Atiku’s grouse, APC’s sneer
The central hallmark of democratic governance anywhere is popular participation of all. Whether at the party level, or at government level, democracy encourages that as many that are willing to participate are offered a level playing field, to contribute in whatever capacity to the development of the party, as well as the government that emerges after an election.
Even the Constitution envisages the critical and sensitive need for all segments of the country to be carried along; hence principles of inclusivity and popular participation are enshrined in Section 14(3) to reflect federal character and the need to promote national unity and to command national loyalty. Those are the very wordings of the Constitution.
I’m not really discussing constitutional matters today. I am discussing politics and the return of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The man was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), where he had gone to seek justice, after the PDP became too hot for comfort under the government of Goodluck Jonathan. The APC now seems hotter, and Atiku has moved again.
Some think Atiku is restless and desperate to become president of the federal republic. They have called him names. The ruling party does not seem yet to articulate an intelligent response to the desertion of the party by Atiku. President Buhari had sarcastically expressed sympathy with chairman, John Oyegun for the exit of the big man. What height of contempt for participatory democracy. Don’t forget; that when Buhari confessed he had repented from his militaristic ways, some of us warned if he had not become too stiff to repent. Or, how else does the leader of a party respond, when a politician in the caliber of Atiku, who had labored and spent his own money to procure your victory of 2015 decide to take a walk?
Oyegun and others said they knew Atiku would leave. Atiku himself had told everyone that the government he helped to put in place was not participatory, that he had been sidelined. Oyegun and company should tell Nigerians what they did to assuage Atiku and reassure him, after which the Turaki of Adamawa remained adamant? They need to tell Nigerians what gratitude they have shown after collecting Atiku’s money to run their campaigns. Or, are they all a pack of unkind, vengeful, unforgiving souls?
Does it make sense, that in its over two years in government, an Atiku has no input in what goes on, despite his experience in and out of public office. Here was a vice president, who managed the economy on behalf of government in the first half of the Obasanjo government. Are they saying a word or two from Atiku could not have helped this government get its directions right?
But instead, they have allowed leeches and social media parasites that have no knowledge of the history of party formation in Nigeria to do the attacks. They have no understanding of the damage they do when they surrender to deification of one man, Buhari. They have no idea of the harm they do when they surrender a great party to the dictates of one man, and see nothing worth interrogating of Atiku’s grouse.
To be sure, Atiku’s political activism did not begin today. For those who care to read, the man has been around since early 1990s (politically), along with great players like late MKO Abiola and the senior Yar’Adua, Shehu Musa. Those were days when soldiers pretended to midwife democratic transitions. It was bloody and certainly not a period for the likes of today’s clowns who populate the so-called forum of governors. Abiola and Yar’Adua paid the ultimate prize for their refusal to surrender to fetishistic power. That Atiku survived that era was, perhaps, because providence wanted him to be alive to fight another day. That day was to come in 1998/99, when Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar hurriedly drew a seemingly credible transition programme. The haste to transit was after a miffed global community stampeded a transition at all costs, given the horrors of the Abacha years. But the vestiges of dictatorship were never exorcised. They were deliberately left behind to haunt this democracy.
Obasanjo also managed to survive the Abacha years. And it pleased the retreating military leaders and their tribe of retired Generals and crowd of sycophants to crown him king, stealing the machinery of one of the three political parties they grudgingly licensed. Now, there was an Atiku, who had humbly elected to serve his people at the governorship level. He was the governor-elect of Adamawa State in 1999, but it pleased king Obasanjo to invite him to serve as his vice president in Abuja. And that was it.
Atiku failed to play politics of boi boi (that is houseboy politics). After a while in their joint ticket, Obasanjo felt the need to acquire more than the powers the constitution bestows. He was awarded the title of party leader, making him the owner of government. But he was resisted. The governors then were also owners of parties in their states, and were equally powerful in their territories. Atiku was able to make friends among governors, while Obasanjo could not. Towards the end of their first four years, the former president’s ego was threatened, so he applied executive powers to compel party loyalty. He deployed all forces and hounded politicians who were in league with Atiku, but who failed to apply tact in the application of state resources. He took over the PDP and installed party chairmen the way it pleased him. But Atiku went to court, fought all the way to the Supreme Court to retain his office. But he was weakened politically and that altered his political calendar.
Atiku was forced, more or less, to leave the PDP towards 2007, in search for greener pastures. It turned out not to be so because the alliance he forged with the Action Congress (AC), later Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was not properly consummated. Both Atiku and the owner of ACN, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are two strong politicians who know all the tricks. They are friends, but when it comes to politics, I think they know too much of each other to put all the cards on the table. Mutual suspicion is what I guess.
So, Atiku returned to PDP. Under Goodluck Jonathan, Atiku gave a spirited fight for the 2011 ticket of the party. At that time, sentiments and facts were fully in favour of Jonathan, the one who didn’t wear shoes. Many thought it was only fair for a Southsouth person to be president for once, even though the timing was not unusual, given that the North was supposed to retain the slot for eight years, but as VP to the late Yar’Adua, Jonathan needed fair hearing. That was the overwhelming verdict. But despite that, the entire northern PDP ganged up to present Atiku. With the help of governors, Jonathan won the PDP primary and the presidential election.
Towards 2015, Jonathan had also become enslaved by megalomania and didn’t want to listen to voices of reason. As leader of the party, he allowed sycophants to deify him and tell him he was the best thing to happen to PDP. They did not allow opposition within and Atiku had to leave again. He went to APC and there, they choked him. Now, he is back to PDP.
I have not heard any serious politician in the APC poke fun at the fact that Atiku has left. That is the consolation I have. Those who know how hard it is to grow a party will not trifle with Atiku’s exit, just a handful of hangers-on, men who could not win elections in their wards without assistance.
A toad does not run in daytime for nothing. When you see Atiku run, he is being pursued. We need to value the party system by accommodating all members. The present system of surrendering a party to a reluctant president cannot deepen this democracy. We also need to break the yoke of militarism that has bedeviled this dispensation since 1999. So far, Atiku has played his part.
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