ATIKU EXPOSED, HIS WEALTH, CAREER IN CUSTOMS AND FAMILY
Dr Fatima Atiku Abubakar is the first child of Alhaji and Hajiya Titi Atiku Abubakar, Turakin Adamawa and PDP presidential aspirant. She trained as a medical doctor and works in one of the private hospitals in Abuja.
Fatima is worried about the dimension the campaign for election is going and the direct attack on the person and character of her father, whom she described as a man of ideas whose time has come, a disciplinarian father, prudent and hardworking administrator. She said if only Nigerians knew her father very well, they'd ignore, and throw into the thrash can, the malicious attacks on him.
What kind of relationship do you have with your parents and especially your father?
In retrospect and in our growing up years, I recall that we were a close-knit family. We were close especially with my mum. Both dad and mum instilled discipline, spirit of hard work and scholarship in us quite early in life. I remember, when we were young, after-school-lesson was compulsory. So was Quoranic classes. So we were always occupied. We also had time to play and they took us on holiday whenever they could. That way we had a balance between school, religious education and leisure.
The Turaki is a well-known polygamist. How do you relate with your other siblings from his other wives?
Yes, he is a polygamist but before he went into polygamy, we were very close and even when the other ones came into our lives, we are still as close as possible and I mingle very well with them. Even though we never really lived in the same house, we still relate very well.
Having a politician as father could be fun and could attract some clout and influence, but it only means that he's never around, how does he balance his career and family life?
Yeah, like you said, it is not quite easy but gradually, we got used to it and we see him when he is available and he is there to provide our needs and when he is not around, we can always get in touch with him, wherever he is. Most of the time he obliges us, sometimes he doesn't. But all in all, I'd say he was not an absentee father.
Does that mean you can see him at any moment you wish?
I wouldn't say at any moment, but at least we can always speak to him on phone if we can't see him at a particular point in time.
What do you think of his return to active political life? In 2007, he contested under the AC but today he's back in the PDP competing with President Goodluck Jonathan. How do you assess the whole scenario?
Well, we all know the circumstances that led him to AC. I know it wasn't an easy decision even for him because I was so upset about all the things that were happening at that time; the third term imbroglio and all that. So when he went to the AC, we all supported him and happy even though the election didn't go the way we expected. We still thanked God that everything was peaceful until this time when he came back to the PDP.
When I heard that he was going to the PDP, I was also upset because the circumstances under which he left the PDP in the first instance had not changed. Why would he go to the party he was practically forced to leave? Why would he want to associate with such people again, I asked myself. I thought he should help to build the AC and all that. I sought his opinion, but I was told how he helped found the PDP (I was not around then), and if you help build a house, and outsiders want to drive you out of it, will you be happy? They said that was the situation my dad found himself and had to return to the PDP. I thought that made sense.
Now, he wants to be president. What do you think of his ambition?
His ambition is right on time, the time God has designed for him. 2007 was probably not the time God set for him, but I believe very strongly that this is the time, he would make a difference.
How do you explain the opposition's campaigns, insults and attacks on your father? How do you feel when you hear some of these negative things about him?
The campaign of calumny against my dad is nauseating, and sad. In case Nigerians don't know, he is a father to so many children and of course he is my father. I don't think any Nigerian will want their father insulted or spoken about the way the opposition is doing about him. None of the allegations leveled against him has been proved but the other camp keeps hammering them as if he has ever been convicted. I remember when he was Vice President, an administrative panel of enquiry was instituted over the PTDF allegations against him, the court never summoned him nor was he ever indicted. He went as far as the National Assembly and defended himself.
At the end of the day, no case was found against him. It is sad to now make references to all that. I've been very upset about rumours and allegations flying about, about him. They also made references to his time as VP in charge of BPE and that he sold assets to himself and all that. I wonder if there was ever any proof of that. As far as I know as his daughter, he never appropriated or coveted government property. There was talk of AP, that was sold to Peter Okocha, but that was taken over and sold to Femi Otedola. So, I don't know the government assets they are talking about.
Well, these allegations are unconnected to his stupendous wealth, and people wonder how he made his money, considering the fact that he did not inherit wealth…
Yes, they can afford to say that because they did know who he was before he came into politics and public glare. But I can tell you that—if any one has the opportunity of reading his biography—that he fought his way to the top. Even as a child, I can tell you that we never lacked anything, we went to the best schools, even before he came into government, he always provided for us very well.
I went to a good primary school, a federal government college before I went to ABU, Zaria until all these strikes started and was becoming unbearable for me before he sent me abroad. So, even before he came to government, we were already schooling abroad, and he had left Customs then. He was a private business man, doing legitimate businesses and paying taxes. This idea of where he's got wealth from… I am his daughter telling you now that he had had money before he came to government. He did not make money from government
Are you saying that your father is not corrupt as people allege?
Yes, he is not corrupt
How rich is he because even you just admitted he is?
I wouldn't be able to answer that. Like I said, he has always provided for us materially and emotionally and otherwise. If a father could do so, what else? I remember, how he arranged for me to go abroad when he was tired of the situation at home. So, I'd say yes, for him to be able to provide for my younger ones and I, because initially he didn't want us to leave Nigeria because he had faith in the country. During one of those strikes in those days, I had to stay for up to a year at home. That upset him so much; he said he had to do something about it
What kind of president do you think he will be if given the opportunity?
He will be a very disciplined president because he is prudent. Nigerians don't know this about him, but I want to tell you he is all these and more. As vice president, when I discussed political issues with him, whenever I heard comments about him, I would ask: 'daddy why is this like this and so on' and he would tell me that it is because the centre (federal government is big and has so much resources; and that is why it is such a big attraction; and that if power is properly devolved and we cut spending the concentration of governance at the centre would reduce.
If he becomes the president he will implement this to the letter; invariably, this will attract professionals to government to make viable contributions.
Tell us what Nigerians don't know about your dad
Let me say especially with the way he's being maligned by the opposition.
There is no man created by God that has no good side about him, but what those opposed to his ambition want us to believe are only his faults. But let me emphasize his good side and they are not contestable. As children, when he was still in Customs and Excise, he was always very punctual, always in the office before 7.30 am.
When he was Area Administrator, he would lock the gate to late-comers. Because of that all of them usually reported to work before 7.30am because the Area Administrator would already be there. He enjoyed doing his work and doing it well. Whatever he believes he dedicates his time to it. He doesn't believe in public office holders living on government money and not doing anything only to find that they can't cope with life after office. That is why, while in government, one should have a business interest so that when you leave government, you will have something to do, something to fall back on.
That has always been his admonition.
I also want you to know that my dad revels in excellence. My dad chooses what is good. When he was in Obasanjo's government, he sole handedly supervised the building of the Yar'Adua centre. On the commissioning day, President Obasanjo remarked that it could only be Turaki that could do such an excellent edifice. Today, the edifice is a national monument, a historical place.
Again, members of Obasanjo's economic team were discovered by him. He made enquiries about and got them to contribute their quota to the government of the day. And they put up a good job, such as the work done in Abuja by el-Rufai. So if he believes in a cause, he goes all out for it.
How did you feel when the Northern Leaders Political Forum chose him as the North's consensus candidate?
The situation was dicey indeed because the contest was between him and the Generals. At the end of the day, we heard the results, we were glad.
On the other hand, it was painful to see reports in the media indicating how the voting went, when even the secretary of the committee, said he did not even know how the voting was done. The consensus had already been agreed upon, I don't know how they got their report. That could make the other contestants feel bad which I didn't really like.
A lot people think going into the medical field is humanitarian, what attracted you to training as a medical doctor?
As a young child, going to school, I always excelled. My parents were always happy with me. Because none of them had a medical background, from when I was young, they kept singing it into my ears, 'Fatima you're going to be a medical doctor for us'. Gradually, I found myself in the sciences and doing well, so their dream for me materialized.
Even now that I work, people wonder what I am doing there working, and after all, they say, I could sit down at home for my dad to take care of my needs and or pay my salary. My dad sent me to school, but how can I come back (with all the resources he expended on me) and sit at home. So, how will that benefit me as a human being? I enjoy what I do, I see my patients, I talk and chat with them, get to hear their problems and see if one could help medically and psychologically. It has been quite a fulfilling experience for me
What do you think of the rot in the health sector? You are in the private sector but those who work in the public sector can really tell how bad the situation is. From your vantage position as a medical doctor, what is the way out?
I don't know whether I can enumerate all problems and probably solutions, but I know there is so much rot in the health sector. That is why I even chose to work in the private establishment, because I couldn't stand—having worked abroad—coming from that kind of setting, knowing that all equipment you need for patients, you had it—and coming to a place where patients are compelled to buy all these. I had to choose the private sector where there is reasonable readiness to provide all these.
Having said that, the primary health care system, which the late Prof Olikoye Ransome-Kuti pioneered and which was not improved upon by subsequent governments is the problem. So in the primary, health care centres all over the country, there are only physical structures without equipment. If subsequent governments had worked on that, we would have gone a long way.
However what is obtainable is a situation where the tertiary hospital like the National Hospital which is supposed to be a referral hospital is now a hospital for primary ailments that can be sorted out in the primary health care centres. But because the patients don't have anywhere to go, the outpatient department of the hospital is clogged, such that the exertion in attending to primary ailments exhausts the doctors and severe cases suffer neglect.
If my father were to be president, I would advise that his minister of health must work hard on the primary health care system.
With your busy schedules, how do you relax?
Well, I am an introvert. I relax by watching TV, reading newspapers. I try to exercise even though I am on and off about it.
What are the things you cherish the most?
I'd love for Nigeria to have access to health care, when they need it and for the people who need it.
What about material possession?
I don't revel in material things, I don't even think about it. What I see, I wear. I don't covet material things. My people know me, I am not particular about material things, I just wear what I have and I am thankful to God that I even have the things I have because I know some people desire them but they don't have.
Where is your favourite holiday or leisure destination?
Since I came back to Nigeria, I don't have any holiday destination. I go back to the UK sometimes but I don't have a particular place where I will say oh because I went to this place the other time, I will really want to go back.