Between Atiku desperation and Buhari zealotry
By Constance Okechukwu
Last Wednesday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, openly declared his
interest in seeking the All Progressives Congress ticket for the 2015
presidential elections. In the next few days, precisely on October 8,
General Muhammadu Buhari will make a similar pronouncement about his 2015
ambitions. That both Northern leadersveterans of the presidential
contest — will lock horns for the APC ticket was long speculated; what is
interesting is what they bring into the campaign this time around.
Like Buhari, Atiku has tried on three past occasions to lead Nigeria, but
his aspiration has always faltered on the public perception that he is
corrupt. In 1992, he had lost the presidential primary of the defunct
Social Democratic Party (SDP) to the late M.K.O. Abiola. As candidate of
the ACN in 2007, he lost to the late president Umaru Yaradua while in
2011, even as the North consensus candidate, he lost the PDP
presidential primaries to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He is making a fourth
try on the platform of opposition APC to which he defected.
Apart from the perception of corruption, the other question that rings out
about Atiku is his increasing desperation for the presidency and his
readiness to compromise in pursuit of such personal political interests.
Atiku appeared to have read the questions from the faces at the Yaradua
Centre where he addressed the press last Wednesday; his speech dwelled so
prominently on that perception that has dogged his quest for the
presidency over the years. He had promised Nigerians that he would lead a
government where there would be zero tolerance for corruption. He was
Though the Turaki Adamawa may have mastered the art of tactically
wriggling out of the noose each time it dangles above him; there is no
doubt that in the perception of Nigerians, he carries a heavy corruption
tag. For the most part of his tenure as vice president from 1999 to 2007
and after, his attitude and financial dealings have seriously come into
question and his name continues to be mentioned in many high profile graft
cases within the country and abroad. The Petroleum Technology Development
Fund (PTDF) scandal which blew open early in 2007, as well as his reported
indictment by the US Congress and the United States Department of Justice
(USDOJ) over allegation of fraud and money laundering, are just but a few.
Atiku is also perceived as a man who is desperate, selfish, politically
unstable and a politician with questionable democratic credentials. Behind
the fade of his struggles to enthrone democracy lies a belligerent
politician obsessed with his personal ambition. All these personality
shortfalls have underpinned his decisions tojump from the PDP into the
Action Congress in 2007 in search of a platform to challenge the
presidency, and back into the PDP after his efforts ended up in futility,
only to jump into the APC when a Jonathan re-election stared him in the
If Atiku is perceived as corrupt and desperate, Buhari decision to
stand elections once again for the presidency of Nigeria after three
failed attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011, has continued to raise similar
questions. Not only is it a volte face from his earlier promise to give
way to the younger generation, his ambition legitimate as it is is
disturbing by what is increasingly becoming undue zealotry.
A man who,
under successive military dispensations, held virtually all important
positions in the land state governor, minister and Head of State– Buhari
projects his persona as a man of integrity who has not been tainted by
corruption. But that posturing is just
on the surface. Behind that fade lies
a deep-seated craving for power which has been obvious since his
overthrow of the Shagari presidency in 1983 on the flimsiest of excuses.
Not only did his sacking of that civilian
administration set the country backwards by several decades, the way he went
about exercising his power gave the first revelation of his character as a
whose decision can be biased by extraneous considerations, chief among which
are religion and ethnicity.
past will always haunt him politically. His
actions as military Head of State between December, 1983 and August, 1985,
documented cases of ethnic bias against him, his tainted democratic
credentials, his flawed judgment on public policy and his warped worldview,
have been the reasons for his failure in successive presidential contests.
It is doubtful if 2015 will be different.
In spite of
all these baggage, Buhari continues to harbor the erroneous belief that his
personal charisma among a few northerners and his usual appeal to undue
fundamentalism were enough to drive his presidential aspiration. How
wrong! At 72 and with age no longer on his side,
Buhari has refused to leave the stage with whatever is left of his
charge of ethnic bias has trailed Buhari throughout his public life and many
are right, therefore, in concluding that he is driving his presidential
ambition too far and in a manner that can rightly be interpreted as
Of the two,
APC is left to choose between six and half a dozen. The party that has
vowed to give the PDP a
good chase faces the dilemma of picking from two men who have travelled the
road of defeat so often that their credentials reek of electoral failures.
* Constance Okechukwu contributed this piece from Ikeja, Lagos.
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