Buhari and Atiku: landmines ahead

[FILE PHOTO] President Muhammadu Buhari

If PDP’s Atiku Abubakar wins next year’s presidential election, it will be due largely to the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign team. Apparently jittery because of Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the PDP’s candidate, the Buhari team thinks the best way to bring down Atiku was to pile up his numerous “sins” which they believe all the oceans of this world cannot wash away. Unfortunately, political communication does not work exactly that way.

Instead of concentrating on why four more years of Buhari administration is what this country needs to get us finally to the promised land – a land free of corruption, egregious graft and kleptocracy, official misdemeanour, an El-dorado with milk and honey with a potential for rapid metamorphosis into the world capital of the rich and the joyous – the Atiku bashers would not relent. If they can, they will, in one fell swoop, gather all his supporters together for what looks like the final solution. Welcome to the season of incorrect political brick-bats and outright insults.

Last week Candidate Atiku paid a courtesy visit to his former boss in Abeaokuta, proving the bookmakers right that his first port of call, after the Port Harcourt primary election victory, would be the court of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Not one for nursing grudges, Atiku, like a penitent child, had every reason to show his prize to the man who elevated him politically. He has not forgotten how he got to the position where he could stand tall and ask to be anointed by his party to carry its presidential flag.

In case you have forgotten, after God, the first person Atiku acknowledged in PH in his acceptance speech was Dr Obasanjo who picked him up in 1999 and made him his Vice- President.

If that didn’t happen when it happened, said Atiku, he wouldn’t have been who he became: “I wouldn’t have been standing where I am standing today if my former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, had not made me his Vice- President. Under his tutelage, I learnt quite a lot.”

And he proceeded to do the most politically correct thing to do – he dashed to Abeakuta some few days later to “reconcile” with his estranged godfather. And for the godfather, who had vowed not to be seen in the same room with his political godson, Atiku, and who had said God would not forgive him if he gave Atiku  political support in his ambition  to be president of Nigeria, there was a sudden urge – after the victory in the Garden City –  to recant his words and his stance in the true Biblical spirit of vengeance not being that of the human.

He was now ready to forgive and forget the past. As the legend had it, the Owu chief reached out to Bishop Mathew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese, who had hinted the Ota farmer of his desire, divinely ordained, to broker peace between the two political gladiators and stitch a reconciliation that the time for such a divine intervention was well-nigh.

But as if there was no time to lose, the bishop received another call same day from Obasanjo to say bring thou my prodigal son tomorrow unfailingly. The next day, summon delivered, Atiku, with many of his colleagues, flew into Lagos and was air freighted into Abeokuta, eager but not quite sure what to expect. On hand were two other clergy men – Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, the scion of the late fiery Kaduna cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi of blessed memory and Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Tabernacle in Ota.

The father and the son had a brief meeting and thereafter emerged before the battery of cameramen to record the grand reconciliation and the momentous pronouncement of the grand old mercurial chief.
After clearing his throat, Dr Obasanjo said: “Let me start by congratulating President-to be, Atiku Abubakar, for his success at the recent PDP primary and I took note of the gracious remarks in the acceptance speech that it all started here. Yes when it started, it was meant for Atiku to succeed Obasanjo. In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all honesty my former Vice- President has discovered and repositioned himself.”

Without elaborating, he went ahead to forecast victory for his godson after forgiving him for whatever happened in the past. For good measure, he had on hand Bishop Kukah and Bishop Oyedepo of Christian faith and Sheikh Gumi of the Islamic faith to bear witness to the reconciliation and the little ceremony of penitence.

But do we now say all is well, that ends well?
Not quite. The spokesman of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Yekini Nabena, as if pronouncing from the pulpit, said that God would not forgive Obasanjo. Why? He endorsed the opponent of President Buhari. How come the man who had sworn not to support Atiku now changed his mind even to forecast victory for the same Atiku? The APC spokesman could have stretched the question further. Prior to 2015 election, the same Obsanjo, in support of Candidate Buhari, openly tore his PDP membership card and anointed APC candidate. What went wrong? Yekini would not say.

And Festus Keyamo, director of publicity of Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, literally took the clerics who witnessed the ceremony to the cleaners forcing them to defend themselves as if they needed somebody’s permission to do what they did. Their offence? Their audacity to bear witness. And apparently giving support to their political opponent. Bishop Oyedepo, according to Keyamo, had confirmed, by being present, that he was a PDP cleric pretending to be a man of God. He was even, to use the politically incorrect language of intolerance, “seen to be grinning and shaking with two hands a Muslim and Fulani man whose name is synonymous with corruption.” Haba! This from a man speaking for APC and on behalf of President Buhari?

As for Bishop Kukah and Sheikh Gumi, the legal activist said, “we are glad that they have publicly declared their partisan interest. We urge all Nigerians to see all the previous, present and future attacks on President Buhari from the pulpits in the contexts of partisan politics.”  And we are just starting, eh?

Let’s wind back. In the 2015 presidential election, Buhari won not necessarily because of his legendary adherence to pristine principle of probity. Or his world famous integrity. And his uncompromising anti-corruption stance. He had all these qualities and more, yet he lost in the previous elections. So what was the magic in the 2015 election? The magic must be identified and protected if he must win the 2019 election.

I wish to volunteer some tangibles which in my view contributed to the winning formula of the veterans who cobbled the alliance together.  Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign team at some point became desperate and decided to play dirty. His missus, irrepressible as ever, took the lead and helped to promote hate speech including religious and ethnic identity. It backfired.

The team resorted to intimidation. It backfired. When the enfent terrible, Ayo Fayose and company did their unconscionable wrap-around newspaper advertorials and resorted to morbid false prophecy, it backfired. When they questioned Buhari’s educational attainment and cast aspersion generally on the North and glorified in its alleged educational deficit, it backfired. Even those who were not with Buhari initially were driven by rage into his camp.

It will be a grand irony therefore and a political disaster, to boot, for anybody associated with Buhari and his campaign team to suggest for a moment that what was wrong in 2015 would become right and proper in 2019.

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