2015: Atiku Sidelined Again?
By Hamisu Abubakar
If the news from the All Progressives Congress is any indication of how things are shaping up in the party of “change,” then it appears recent Nigerian political history is repeating itself, at least where it concerns former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. And like the hapless cartoon character with a big question mark over his head, the former VP must be scratching his chin once more, wondering how he could have allowed a certain former Lagos governor to trick him yet again.
Barely a couple of months ago, precisely on Monday, February 10, 2014, the usually proficient Atiku Media Office shot itself in the foot through an advertorial titled “Hogwash!” which was published in some dailies. Although the advert set out to dispel what the media office described as a “malicious report”, it unwittingly revealed that a deal may have been sealed with the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, to cede the party's presidential ticket to the former VP. But now it appears Tinubu has once again sidelined Atiku, just like he did some years back when the Turakin Adamawa did the migratory acronym dance (to paraphrase Oby Ezekwesili) to sojourn with the Asiwaju in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
The news from the APC, as most media-savvy Nigerians are now aware, is that Tinubu is plotting to contest the 2015 presidential election as the running mate of three-time presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). While virtually everyone is focusing on the religious divide issues thrown up by the so-called Muslim/Muslim ticket, this writer is more concerned about the consequences of the Buhari/Tinubu alliance on the presidential aspiration and political relevance of Atiku.
To be clear, going by the way the APC allocated its interim national executive positions, the party has little regard for the need to balance religious sensibilities in this country. It is this insensitivity, and certainly not anything thrown at the APC by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, that has shown the APC as wearing the toga of a particular religion. Indeed, before the PDP could make any Janjaweed jokes, the APC itself provided ample grounds for such jokes to stick. As such, the perpetuation of religious insensitivity through a Muslim/Muslim ticket is very much in keeping with the APC character.
However, what this means for Atiku and his supporters in the APC is the issue at stake here. For the avoidance of doubt, despite the many unsavoury things that have been said about Atiku, especially by his ex-boss, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, nobody has ever accused the former VP of being a religious bigot. It is therefore quite worrisome to observe that Atiku has not said anything to distance himself from the religious insensitivity being perpetuated by the APC, which will become entrenched if the Buhari/Tinubu ticket turns out to be more than a political kite.
As a tested politician who has supporters in all parts of the country and across religious divides, Atiku should realise that his presence in a party which has a distinct religious colouration will weaken his support base if he does not challenge that status quo.
Additionally, it is not enough for anyone—Atiku himself included—to resort to saying that the charge of APC being a Muslim party is political blackmail by the PDP. The clear evidence is that all the senior interim national executive positions of the APC is held by Muslims, as if they are no competent or capable Christians in the APC.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political divide, the PDP has a healthy mix of capable and competent Christians and Muslims in its executive body and as senior officials in the Federal Government which is controlled by the party.
For the APC to therefore brush aside the issue of religious sensitivity on the grounds that it is only interested in capability and competency, only to fill its senior interim national executive positions with Muslims—and possibly field a Muslim/Muslim ticket in 2015—is to roundly insult the entire Christian community in the country. The question here is: does Atiku subscribe to such affront to all Christians?
Moreover, Atiku needs to realise that for the APC to fly a Buhari/Tinubu ticket in 2015 is to effectively confine him to the political dustbin. By fielding the duo, the APC would be saying it has no faith in Atiku's ability to have any impact on its electoral fortunes.
If such is the case, the former VP should consider if it is not in his best political interest to do the migratory acronym dance back to the PDP, where all comers—regardless of whether they are Muslims, Christians or idol worshippers—are welcome. A word, as the popular saying goes, is enough for the wise. Besides, another popular saying has it that, if a man tricks me once, shame on him, but if he tricks me twice, shame on me.
Hamisu Abubakar contributed this piece from Abuja.