidential Villa, people were kept busy 24/7 working on OBJ’s Third Term agenda. Prof. Jerry Gana, the arrow head on the constitutional review, first denied it, but after OBJ left office admitted there was a Third Term Project. There were other witnesses and participants. “Under Obasanjo, they [PDP] served a leader who was light years ahead of them in deceit and duplicity.” His new movement will eventually show OBJ in his true colours… (See page 39 of PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED).