Atiku and His Excess Luggage
According to TheNews magazine of 3 April 2000, Atiku “is in trouble”, especially since his shariah suspension announcement. I have set out to rescue him. Since his appointment as a running mate to president Obasanjo, Atiku has fallen into a sort of a hole, not a pit really but perhaps a dry and deep well. What I intend to do is to throw a rope at him and attempt to pull him out. If at the end the rescue fails, believe me, blame Atiku; he might have wished to remain there or refused to leave behind his ‘excess luggage’. But never blame Tilde-the-rescuer.
The trouble of Atiku started with his ‘jump’ at Obasanjo’s offer. First, in so doing, he disregarded the yearnings of the people who had just elected him as a their state governor. If service was desired, the office of the governor is certainly more crucial than that of the vice-president to the people of Adamawa State. The office of the governor has an executive capacity and therefore creates more avenues and liberty for activity than that of the vice-president. While as a vice-president, Atiku has nothing but working hard to actualise the wishes of the president, good or bad, the executive capacity of the governor would have accorded him the opportunity to build a strong foundation for a future political career. Politics at a point, especially in the future North, will cease to be all about money, but about performance.
Secondly, tossing the office of the governor at a person from the other side of the political divide in the state has shown Atiku’s insensitivity to the feelings of his people and the desire to maintain the balance of the political equation in Adamawa State. If his deputy-governor elect had contested the governorship election, certainly he would not have scaled through the primaries. The whole thing looks like a ‘political 419.’
Fourthly, by jumping to the second highest office in the hierarchy of political power, Atiku has short-circuited his political carrier. Wise people always move up steadily. By the time they reach the top, they would be matured enough to stabilize themselves easily. Thereafter, they would retire at the most appropriate age, with the feeling of accomplishment, rather than a baggage of untenable ambitions. Atiku can now only dream of being a president, something that is daily appearing far-fetched. An ‘Al Gore’ of this administration is unlikely to succeed.
One wonders why Atiku overlooked these and other considerations and jumped at Obasanjo’s offer. The big name, the flamboyance and the ‘fringe benefits’ are not worth the gamble that the whole thing has turned out to be right now. It was a high-vault, because, according to his narration, the whole thing was impromptu. That is exactly the problem with haste. He forgot that he had an electorate, friends, family and even enemies to consult before taking it. Now, it is clear that the jump has turned into a slip, down to the bottom of the dry well.
The second luggage of problems has to do with the poor sculpture he has carved to represent his personality on the political landscape since becoming a vice-president. We expected him to be the ‘Aaron’ that would assist our ‘Moses’ towards national reconciliation especially now that the southwest is ready to cross the ‘Nile’ with him.
Perhaps the first problem was that Obasanjo did not see himself as Moses. He did not see Nigerians as the Jews in Egypt; there was no staff, no Nile. Rather he saw himself as the ‘Messiah’ and Nigerians as the lost sheep. Whatever Nile was there, it was Galilee. So the ‘messiah’ did not need an Aaron or a Joshua, but disciples willing to carry out his orders. And Atiku did promise him exactly that when the President offered him the position of a running mate. According to Atiku, the president asked him: “Turaki, are you ready to take orders from me?” Atiku replied, “I have always been willing to carry out your orders, General.”
Yet when it was clear that Obasanjo’s appointments, retirements and relocation orders raised some dust in the camp of ‘the lost sheep’, Atiku the disciple, who, versed in reasons behind the actions of his messiah, would have helped in settling such dust. However, he chose to be offensive than persuasive. He unfairly charged the North with the responsibility of failure in the past twenty years. In his famous Arewa House speech, TheNews quoted him saying:
“It is too early to forget that a lot of the mess this administration is trying to address is a cumulative misrule and bad governance of the last 15, some say 20 years, during which the leadership has been held by the North.”
Certainly, this outburst exemplifies the shallow judgement that attempts to hang the rope of Babangida and Abacha’s failure on the neck of the entire North. If this had come from the editor of a southern magazine, it would not have bothered us. But to come out from the mouth of the vice-president, who was honoured to chair an occasion regarding our dear Malam Sa’adu Zungur, was unfortunate. Come again, was Atiku not part of that mess? Was he not a customs officer, a participant in option A4, a UNCP chieftain and its gubernatorial candidate in Adamawa State? Meanwhile, to prove that he is a saint, has he declared his assets and told us the source of his wealth?
If Atiku has a problem with anybody in the North, and it glaring that he has, he should call their names and address them. But to condemn the whole North due to a grudge or complex that he has is too recalcitrant for a vice-president. This is another baggage that Atiku must leave behind in the pit to benefit from my rescue.
From his outburst at Arewa house and many other utterances, it is widely held here that Atiku has a personality problem, a ‘complex’ sort of. The guy is running away from anything northern. This may be wrong, but I have realized that it is a general perception that no honest person will deny. Some of these things may look trivial, but identities do tell a lot about our mindset. You can imagine a Muslim getting disenchanted to be called Alhaji when even some Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem are happy to add it as a title. Also the issue of being termed a Hausa-Fulani, and so on.
If he says he is a Chamba, or he should be called Mr., that is good. But that does not make him a saint today when being called Alhaji or Hausa-Fulani is a crime. After all, Hausa-Fulani is a Biafran coinage used politically to refer to people like Atiku and Tilde. I only pray that someone will not soon take the pains of excavating the records of Atiku to find out whether he never called himself Alhaji or Hausa-Fulani.
If he does not like Hausa or Fulani, he needs to do more to convince his strange bedfellows among the southern press and northern minorities. Let him return our daughter to whom he is married; disclaim our title of Turakin Adamawa; abandon our accent and pronounce ‘she’ as ‘see’ and vice-versa, in accordance with Chamba accent.
If it is not a complex, then would it be something more tarnishing? As reported in the coverage of TheNews, Atiku’s opponents are accusing him of being a mere opportunist. We have mentioned how he earlier abandoned the election he won to clinch the vice-president’s seat. Now he is claiming, to the dismay of all and in line of ongoing baptism from anything northern, that he was against the Abacha regime, that he belonged to the class of ‘saints’ that once called for sanctions to be imposed on Nigeria!
Here, even the writer of the cover story could not help but reproduce the valid arguments canvassed to prove the contrary. He said, “it cannot be controverted that the vice-president was a top-notcher in the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP, the same party that adopted the despotic General as its presidential candidate. It is also a fact that Atiku had emerged the UNCP’s choice for the Adamawa governorship election and would have won but for the death of Gen. Sani Abacha.”
I must be honest with Atiku that this ‘chameleon’ attitude will not help his political future. Why does he feel that he owes the southwest an apology to the extent of attempting to wipe out his history or identity? History will only be on his side if he remains himself, consistent and constant.
Now we come to the shariah issue. It is clear from various reports that Atiku was not comfortable during the last pilgrimage as a result of his “misunderstood” stand on the shariah. Here, I would like to say that he tried to dribble in a very tight position. No one in position of authority would dismiss the horror visited on Kaduna a week before then and its spread to some southeastern cities where Muslims were the sole victims. His announcement, inaccurate though, was done in good faith to calm the destructive atmosphere.
Unfortunately and as usual, there was a great gap between the masses and government, more so with the refutations from stronger personalities like Buhari, Shagari and Ahmed Sani of Zamfara. To me, it is time to pardon him for this, especially when we recognize the situation under which the ‘slip of tongue’ was made. The issue is not over, and Atiku has the ample opportunity, if he wishes, to improve his image with the Muslim majority.
The unholy romance
Finally, the last luggage that Atiku need to leave behind in the dry well is his unholy romance with the southern press. Their magazines and newspapers will destroy him if he does not check his utterances. He is regarded to be personally associated with one of them, Theweek, from where he picked his running mate, now the Governor of Adamawa State. I think he will serve his political future a good purpose if he will check the lies the magazine publishes about anybody northern.
So far, the southern press is rewarding him with the promise that they will support him in any future presidential bid after Obasanjo. But two things are important for him to note. The press has never made a president in Nigeria; they have only brought many down. Two, all our past leaders got to the presidency by accident, except for ‘maradona’. With his poor dribbles however, Atiku is unlikely to be another exception.
I would like Atiku to be pardoned on his pronouncements on the shariah issue. However, his excess luggage will prevent me, as his admirer, from coming out and declare my total support for his candidature for the presidency come 2003 or 2007. He still has some time to decide and improve. If on the other hand he remains unrepentant, then I am ready to throw in the towel.
I am only afraid that Atiku will painfully realize that when the market of this regime closes, everyone will return to his house. What a pity, he is presently helping others to set his own ablaze!