BETWEEN ATIKU'S DESPERATION AND BUHARI'S ZEALOTRY
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 leaders—veterans 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 Yar'adua while in 2011, even as the North's 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 Yar'adua 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 hardly convincing.
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 faÃ§ade of his struggles to enthrone democracy lies a belligerent politician obsessed with his personal ambition. All these personality shortfalls have underpinned his decisions to jump 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 face.
If Atiku is perceived as corrupt and desperate, Buhari's 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 political 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 faÃ§ade lies a deep-seated craving for power which has been obvious since his much-criticized 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 man whose decision can be biased by extraneous considerations, chief among which are religion and ethnicity.
Buhari's past will always haunt him politically. His actions as military Head of State between December, 1983 and August, 1985, the 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 reputation.The 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 fanatical.
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.
Written by Constance Okechukwu.