By Alex Ekemenah, Editor, NextMoney
Never before has a politician in Nigeria’s contemporary history been yoked by such a heavy moral cross he has to carry as Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of People Democratic Party.
It is Atiku Abubakar’s Golgotha that he has to go through, a Golgotha not of his direct making but that of a product of the Nigeria’s currently changed and highly charged political environment.
Within a short space of less than two decades since the advent of the current “democratic” dispensation in 1998/99 Nigeria has described what may be regarded as an evolutionary cycle and in this evolutionary process suffered a great deal and also matured (in stunted form) in this suffering in trying to deal with its iniquitous past (of bungled or missed opportunities) and uncertain future.
Nigeria has filtered itself to an appreciable degree where nothing is taken for granted anymore, where nobody simply wants to take chances (gamble) in his choice of preference of whom should be his leader. Yet in this course of being careful, grievous and/or costly mistakes (i.e. mistakes that are very hard to correct in short and medium terms) have been made – the total effects that lay on the nation’s soul like an albatross or incubus that we are still battling to discharge till date.
Atiku Abubakar is one of those earlier politicians produced by the polity as it returned to “democratic rule” in 1999. He has been a pillar of the current political system in the country and in the vanguard of this “rule” both as a Vice President for two terms (1999-2007) and as an opposition leader gunning for the highest office in the land: the Presidency since 2007. He has failed to realize this once-in-a-lifetime ambition so far but steadfastly remains undaunted in this lifetime quest.
The political environment apparently conspired against him starting with his now famous altercation with his principal then, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who deployed all State arsenals available and conceivable to truncate Abubakar’s ambition.
Of course, there is no doubt that Abubakar also contributed largely to his own political misfortunes in so many ways – ways of which outlines are now being delineated and critically interrogated by historians, political scientists and other interested academic disciplines.
It is this corpus of contribution to his own woes that has now come to constitute his modern moral burden. Where others have succeeded in getting away with their various crimes against the Fatherland (Nigeria) and even humanity (crimes for which we wittingly praise them in context of moral relativism), Atiku Abubakar has inexplicably remain stuck with his own alleged crimes. That is the enigmatic mystique or mystery of his political life which historians, political scientists and others must try to unravel in the near future. Never before has any political actor in modern Nigeria suffered such a conundrum.
Why do I say this? “If you live a glass house, don’t throw stones” is a universal admonition that can be used as a general methopraxy to analytically x-ray Abubakar’s contemporary political woes. In short, Atiku Abubakar is seen, or allowed himself to be seen, to have thrown stones at his own house. Glass doors and window panes are seen to have been broken and irreparable. That is his cosmic sin!
Nobody wants to know what really happened. Nobody wants to know the external and internal factors and forces that might have led to this unwholesome situation. Nobody cares. All that the multitude of his opponents wants the rest of us to know is that Atiku Abubakar is guilty as charged without trial or that he is guilty even when he has been formally exonerated by the institution of the court system in the country. A lot of people are held captive or hostage to stupefying propaganda that has never been witnessed in the political history of Nigeria so far. It is a sort of propaganda that kills people and ruin a nation (remember Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union). The same people that are today attacking and molesting him did not raise a finger when he won series of court cases instituted by him over the PDTF affairs, as an example of our amnesia. This in itself speaks volume about our collective sense of the law and justice.
First of all, it tells the whole world that somewhere along the ontology of our political life (or maturation or degeneration process) we have lost confidence and faith in our judicial system whether Atiku Abubakar was ever found guilty by the court or not. This lack of confidence and faith is not without a degree of validity or justification if we cite the universal thesaurus of miscarriages of justice over the arch of time and space (of the historiography) of the Nigerian judicial system. The judicial system has failed woefully to properly align law and justice in equilibrium to serve the purpose of common good. That is a major fault-line in our jurisprudence, our philosophy of law and justice.
Secondly, through these lenses of lost confidence and faith, we have shown the world that as a people (from North to South, from East to West) our sense of justice is not cogent, has not evolve beyond that of the Hobbesian brutes. But therein lays the conundrum. Here we find a people crying for justice, yet has no sense of justice even in the smallest details of our lives. How do we explain this?
Quite a lot of people say they don’t want Atiku Abubakar as their President come or after the next general election (in two weeks’ time) mainly because he is said to be corrupt! “He is said to be corrupt” – meaning that it is according to certain school of thought propagated to demonize and reject him – even without any iota of material or subliminal evidence. That is probably alright by all yardsticks except just one snag: nobody has been able to prove any case of corruption against this man, not even by the Federal Government with all its earthly might. Not guilty as charged in any competent court of law – except court of public opinion, court of the rabbles! Till date, the fearsome EFCC has not come forward to publish any accusation against Atiku Abubakar. Why? Was it that EFCC could not find any skeleton in his cupboard or are we being fooled by the kind of cloak and dagger/mortar and pestle politics before our very eyes?
We are further bombarded by the propaganda that he cannot travel out of the country especially to the United States; that if he dares it, he would be promptly arrested by the US security agents who have been on his trail for corruption allegations since he left office as Vice President in 2007. First, he travelled to the United Kingdom, London to be specific, to address the Chatham House in quest to actualize his ambition. The British authorities did not deem it fit to arrest him and cast him to detention. Then the mother of it all happened: he travelled to the United States accompanied by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and others. The American authorities did not arrest him and take him to Guantanamo Bay prison. What happened? Why did the American gendarmerie suddenly develop cold feet and let Abubakar walked length and breadth of America? Then APC apologists went further to insult our sensibilities that Abubakar travelled as part of Saraki’s luggage; that Obasanjo has a hand in his travelling out – forgetting that his visa was stamped in Abuja not without consultation with the State Department. The legion of lies is almost insufferably endless.
Perhaps, Atiku Abubakar is just too smart for all of us, amidst all our professed collective intelligence. He is probably too smart that nobody, not even the court of law, has been able to pin him down so far. He has not broken the Eleventh Commandment! He has not been caught red-handed in the act of corruption with his ten fingers in the till! How did he do it that he has all the entire anti-corruption institutional agencies and forces in the country fooled by his craftsmanship in the art of corruption? He must be a smart guy indeed, and if so, I doff my hat to him in his ingenuity.
There is no more doubt that the Nigeria political ecosystem has changed drastically that historians may be at difficulty to measure this change accurately. In our haste, we substituted and foisted one evil for the other and we are completely at loss to explain this to ourselves. In short, we have been going round in a circus without achieving a fundamental or seismic shift in our approach to politics and governance. Our approach has not been fundamentally different from that of rascally school children in producing a parvenu as a school prefect.
Today we are caught between the Devil in hot pursuit and a Deep Blue Sea.
There are two major features of this contemporary dilemma. The first is that we are gradually rejecting secondary school certificate or fake certificate holders from governing us. I say “gradually” because the political landscape is already littered with corpses of those whom we have yanked off the system because of their tendered forged certificates as qualification for participation in the political system. We don’t want illiterates or certificate forgers to come near governance space. Artisanal works are plenty enough in the economy for those who fall into that category!
But at the same time, we accepted a “NEPA” certificate holder to rule us for the past four years in our anger and prejudices against a PhD holder who was unfortunate to be surrounded by swarm of locusts, termites and destructive ants that nearly pulled down the entire edifice. Was that not a dilemma of the Age?
In the list published by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, majority of the presidential candidates and their deputies have only minimum of secondary school certificates. Can we say they have already heard the results of their common entrance examinations?
Second, we collectively abhor corruption and we all agreed that corruption is perhaps the greatest bane of all our problems, even when that is academically debatable. At any rate, we don’t want corrupt people to rule us anymore. That is fine enough, indeed a great mark of social, political and even spiritual progress or maturity that we might have attained. But do let us briefly look at this problem. PDP is without validity a corrupt party – we can all agree on that without hiding our faces in shame. But that is not the end of the argument. Accusing fingers have also been pointed at the current ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC). It is further argued, not without legitimacy too, that PDP and APC are both sides of the same bad coinage in our contemporary political dispensation. Alleged corrupt people in PDP migrated in droves to APC and constituted its leadership core, ranks and files. We have recently been told that even if you are proven evidentially to be corrupt, your sins of corruption are instantly forgiven the moment you join APC!
On the basis this alone, all accusations of corruption against Atiku Abubakar, ought to have fallen to the ground, or disappeared. But alas! This has not been the case. The tenacity of the accusations can be seen to have been strengthened, tragically by those sections of the intelligentsia that ought to know that you don’t continue to accuse someone endlessly without bringing forward evidences to support these accusations. The conventional Media and Social Media are particularly guilty of this particular infamy. It is perjury against a man’s soul to continue to accuse him without bringing forward evidences to nail him. That was what was inflicted on our Lord Jesus Christ, nailed Him to the Cross at Golgotha. The Jewish Sanhedrim (the ruling priestly caste), the Pharisees and Scribes conspired and leveled baseless accusations against Him, forced Pontius Pilate to convict and sentence Him to death (against his moral conscience). The rest is history, as we say.
We currently have a President surrounded and caged by perceived corrupt people. We are doing nothing about it. But we are shouting to the high heavens that Atiku Abubakar is corrupt (almost from his mother’s womb) and that we cannot allow him to get near Aso Rock again. Haba! Can’t we afford to be fair, at least, in our judgment calls?
We have not also display the strength or will to reject both the APC and PDP. Currently, there are about eighty political parties in the country jostling for power. Some of the candidates have shown they are relatively clean, cleaner that the leading candidates. Yes, there are many good guys out there whom we can vouch for. Yet there is no visible mass movement or gravitational pull towards them. We give plethora of excuses of why we think they cannot win even when the candidates say they are going to win against all odds – listening to their metaphysical positive affirmations. Some want them to come together to form Third Force or mega-party to overthrow the two major parties – forgetting the dangers involved in such coalitions or amalgamations. Some of the parties are idealized models yet emasculated or amputated by the overall insidious character of our political system especially the syndrome of “winner-takes-all”.
It is interesting to note at this point that it is only PDP that has so far remain true to its identity – no matter how anyone wish to see this identity. It has only accepted individuals from other parties but no party has ever merged with it. APC is a mongrel in this case, a hybrid or amalgam of strange bedfellows whose ideological worldview can hardly be classified by any universal standard – except that it is a highly reactionary and fundamentalist party.
There is something really strange about APC even though I cannot tell where it actually came from: its fixation with the past.
APC and its apologists have directed a vast ideological habiliments of war across multiple theaters or battle space —politics, culture, ethics, economy, strategy, and even foreign relations against PDP and its imagined wrongdoings in the past. APC acted like a Puritan gatekeeper in this regard. In the process, it has been trying to rewrite or revise history.
Among its most intense flashpoints is propaganda that it started as its campaign methodology in the 2015 general elections. All machineries available were deployed and marshaled towards this propaganda to demonize, discredit or disgrace PDP and Dr Goodluck Jonathan out of power. APC succeeded only too well – essentially because PDP itself did not help itself by doing well when it has the opportunity to prove its mettle in the governance space.
APC has a powerful weapon at its disposal: the Media which it bribed to no end. The aim was to conquer power using both Machiavellian and Clausewitzian methodologies. After the 2015 electoral victory, the next aim is to complete the traditional arc in which APC can legitimize its rule at least for the number of terms that PDP spent in power.
APC’s strategy in revising, or remixing history is to harp selectively on the inglorious corruption that became the burden of PDP and to resolutely suppress any dissenting views.
Through its media mouthpieces including government’s media houses, APC was able to incite the public opinion against whatever PDP might have done in good faith and successfully. This was how APC has been able to present itself as a new cultural and economic behemoth that has awed and charmed the populace.
Buharists and Buharideens came forward attacking and vilifying dissenting views, branding them as unpatriotic elements in service of corrupt politicians. They devalue the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression. In no time, harassment of journalists started in earnest forcing them to adopt “if you can’t beat them, then join them”.
The underlying premise is that any criticism of an incumbent government is an affront that must not be condoned in any manner conceivable because of the fear of losing their hold on vectors of power. Yet no modern state today adheres to such unreliable and patently illegal principles of despotism.
Many people have wondered and decried APC’s ruthless war on PDP’s past iniquities. Nobody has suffered this condemnation than Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar – the essentialization of the tantalizing narratives that APC has used to glamorize itself and President Muhammadu Buhari as a saint. But the winds have blown and we can now see the private part of the chicken! The party history factory has identified the past as a primary field of battle between itself and its imaginary enemies. But no pile of historical claims to control the past can excuse such base accusations and abuses. “Historical nihilism” is nothing more than a denial that the past is fundamentally a resource to be plundered by the present.
Thus, we have willy-nilly arrived at a T-junction where visible and invisible dangers lie with whatever direction we chose to take. We are faced with a geriatric old man, increasingly growing senile, suffering from deafness, slurred speeches, amnesia, proved beyond all reasonable doubts to be nepotistic, myopic, proven track record of despotism, grossly incompetent, who is even suspected to be a Doppelganger (body-double) of someone else, on the one hand; and a highly suspected corrupt man but savvy, intelligent, articulate, full of native wisdom, a successful businessman, healthy in body and sound in mind.
I will not be surprised by the final choice Nigeria is going to make on February 16, 2019.
I have sat and discussed extensively in educated circles. The diverse opinions about what lie before us, about our country’s future can only be described as inexplicable. At a stage, I became extremely confused not by the sophistications of some of the various arguments canvassed but by the poverty content of it all. But that was also when I suddenly realized that the picturesque that I am seeing before me is that of a stage of evolution in our social and political consciousness. That was what shocked or fracked my brain and I consequently decided to restrain myself henceforth as much as I could, from participating in this debate anymore. My empire of the mind could not embrace and accommodate this intellectual poverty.
I am not an Atiku Abubakar’s fan as such. But I want to be fair to him. He is a “Devil” I probably know. I cannot accuse him of something I think in my imagination he has done without showing evidence, whether this evidence is admissible in law or not. I cannot take chance with an Angel that I don’t know! If I have to choose between him and Buhari, I will vote for him Atiku Abubakar thousands of times over. Period!
I have tried to figure out the quantum of normative essence embedded in this stage of national consciousness but could find none. Is it a Faustian butterfly that will flutter away in a heavy wind? I don’t know.
By Alex Ekemenah, Editor, NextMoney