The old saying that what an elderly man sees while sitting down will not be seen by a young man standing up has been playing out in Nigeria’s contemporary politics.
When interpreted, the adage simply means that experience and wisdom are not picked on the streets. They accrue over a long period and they come handy when analyzing and predicting situations as well as when seeking quick solutions to problems and while strategizing on how to tackle challenges.
Over the years, Atiku Abubakar and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo have had sharp political differences which hinged on the refusal of the former to blend with the political ambitions of the later. Many Nigerians have been analyzing the feud based on the personality of the two men and not the implications of their `fight’ to agreed political arrangements, especially as it concerns tenure in office, rotation of elective office, third term agenda and the polity as a whole.
The major thrust of the fight between the two men had to do with Obasanjo’s refusal to adhere to the one term arrangement and his ambition to rule for a third term and possibly perpetuate himself in office.
Associates close to both men say that trouble started when Obasanjo mentioned to Atiku that he was not in a hurry to leave office having observed that some African heads of state he met in office when he served as military president were still occupying same positions when he became the civilian head of state. This interaction happened when both men were still Nigeria’s President and Vice President respectively.
According to the associates, what Obasanjo told Atiku triggered an alert of looming danger and hence the decision to save Nigeria from any impending obstacles that could truncate its nascent democracy.
Unfortunately, Atiku’s effort to stop Obasanjo’s plan at the time was misinterpreted by some mischievous Nigerians to mean a gimmick by the former Vice President to position himself for the nation’s highest office.
As a way of getting back at him, Obasanjo tarred Atiku with corruption toga. It took 10 court cases for him to legally free himself from the tag. Many Nigerians still hold on to the blackmail even when Atiku has challenged anyone with any evidence of corruption to step forward or forever remain quiet.
Obasanjo has taken his disagreement with Atiku so personal that 11 years after office, he has no plan to reconcile with his former deputy who saved Nigeria from what would have been an embarrassing political situation if the former President succeeded in perpetuating himself in office.
The evidence of continued hatred is found in an exclusive story published by Premium Times, an online newspaper on August 4, 2018, titled: “God will not forgive me if I support Atiku for President – Obasanjo.”
Obasanjo’s latest outburst came few days after Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, revealed how the former president knelt down for Atiku to plead that he allowed him run for a second term in office. The former President had signed on for one term of four years in office.
Atiku’s forgiving heart and spirit later turned out to be his greatest undoing because Obasanjo had sworn that it will be “over his dead body” that the Waziri Adamawa realized his presidential ambition.
One deduction from Obasanjo’s actions is that the failure to realize a third term agenda forced him to adopt the tactics of perpetuation by proxy. He surreptitiously gangs up with like minds, installs a President and calls the shots thereafter through manipulations. However, history has shown that it is very difficult to control a man in power even if you are the parent of the office holder. Atiku knows and talks about this.
In practical terms, Obasanjo has always had running battles with those he installed each time he fails to manipulate them. It happened during the regime of Goodluck Jonathan and that was what made him go against his government so much so that he ensured that he lost the Presidential election in 2015.
He stood firmly in support of Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 Presidential election which saw Jonathan out of office. After writing many epistles to Buhari and not getting the response he expected, Obasanjo commenced another warfare that is on-going. It is believed that if not for the demise of Musa Yar’Adua, he would have had issues with him if he had served out his eight year tenure.
The peculiarity of the current political warfare is that Obasanjo is fighting both the incumbent, Buhari, and a presidential aspirant, Atiku.
Obasanjo hardly forgives but he expects others to forgive and reconcile with him. It will be recalled that he recently visited Chief Bode George a member of the PDP Board of Trustees who he jailed and former President Jonathan who he made sure lost Presidential election in 2015. Both visits were meant to reconcile with the two men who he had hurt so badly. Suppose their hearts were as hardened as that of Obasanjo?
But then, the underlying factor in both visits is that Obasanjo wants to gang up with the two men to stop Atiku from emerging as the flag bearer of the PDP Presidential primaries for the 2019 elections
A major reason why Obasanjo will never stand an Atiku as President is that it will be difficult for him to exert the kind of manipulations he desires. Having fought him to a standstill as a Vice President, it is obvious that Atiku will not easily fall for any undue manipulations.
In reaction to his latest outburst, Atiku in his characteristic manner handed Obasanjo’s matter over to the Almighty for his intervention simply because he cannot join issues with his former boss who is also older than him. Atiku says that all efforts to assuage Baba Iyabo over the years and make him understand that the nation’s interest takes precedence over selfish interest fell on deaf ears.
The story of the third term agenda which was generally condemned by almost all Nigerians, including the media, is a very long one but suffice it to say that what Atiku tried to avoid by ensuring that Obasanjo’s antics were put on check are beginning to manifest in the nation’s polity.
In the first place the argument about which part of Northern Nigeria should produce the next President in 2019 would have been a thing of the past if Obasanjo allowed Atiku to replace him.
The current agitation by Nigerians of the North East extraction that it is their turn to produce the president would not have come up at all because Atiku would have served out his term thereby paving the way for the presidency to rotate to other parts of the country.
The distortion caused by the election of Goodluck Jonathan as President which short-changed the eight year tenure of the North would have been avoided.
Nigeria would have been enjoying seamless transitions just as indications point out that PDP would have remained in power. The gale of defections which now characterize an election year would have been avoided as political parties would have been more stable in terms of retaining their membership.
On the other hand, Nigeria would have been inching towards having political parties of ideologies and no longer political parties of selfish, group or sectional interests.
It would also been easier for Nigerians to elect Presidents who have internalized the tenets of democracy over time rather than elect accidental/circumstantial democrats as their leaders.
The South Easterners who now believe that their quest to produce a President in the nearest future as “like waiting for the dead man’s shoes” would have produced Nigeria’s President in 2015. They now feel that the tactics of shifting the goal post when it gets to their turn has become perpetual.
Apart from the distortions in political arrangement, efforts at solving the nation’s problems also suffered. Atiku’s suggestions on how to handle challenges posed by power supply were dumped.
His view that the establishments of power capture stations, where each part of the country utilized their natural endowment such as hydro, energy from the sun, among others to generate power to serve their particular territories was ignored.
Furthermore, Atiku’s submission that a part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation be sold to sort out the Niger Delta problem, put a check on the restiveness of youths in the area and forestall further pipeline vandalism was thrashed.
His ideas on how to fight corruption with the Malaysian model are brilliant. The model emphasise the investment of funds recovered from corrupt officials in such a way that generates jobs for millions of citizens who lost their jobs over the years. This is against the punishment approach and imprisonment of corrupt officials and spending money recovered on paltry welfare package for the so called indigent families as is the case of the Sani Abacha loot.
From all intents and purposes, Nigeria deserves a leader with a good grasp of the challenges facing the nation and practical ways of getting around the bend if given the opportunity.
In all these Nigerians will have to choose between electing a leader who will make life more meaningful or continue to live a life of compromise by handing their welfare, wellbeing and future to selfish, self-centered, self-serving and arrogant Nigerians masquerading as democrats.
Nigeria is at a crossroad plagued by insecurity, poverty and high unemployment. There is a strong belief by political pundits that restructuring has become necessary for Nigeria to be put on the path of economic growth and development.
The 2019 Presidential election promises to be a defining one, but it is up to the voting populace to “shine their eyes” and choose a candidate that has the eyes of the old man.
. Ekwueme, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Enugu.