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Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure this must have been a very interesting week for you like it has been for me. I spent the first few days attending the Inauguration ceremony for the brand new President of the Republic of Liberia, former World Footballer, George Opong Weah and his Vice President, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor. I must say I was greatly inspired by what I saw in Liberia, a country which is like another home for me. About ten years ago, I received one of the greatest honours in the country when I was “gowned” and made a Chief with the powerful title, The Kiazolu of The Grand Cape Mount County. I’m eternally grateful to the Council of Traditional Chiefs of Liberia for such privilege. Interestingly, one of the dignitaries at my “gowning ceremony” then is now the new Vice President, Senator Jewel Taylor.

I met many African leaders in Monronvia, including Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Dramani Mahama. Of course, our one and only indefatigable President Emeritus, General Olusegun Okikiolakan Aremu Obasanjo (Rtd.) was fully on ground. The Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his wife, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, stayed in the same hotel with the Ovation team which included the Editor, Michael Effiong. Naturally, the Boulevard Palace Hotel, where we stayed, became a Mecca of sorts. It was the place everyone wanted to be accommodated in but this was well nigh impossible.

It was while in Monrovia, that I read former President Obasanjo’s bazooka of a letter to our dear President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), and the impact and reverberation of what can almost be described as an atomic bomb is still being felt at home and even in far flung places. The letter did not come as a total surprise to some of us. It was in fact long awaited and sooner expected. Baba’s letter was much more longer and extremely detailed than the one I wrote to President Buhari about three weeks earlier, but we shared some things in common. The verdict out there on the streets is that the ruling Party, APC, has performed far below expectations and cannot, and should not, in good conscience, seek another term in office, under the current leadership of President Buhari. The other major challenge for the President has been his health which became very worrisome for several months last year. Miraculously, the President resurrected and returned triumphantly to power after some of his vociferous critics had written him off. But what is not known, is if he has enough stamina to cope with the rigours of running a country as complex and complicated as Nigeria, never mind the rigorous campaigning that must precede an attempt at a second term. Obasanjo amplified this particular issue, repeatedly, in his latest missive. The long and short of the matter is that Obasanjo believes that Buhari should not contest again.

Many have argued that it is undemocratic to ask Buhari not to contest when the Nigerian Constitution expressly allows him. But there is no big deal if the same people that supported him in the past are now advising him to save himself from the stress of campaigning again. The advice can easily be ignored since it is not enforceable. Let me confess that I thoroughly enjoyed Obasanjo’s letter. Wow, if Baba was not a soldier, he would have been a journalist. I’m not surprised that he is an accomplished author to boot.

But as much as I enjoyed this letter, which I’ve read repeatedly since it was released, I’m not so sure about Baba’s thesis, or hypothesis, on the issue of a third force.

I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria truly requires a serious political Party with impeccable ideology. This was my dream in 2010, when I decided to join the Presidential race which I eventually contested in 2011. My idea was simply that Nigeria deserves better Parties than the ones on parade right now. I decided to join the Labour Party for that purpose. Little did I realise the naivety in that decision. First, I did not know that the Nigerian Labour Congress had no direct control or influence over the Labour Party. Just imagine a party with all Nigerian workers as bona fide and fee-paying members. This dream was truncated because no such thing existed and I had to try my luck elsewhere. I joined the National Conscience Party and won the Presidential Primary after a stiff contest. I eventually contested as a Presidential candidate in 2011 but lost resoundingly. But despite this loss, I gained two things, experience and exposure. It is based on that experience that I wish to plead with the conveners of the third force to be very careful.

Politics is a game of numbers and figures. It is not for the faint-hearted. I’m almost certain that no major force apart from PDP can sack Buhari and, or, APC from power next year. It is an established fact that only two dominant Parties are viable in most countries of the world. There are a few exceptions here and there, but they belong in the realm of magic and miracle. A quintessential example of how tough it is for a third force to emerge and succeed is Donald Trump who had to hijack the Republican Party in the United States to get a formidable ticket. I believe that it is too late in the day, with elections coming next year, to build a third Party, or movement, of force, or whatever to compete against APC or PDP.

I understand where Obasanjo’s problem lies. He can neither join APC nor PDP now. Both political Parties currently harbour some of his sworn enemies, or people he doesn’t fancy at all. If he would have any influence or relevance, he would have to seek and work with other Parties except those two. But I must sound a note of caution urgently. As much as I’m not a fan of PDP, I don’t see any other Party that can unseat APC right now, unless that Party addresses all its internal conflicts and presents a united front. Truth hurts but we must swallow that bitter pill. If Baba has virtually foreclosed Buhari coming back next year, he must be ready to accept whatever or whoever PDP throws up. It is not possible to eat your cake and still have it. Nigeria has finally reached a cul-de-sac so soon again after the exit of PDP.

It is important to note that most of the names being bandied as potential aspirants and candidates are not likely to be able to tackle Buhari readily and easily. PDP would have to get its act together. Over-ambitious members would have to bury their vaunting ambitions and make the huge sacrifice to rescue Nigeria by seeking the best candidates at all levels. APC can also spring a surprise by dropping Buhari peacefully and give their ticket to any of the younger and cerebral elements. The job of the President these days cannot be treated as business as usual. No country, least of all a developing one, can afford to run on cruise control or auto pilot. That is more or less how we have operated these past years. The President of Africa’s greatest country must be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with world leaders and speak their language, discuss business, talk foreign affairs, understand diplomacy, and so on. Exchanging the baton of backwardness every four-years can no longer work to our advantage. Nigeria is too big to be handled and handed to those without requisite preparation for the new world order.

I believe the third force can checkmate the traditional politicians while working slowly and steadily on building a new coalition of like minds. The death knell of APC was sounded when it chose to welcome every Tom, Dick and Harry into its fold, but it had no choice if it wanted to win elections. I also suppose that is an essential aspect of democracy. However, what APC lacked was the will to consign the chaff, flotsam and jetsam to the rubbish heap. On the contrary, they were promoted to vantage positions. Truth seems to be that the good candidates would not win elections in the near future without the assistance of bad guys. The immediate priority of APC and PDP should be how to save Nigeria from the monumental tragedy of ineffective leaders. I really do not care which Party gives us the next President but I care about the quality of leadership. If care is not taken and a third force fails to align to one of the existing Parties, the third force may act as a spoiler by chipping away at some of the votes a creditable, credible opposition Party would have garnered. A good example is the 1979 scenario where the combined force of UPN and NPP would have torpedoed the abysmal and woeful NPN which Obasanjo bequeathed to Nigeria. Clearly, this does not augur well for Nigeria.

I hope someone is listening to my patriotic sermon…

TIME TO END OUR MILITARY MENTALITY

I was happy to watch President Donald Trump’s speech in Davos yesterday on CNN. I was very impressed about how he spoke eloquently and convincingly about the new ease of doing business in America today. I saw a man who was very serious about creating jobs at home, by all means necessary. As a businessman himself, he obviously understands the rudiments of running business and creating opportunities for job seekers. That should be the priority of all governments, but I’m not sure Nigeria is ready to treat our investors as the kings they are in reality.

I was shocked to read the latest harassment of one of our business icons, Dr Mike Adenuga, on social media yesterday. According to the widely circulated reports, Dr. Adenuga’s company is owing the Federal Government some huge sums of money running into billions of naira. It was not stated how members of the House of Representatives arrived at their figure, but they claimed they’ve summoned Dr Adenuga to appear before them several times but he refused. The tone and anger displayed by the committee members probing the alleged infractions sounded more like vendetta than genuine interest in getting whatever amount his companies are allegedly owing, back to government coffers. One of them went downright personal when he said Adenuga is not the only billionaire in Nigeria and he cannot disrespect them. My view is that unlike public service where you may call for the Minister or Agency head, you cannot do the same for a private company, particularly where the individual is not an executive Chairman. There are appropriate officers of a company to deal with such matters. Asking Adenuga to come personally demonstrates not only a lack of understanding of corporate nuances but also unseriousness, even arrogance, by our legislators who appear not to have done their homework.

Furthermore, if the Honourable House members have concluded their investigations and findings, are they the ones to prosecute and judge at the same time? The allegations they make are matters which are either for the civil or criminal courts. Their powers are limited. Therefore, why can’t they refer the matter to the appropriate authorities instead of this unnecessary grandstanding. If we continue to humiliate all our great and visionary business men and women publicly by trial in the court of public opinion rather than the Court of Law, who would be left standing? I agree that matters of this nature should be investigated, but not in this barefaced gra gra manner.

Dr Adenuga is undoubtedly one of our hardest working businessmen. He has provided employment for thousands of Nigeria. We all know him to be reclusive in nature and he does not partake in the orgy of ostentation that some of our politicians are known for. He is shy to a fault and is hardly seen in public. Such an institution deserves some respect and protection. If he collapses, God forbid, many thousands of Nigerian families will suffer. We should try to find means of helping people like Adenuga to stay afloat for the sake of our youths. Before our very eyes, Etisalat ran into troubled waters and could not swim afloat. The same must not be allowed to happen to Glo. Once in a while we must eat yam because of palm-oil or eat palm-oil because of yam. No man is perfect in life but we can help to make people perfect, out of love, genuine concern and even the selfish interest of the nation that is already in its death throes from businesses being mortally wounded.

May the tribes of Adenuga increase and may God bless Nigeria mightily through them…

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COLUMNISTS

SOUTH WEST VERDICT ON BUHARI THE TRIBALIST

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I didn’t know you are this politically savvy. I just read your submission that sounded more like a statement issued by Ologbodiyan, the Publicity Secretary of PDP full of inaccuracies and more of wishful thinking than a dispassionate analysis. Your post arrogates to Atiku structures he doesn’t possess. Titi is his first wife but has never been able to deliver Ijesha not to talk of Osun state to him in any of the elections he has been involved in. Buhari has always beaten him in Adamawa his home state in all the elections they both have been involved with. Go and check your data. Who is the power broker in the north that can beat the cult followership Buhari enjoys there?

Except for Saraki in Kwara, Atiku has no advantage anywhere else in the northcentral and I can assure you, this time, Saraki will be given a run for his money. Mark it Bukola will struggle to return to the National Assembly. I concede the entire southeast to Atiku and that is being magnanimous. However APGA might embarrass him there. The entire south south is free for all but the game changer is an Akpabio. Nobody can take Edo from Buhari, Delta is an open fight. Wike must keep an eye open when sleeping otherwise he is a goner; ditto Akwa Ibom and perhaps Cross River too.

There is absolutely nothing for Atiku in the southwest. Forget about Afenifere. Baba Adebanjo cannot deliver his Iperu or something like that to Atiku. They are just grandstanding. They took Jonathan’s money in 2015 yet the poor guy was thoroughly embarrassed in the southwest. The only vulnerable state here is Ondo and there is nobody of substance to deliver Ondo to them.

Yes,Buhari is nepotic, tribalistic, who is not? Jonathan’s DSS- Ekpeyong from the south south, his chief of Army Staff – Ihejirika from the southeast and General Minima from the south south. The entire Financial architecture were Ibos from the Finance Minister to the CBN Governor, to AMCON MD to the Sovereign Wealth MD. Mention it, they were either from the southeast or South South. The only position of substance the southwest got under Jonathan was the Minister of Agriculture, all other Yoruba people were either town criers like Doyin Okupe or Shola Omole.

Don’t be deceived, Atiku will not do any better. Buhari’s government is the best the southwest has ever got in the history of the Federal government of Nigeria. Shine your eyes, Atiku’s government will only turn Yoruba people to Tea boys and Messangers in Abuja. Wike has already shown us in clear terms what to expect when he said we don’t deserve the position of the chairman of the party.

Yes, the economy is still limping, the fact is, only a miracle worker can turn the Nigerian economy which was destroyed over 16 years around in 3 years. No democratic government has the nerve to take the kind of decisions that can turn the economy around in 8 years. But we can arrest the hemorrhaging of the National treasury by these looters.

Other than working in custom where has Atiku worked that he made the difference and we all know what goes on in Custom even with a man of integrity as the CG, we all know how the Custom service is. His other experience is in Aso Rock as VP where he and his Oga in 8 years couldn’t add a megawatt of electricity to the National grid, ran all the refineries aground that today Nigeria is importing 90% of its fuel consumption. Even ordinary Lagos – Ibadan Express road they could not reconstruct in 8 years.

Rather than adding value to that government Atiku was busy amassing wealth in the most despicable way that his Oga has no kind words for him. This is apart from undermining the same government he was the second in hierarchy. A perfidious character. No wonder, his Oga gave him a Testimonial that cannot be presented anywhere in the world.

Yes, age is not on his side, he is not technologically savvy and ancient in his ideas, however, within a year of assuming power Buhari completed the Kaduna – Abuja rail line. He had the choice of abandoning this project to start a new one like Ambode did in Lagos, he is completing a brand new Lagos-Ibadan Standard gauge railway in just about one year period. He is building the biggest Deep Seaport in Africa in Lekki, a 3050 Megawatt Mambilla Power station in Taraba which has been on the drawing board for over 50years is under construction, the second Niger Bridge that his predecessors have been budgeting for year in year out in the last 16years with no bridge in sight and budgeted money disappeared is advancing under his administration. The biggest Refinery in Africa will come on stream in Lekki in about 18 months and at least 6 Modular Refineries are under construction with 2 operational now. Another one will be operational before the end of the year. All these in less than 4years. Haba e e beru Olorun. Give credit where it is deserved.

I am surprised that even people who otherwise are very intelligent allow these scoundrels to scam them for the umpteenth time. Atiku has nothing to offer this country. He is only coming for another heist and a fulfillment of a personal life ambition which is at variance to the people’s interest.

If in less than 10 years Nigeria has lost over N10 trillion to corruption you will agree with me that Nigeria’s Public Enemy number one is corruption. Atiku is the “wrongest” person to fight this war, rather he will only compound our misery. Buhari is not a Saint and he is everything but not avaricious. Of all the contestants with the best chance of winning the election, Buhari is the most disposed to fighting corruption.

All the PDP aspirants including Atiku are just another A’love of our youth in Ondo, out to scam the poor folks of the little they have.

© Coalition of a better Nigeria from the South-West.

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Pendulum: Can Atiku Abubakar Defeat Muhammadu Buhari in 2019? By Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, interesting times are here again. And the ways of God are mysterious indeed. This time last week, no one was sure who would ultimately emerge as the quintessential leader of opposition for the general elections in our dear beloved country which comes up in February next year. There were about 12 assorted gladiators lined up and seeking the Presidential ticket of PDP, which truly needs to redeem itself urgently from the vestiges of near death. For the most part, its national convention in Port Harcourt went smoothly.

Even its worst critics attest to the fact that it was effectively well organised and set the right tone for the regeneration of the democratic credentials of the Party. What was more remarkable, a candidate emerged without rancour or the usual bickering that attends such highly contentious contests. Virtually all the other aspirants immediately aligned with their chosen candidate, former Vice President of Nigeria, the Wazirin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Since then, both traditional and social media have ignited with blazing fire with both positive and negative comments about the outcome. Atiku himself wasted no time in seeking the support of everyone, whether members of his Party or not. He’s smart and knowledgeable to know that he will need more than votes of the Party faithful alone to win the stiff electoral battle ahead.

As he emphasised in my two previous interviews with him in the last couple of months, he has redeemed his pledge to pick a Vice Presidential candidate from the South East of Nigeria, a move many Nigerians have applauded, and embraced, as a masterstroke. The choice of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State is seen by some analysts as the first step towards the restructuring Atiku and company have been mouthing from the rooftops in recent times. Apart from this, Peter Obi is seen by many as a seasoned technocrat and astute businessman with credible and capable government experience and service. The Igbos have rightly complained that they have had neither the Presidential or Vice-Presidential slot since 1983, some 35 years ago, when Dr Alex Ekwueme, of blessed memory, was President Shehu Shagari’s deputy. Buhari has an equally formidable person, who also boasts intimidating credentials and capabilities, as his Vice-President in Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Obi comes with an array of impressive academic, business and political credentials and achievements. He is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Nsukka. He has improved and enhanced himself with academic and practical studies at Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, Kellogg School of Management, University of Columbia, Said Business School, Oxford University, George Business School, Cambridge University and Lagos Business School. These have sharpened his entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills which he clearly utilised in the 8 years that he was Governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014.

Peter Obi is a recipient of many national and international awards notably the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation Award for which his State won US$1 million for its immunisation programme. He created an enabling environment for industrial development in Anambra State which saw the likes of SABMiller, the 2nd largest brewery in the world establishing their first Greenfield facility in Anambra State. Similarly, Innoson Motors established their internationally acclaimed plant where they manufacture their made in Nigeria vehicles. Obi adds unquantifiable value to the Atiku candidacy in much the same way as Vice President Osinbajo has done for President Buhari. The battle of the Vice-Presidential candidates may well be the tipping point of these forthcoming elections. We will revisit the contest between this highly esteemed and acclaimed gentlemen soon.

The battle for the control of Nigeria’s jugular in 2019 is all set and looks like a straight fight between Buhari/Osinbajo and Abubakar/Obi, except a miracle, or some magic, erupts and one of the fringe candidates pulls a monumental surprise by defeating both teams in what must be close to a volcanic eruption in Nigeria. I personally do not see that happening.

The battle will be tough because old rivalries will also come into play. Buhari needs to prove and revalidate his seeming invincibility which seems to be waning if my reading of the pulse of public opinion is accurate. As the incumbent, Buhari controls the appurtenances of power. His ego is at stake. Like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari came back to power as a retired army General and former military Head of State. Obasanjo was able to complete two terms and Buhari would definitely wish to equal that feat even if he can’t surpass it because of constitutional limitations. Buhari is not known to be a self-acclaimed democrat. The aspect of his brand that has brought him this far is his no-nonsense posturing. A man who would destroy and obliterate all looters and oppressors, by any means possible, if allowed to have his way. This has endeared him to a multitude of totally loyal die-hard supporters. His disciples swear by his name and they are willing to fly to heaven and back to prove their ardent fervour and love for him.

Buhari comes into the boxing ring with a daunting personality and attributes. He is tall and gangling, even if seemingly frail, but his punches are capable of deadly effect. Unlike Obasanjo or Atiku, many have said this President is not going to bow to any public opinion and go away without a whimper. Fingers are being pointed at the recent over-militarisation of the democratic process and suspected manipulation of the electoral body, INEC. Whether imaginary or not, or imagination just running riot, no one can easily dismiss certain unseemly electoral practices and possibilities in next year’s elections. We hope that the desperation to remain in power will not go as far as besmirching the view of how far our democracy has been deepened by the fact of President Goodluck Jonathan, accepting the will of the people, and handing over power to President Buhari without any fuss.

The Buhari government won’t accept the tag of incompetence many have affixed to it. They have already compiled a long list of their projects and accomplishments. They have argued that government is a continuum and they are fixing incomplete projects abandoned by its predecessors. Good point. They are correcting the rot of nearly two decades. While they may appear slow, and sluggish, to those of us on the outside, they are insisting they have had to be methodical and painstaking in their work. Perhaps, they are right, we are not sure.

FromAtiku’s side, he comes with an effervescent, ever smiling easy going demeanour and personality. He is renowned for his great flexibility and negotiation skills, a shrewd manager of men and women and resources. However, when required he is known to possess a steely resolve necessary to head a country like Nigeria. Atiku comes with a controversial and colourful past though, not least because of the unrelenting assault and pummelling about his character that he had been subjected to by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. This is veritable easy meat and fodder for APC to deploy in rubbishing his candidacy and demonstrating his unfitness to be President of this great nation.

We should expect Atiku and his campaign team to go all out on the offensive and try to debunk all the criticisms, arguments and jibes that APC will propel at him. The harsh disparaging and denigrating diatribe as well as the strident blame game the Buhari government has perfected will have to be met head on by Atiku and his forces. It will not be easy as so much damage has been done to Atiku in the past by the perception of him as an unreliable corrupt politician. On his part Atiku can point to the fact that notwithstanding all the many allegations made against him, nobody has yet been made to make any stick. He has consistently maintained his innocence and dared anyone to prove otherwise.

Nobody has called his bluff, if bluff it is! Indeed, he has pointedly referred to the claimed American albatross hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, that it is but a mere figment of imagination of his inept traducers. As Atiku says, he has never been charged or indicted for any offence either in Nigeria or elsewhere. the American Government has never declared him wanted. He has applied for an American visa on a few occasions, but this has not been granted. If indeed he was wanted in America, surely his visa would have been granted to enable him visit and be arrested. The American Government has never denied either of these claims. On the contrary, that Government has also stated that Atiku is not wanted. In my view, that should put an end to the matter.

The Buhari Presidency is not without its shortcomings and negatives. I expect the Atiku campaign to focus heavily on those areas where the Nigerian public have been most critical of the Buhari administration. They will undoubtedly point at the precarious economic condition of Nigerians and Nigeria and blame Buhari for creating panic in the system. On this aspect, Buhari obviously relies on the fact that oil prices dipped violently when he assumed power, but nonetheless his Government has grown foreign reserves to US$44 million and maintained the Naira at a steady level in the past year. Critics of this position point to the fact that oil prices have now increased to a level not contemplated by the Government, which has increased borrowing to an unprecedented level and appears to have heavily mortgaged Nigeria to the Chinese through the exceptionally and dangerously ominous high level of borrowing from that country.

The Government has also revived and revitalised transportation through its resuscitation of the road and rail networks. The opposition PDP has always claimed that Government is a continuum, and it was PDP that conceived, started and almost completed these projects, none of which this administration could claim to have commenced itself. Atiku and his team will also enjoy castigating the Buhari government as being overly dependent on taxing business and ordinary Nigerians to death. Atiku will also naturally present, and sell, himself as a successful businessman and try to portray Buhari as a novice who lacks business acumen and therefore is not business friendly. Atiku will contend that Buhari has never had a head, or acumen, for business which accounts for why Nigeria is on the verge of an economic precipice even as the dark shadows that loomed globally at the beginning of his tenure have lifted considerably and there should have been prosperity in the land. Atiku says he has a well-structured economic blueprint, whilst the government is presently adopting and applying a slapdash and inimical approach to the economy.

Furthermore, the Atiku camp will exploit the heightened insecurity in the country especially by the infamous herdsmen which the government appears to be treating glibly. They will also point to the apparent resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgency despite what the Buhari administration will claim are the valiant efforts of our security forces. The agitation by IPOB and its followers continues relentlessly. The manner in which the Government has handled the situation is something that the opposition Party is expected to capitalise upon.

WhileBuhari would tout his anti-corruption pedigree, Atiku would lampoon it as nothing but grandstanding and at the very best a witch-hunt of the opposition Party. Atiku will contend that most of those who have defected to the ruling Party have had grave allegations of corruption levelled against them in the past, but these have mysteriously disappeared as soon as they jumped shipped and landed with the ruling Party. In addition, I can foresee the opposition claiming that almost all of the so-called achievements of the Buhari Government in relation to corruption originated from the Jonathan administration and that within the highest level of government corruption is rife and thriving and being studiously overlooked by the President because they concern his friends and cronies. The ding-dong claims and counter-claims will dovetail into other areas and continue unabated until well after the general elections.

The most critical area would be how to get the numbers together to win. Buhari will come in with anything between 10 million to 12 million guaranteed votes, as always. Most of those votes would come from North West and North East. For whatever reason, I believe that more people will be stated to have voted in this election than in 2015. In my estimation the victor will need to garner at least 18 million votes for success. What is not certain is if North East would abandon its own son now that it has the brightest chance since Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi became Prime Minister in the First republic. PDP will play its traditional joker from the South East and South South axis. Buhari and Atiku require humongous votes from about four out of six regions. Buhari would target North East, North West, North Central and South West while Atiku will target North East (as his home base), North Central (as an endangered zone supposedly mismanaged by the APC Government), South East, South South and enough of a chunk from South West. Let no one rule Atiku out of those five zones, in the present mood across the country. If Atiku gallops away, continuously, as it seems at the moment, he might obliterate Buhari in a devastating defeat.

As tough as it may seem, after running for a record 25 years, perhaps this may be Atiku’s date with destiny and his final battle.

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ATIKU VS BUHARI: THE BATTLE TO RECLAIM NIGERIA HAS BEGUN

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By: Mike Ozekhome San

 

INTRODUCTION

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 bed fellows, 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 his preference for Olusegun Abraham); and in Lagos (Fashola’s three-ministeries-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 archiles 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”, swash buckling, 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 which had been sent from Abuja to supervise the election, cried blue murder. Former Cross River state Governor, Clement Ebri (a gentleman per 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 primaries, 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 “organize” the governorship elections. Such is Nigerian politics, sorry politricks. Such is the intoxicating effect of power, a stimulant and aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger). With power, you can access cheep 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 primaries 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 14.8M votes to emerge the candidate.

Even Aisha, his wife, has since pooh-poohed the APC primaries, describing them in very strong words as “unfair and lacking in integrity”.
Asiha, who is 2016, had cried out about a powerful cabal holding her husband hostage, and in 2017, described 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 have also decried Buhari’s victory. Nigerians have been gasping for breath to decipher how Buhari could have singly-handedly harvested a bumper 14,842,072 votes at an only APC primaries, which was merely affirmed by only 7000 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 just barely 3 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%). And 3 years later, he is getting from only his party, humongous votes which are a mere 582,849 less than his 2015 national haul? Many Nigerians are contending that the rigging of 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 Kwakwanso (158); former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido (96).

The former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, polled 65 votes, Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker 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 (5 votes). The primaries were 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 lack luster performance, unfulfilled promises, economic stagnation, good will mismanagement, enthronement of more insecurity and fear (Boko Harm and the daily orgy by Herdsmen across Nigeria); and the geometrical escalation of corruption (2nd 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 opague 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 $500billion, 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 3 years, like a stuck record. They behold their lives going down the drains 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 resurgimento 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, ethnocentricism, 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 will 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 4th 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. Next week: How Atiku can beat Buhari.

THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
”Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” (Robin S. Sharma)

“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” (Pope Francis)

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