Beliefs of Democracy in Nigeria

By Odimegwu Onwumere
Listen to article

It is without doubt that the Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar joined politics and loves politics because of his love for the people. He has fought the PDP's third term agenda and won under the Owu-generalissimo Olusegun Obasanjo. In his “How to reclaim our country”, a paper delivered on 1st October 2009, Atiku, said that the sustenance of democracy is one of the difficult challenges facing our country. “As you know democracy and freedom can never be taken for granted”, he said. “They could be reversed quickly. Therefore, they must be sustained through eternal vigilance, hard work and continuous nurturing. The consolidation of our hard-won democracy must be the top priority of every Nigerian. The history of the world's most virile democracies shows that democracy is difficult to build. It is likely to be even more difficult in Nigeria because of our weak economic structures, ethno-religious diversity, years of military brutalization and impunity, and the neglect of our people's welfare. This partly explains our people's impatience. There have been bottled up frustrations. There have been huge expectations about improvements in the welfare of our people. These expectations have largely been unmet”.

Atiku has always stood by the democratic norms as enunciated by the world democracies. His many squabbles with the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo occasioned by the Obasanjo third term agenda where Atiku was nearly humiliated but he took to redress the humiliations meted out to him by the nearly 70% of the then Obasanjo-led PDP in the court of the law has exemplified Atiku as one standing out among the equals in the political echelon of Nigeria. Where Obasanjo was a do-or-die politician, not a democrat, Atiku tried to tell the world that presidency is no longer a do-or-die affair for anyone as far as it concerns democracy. And he has stood by this principle, without biting his tongue in the cheek. Recently, according to a statement by Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, media coordinator of the former Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, Eze quoted Atiku as saying, “Without having a forgiving spirit, I would very well have been dead by now... To be a worthy politician, you must learn to love people no matter the challenges”.

It is this unconditioned forgiving spirit that we need in Nigeria. It was this same spirit to pushed Atiku to sojourn to Otta Farm and reconciled with Obasanjo, a resolutuion many Nigerians saw and said that Atiku was selling out. But he was not.

It was this forgiving spirit that had led Princewill to commend the Turaki Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku, retired General Muhammadu Buhari and Alh. Attahiru Bafurawa for their decision to forgo any form of personal political ambition to join forces to salvage Nigeria from the grip of the ruling PDP.

It was the spirit of forgiveness that made Atiku to decamp from the PDP to the Action Congress (AC), in what Princewill described as admirable and timely as it was capable of restoring the tenets of democracy hitherto destroyed by the PDP in its quest to perpetuate itself in power by any means necessary. Further, Princewill advised that it must be devoid of any self serving agenda. Princewill expressed the desire to see Atiku at the helm of the coalition, since according to him; there is a need for Atiku to be instrumental in ousting the PDP, where he was a key player.

It's this same statesman spirit that Abuja was agog when Chief Anthony Enahoro; former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari; former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Chief Olu Falae, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Prof. Pat Utomi and Femi Falana, among other leaders of Mega Summit Movement (MSM), on October 7, 2009, honoured late legal icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, as part of the pledge to immortalise his ideals. To this end, MSM dedicated its forthcoming National Summit on Democracy and private members' bill on electoral reform to the memory of Gani Fawehinmi.

According to reports, Turaki recalled that in 2006, Gani was set to host the first consultative meeting towards the formation of the peoples' mega party, but was forced to hurriedly travel to London for a crucial medical attention, shortly after sending formal invitations to stakeholders. The Mega Summit Movement therefore owes the ongoing consultations around the formation of a peoples' mega party to change champions like Gani, who was among the first to charge stakeholders to come together to establish one formidable political platform that can effectively resist election rigging and form a pro peoples' government in Nigeria. Participants at the Summit will be categorized into three major groups namely delegates, advisers and observers. Over 500 prospective participants from across the country and overseas have already confirmed attendance at the historic summit, as online registration for interested Nigerians has also been made possible on MSM website, Turaki added.

Nigerians can also remember that in August 2005,Atiku Abubakarhit headlines in a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the intended recipient of a bribe, in a scheme involving United States Congressman, Bill Jefferson, to promote Nigeria's adoption of Internet technology manufactured by the U.S. firm, iGate, Inc. A move many Nigerians loyal to Atiku saw as a means to marring the Turaki by those in the PDP that hated him because he was challenging their Baba Obasanjo.Said reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Jefferson allegedly told an informant that he would need to give Atiku the sum of $500,000 "as a motivating factor" for business contracts, but there was no evidence that Atiku sought or received such a bribe, which made his admirers suspect that he may have been the target of a witch-hunt.

It was Atiku's link with Jefferson that informed Aso Rock Villa to plot his fall in the heat of the fight between him and Obasanjo, but the truth eventually emerged. Jefferson was convicted of 11 of 16 charges of money laundering and bribery, and faces up to life imprisonment and likely forfeiture of alleged proceeds from the deal.

While his detractors were eyes open to hear that Atiku had been convicted alongside, Atiku's name was not mentioned in the scandal by the American court which tried the Congressman. According to a report, this is an apparent justification for the man who defected to the Action Congress (AC) at the peak of his clash with Obasanjo, with whom he has since publicly reconciled.

In his reaction, atiku said: "I have consistently maintained that I had no improper relationship with Jefferson…My relationship with him was purely official and it was in an effort to attract foreign investors to Nigeria. (He) was Chairman of the House Committee on Nigeria, and the request to meet him came from the Nigerian embassy. His proposal for investment in the Nigerian communications sector was passed to the Minister of Communications."

Including Atiku, everyone loyal to him argued that the judgment had finally unravelled one of the biggest conspiracies in Nigeria's political history. Atiku said: "It is now clear that the plot was hatched at the highest level of the Nigerian government then, in collusion with foreign agencies. The plot was not just to stop me from running for the Presidency; it was aimed at denying the Nigerian people the right to choose their own leaders".

Professor of Sociology of the University of Lagos and legal practitioner, Lai Olurode, suggested that it was good that a court in the US had exonerated Atiku from involvement in the Jefferson scandal.

Olurode said, "His involvement with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) has hindered his respectability and standing within the comity of different political parties in this country. He should renew himself because he has good potential".

It was a joyous thing that Obasanjo could not rubbish Atiku, who worked as a Customs officer for 20 years, rising to the rank of Deputy Director before retiring and turning to business and politics in 1989. While serving in the Customs as officer in charge of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos in 1984, the infamous "53 suitcases" scandal belonging to the late Emir of Gwandu took place. On September 18, 2006, the former VP was indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on the allegation that he had embezzled N71, 123,250,000 in campaign funds and offered various bribes. He denied the allegation, and the EFCC hadn't the results to prosecute him.

Nigerians have to support in earnest Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (in every democratic adventure) who will be 63 on November 25. Like Tonye Princewill declared when the news broke that Atiku had been proved right as the U.S. Government was unable to prove a bribe scheme involving him because, not as Atiku argued that, none ever existed, but that, the righteous even speaks from the grave.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), and a Media Consultant based in Rivers State. +2348032552855 +2348032552855 . [email protected]