By Ehichioya Ezomon
The December 2021 call by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for a declaration of a state of emergency in Edo State portrays the opposition party in the “Heartbeat of the Nation” as an unserious contender for control of the state in the 2024 governorship poll.
Why would APC that rode to power on the promise of obedience to the rule of law want to cure defects in the system by employing means that defy democratic tenets and commonsense?
In a 22-paragraph press conference in Benin City, the Edo chapter chairman, retired Col. David Imuse, accuses Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of anti-democratic practice that the APC wants President Muhammadu Buhari to remedy by triggering an emergency rule in the state.
Dr Imuse says: “Edo is the only state in Nigeria today without a functional Legislature. What is happening with the 10 PDP jokers, who gather regularly at Governor Obaseki’s office, is comical. They gather to read sheets of papers, pretending to be making laws as Edo State House Assembly. We all know the true story.
“What Obaseki is practicing in Edo today is a democratic taboo. And when a taboo is allowed to exist for too long, it becomes a tradition. If this taboo is allowed to be exported to other States, it will endanger our democratic culture. Edo is in a serious trouble.
“We therefore call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as a matter of urgent national importance, to declare a STATE OF EMERGENCY IN EDO so that we can truly have a proper sole administrator.”
The Edo APC needs reminded that emergency rule isn’t a tea party at the behest of politicians craving to get to power through the back door, but a constitutional matter to prevent or arrest a breakdown of law and order in parts of or in the entire country.
While call for emergency rule is a throwback to the era of misuse of federal powers to destabilize subnational entities in the First Republic and in the first eight years of the PDP administration from 1999 to 2007, President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t seem to fancy the fiat, to solve actual or concocted problems in the states.
If it were so, a couple of PDP states with governors critical of the president and his government, and several APC and PDP states with serious security problems, would’ve had their governors and democratic institutions replaced with sole administrators.
Such states are Benue and Rivers, with Governors Samuel Ortom and Nyesom Wike as thorns in Buhari’s flesh; and Anambra, Benue, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Oyo, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara with cumulative security issues that’ve claimed thousands of lives, billions worth of property, and turned millions of Nigerians into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in and outside Nigeria.
A state like Ondo, whose governor, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), gave a quit notice to armed herdsmen occupying forests in the state, and terrorizing indigenous communities, would’ve had a state of emergency declared in it “for challenging federal authority.”
But the Buhari regime hasn’t lifted a finger, in the hope that a combination of factors, including persuading the states to consider incorporating outdated pastoral practices, would solve the frequent clashes between herders and farmers that’ve snowballed into unprecedented banditry and kidnapping across the country.
What’s actually APC’s case against Governor Obaseki and his government to warrant the call for an emergency rule in Edo? According to Imuse, “there are several reasons why a state of emergency has become inevitable in our beloved State.”
He lists them, as follows: Contrary to his oath of office, Obaseki can no longer secure life and property of Edo citizens. With his “clandestine” borrowing of billions of Naira, Edo has become the second most indebted state in Nigeria. He disregards the Rule of Law and court orders except those in his favour. Demolishes public and private property, including the Central Hospital, Benin City. Turns himself into a maximum ruler, by appropriating the powers of the three arms of government. Unable to protect the lives of Edo people, despite claiming to spend N2 billion on a security trust fund. Spends his second term in office playing politics, neglects governance, and fails to appoint a full cabinet. Signs or enters into MOUs, partnerships and agreements with individuals and organizations that will outlive his government, and leave behind stillborn projects. Fails to employ qualified personnel to fill thousands of vacant spaces, and wastes Edo resources in harmonizing the PDP via frivolous appointments to members. Obaseki fails to probe, and recover money stolen through a project, which benefits his company, Afrinvest, with a huge commission.
Col. Imuse notes that while Governor Obaseki claimed to have spent the last five years laying the foundation for the development of Edo State, the APC “cannot find any of such foundation stones.”
“It is in the light of the precarious situation Edo State has found itself under Governor Obaseki, which is almost akin to anarchy, that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is calling on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Edo,” Imuse says.
“Our call is predicated on the fact that Mr. Obaseki would prefer to be a Sole Administrator of Edo State rather than a democratically-elected governor. With a state of emergency, his present disposition towards governance will be legitimized. He would not need a legislature, cabinet or even local government chairmen to function.
“… a state of emergency in Edo will have a multiplier effect on the various apparatus of government in such sectors like (the) civil service, health, education, and security of lives and property, among several others, which are all presently in dire need of leavening. We also believe that a state of emergency will be a proactive step to flatten the curve of bad governance the state is now suffering.”
The woes Imuse has leveled against Governor Obaseki are such that advocates of real democratic practice would frown at, and seek to challenge their perpetration through legally and morally-accepted means, such as a redress in the law courts.
But Nigeria’s amended 1999 Constitution grants Obaseki (and other governors) immunity against criminal cases, such as levied by Imuse, in the discharge of his duties as Governor of Edo State.
Yet, the APC can take out civil writs against alleged misdeeds by the government, on which the courts can award damages, and impose injunctions to prevent further breaches by the state. That’s the reasonable course, without recourse to antics that state of emergency rules have become for democratic despots.
Ahead of the 2024 governorship contest, the Edo APC should change its tactics from wanting a back-channel into the Dennis Osadebey Avenue Government House, in Benin City.
HRather, the party should deploy alleged mis-governance of the Obaseki administration to woo Edo voters to its column, and stand a chance to sing the victory song in 2024. Otherwise, the gnashing of teeth of defeat in the platform will continue. Enough of emergency rule shenanigans!
Bayelsa 2023: Sylva’s undoing partly self-inflicted
By Ehichioya Ezomon
Because of the deck stacked against him – or more aptly, due to the deck he stacked against himself – it’s illusory to project the November 11, 2023, governorship in Bayelsa State as a walkover for former Governor Timipre Sylva.
From the get go, Mr Sylva faced numerous huddles, to reach the Creek Haven Government House in Yenagoa, capital city of Bayelsa, which he left in 2012. Foremost were headwinds from Governor Douye Diri of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and aggrieved members in Bayelsa’s All Progressives Congress (APC).
The odds likely favoured Mr Diri seeking re-election to the seat he got on a platter on February 13, 2020, when the Supreme Court nullified election of Chief David Lyon on the eve of his swearing-in.
Mr Lyon won the November 16, 2019, poll by a landslide, but Diri’s gifted the governorship when the court barred APC’s Deputy Governor-elect Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo over discrepancies in his credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the election. Diri therein nicknamed himself as a “Miracle Governor.”
Lyon, who saw the “Promised Land” of Government House on February 13, 2020 – during final rehearsals for his swearing-in the next day – regarded himself as the “candidate-in-waiting” for 2023, and APC’s ticket his for the asking.
Members of the Bayelsa chapter, especially the youths, regarded Lyon as “our next Governor,” and urged the APC leadership to “award” him the ticket without a primary contest, and they hit the streets when the party threw the nomination open for a direct primary by registered members.
Lyon won the September 4, 2019, primaries with 42,138 votes, to defeat five aspirants, including current Minister of Petroleum Resources (Oil), Dr Heineken Lokpobiri, who scored 571 votes, but went to court, to be declared the candidate on the grounds of irregularities at the primaries.
A Supreme Court ruling halted Lokpobiri on February 11, 2020, three days to inauguration of Lyon, whose election was voided two days later when the same court disqualified Mr Degi-Eremienyo.
Though he won the November 2019 poll, Lyon’s supporters had no illusion he’d defeat Sylva – also a former Minister of Petroleum Resources with a large warchest – in the April 14, 2023, primaries, which Lyon boycotted as the APC rejected his “sense of entertainment” to the ticket.
From 58,171 accredited among 142,031 registered APC members for the primaries, Sylva secured 52,061 votes, while Lyon scored 1,582 votes to place third behind ex-agitator Joshua Maciver, who came second with 2,078 votes.
Sylva, acclaimed “sole financier of Bayelsa APC,” reportedly preferred Lyon, and “threw his weight behind him” in the 2019 primaries for the APC ticket for the governorship of that year.
After Lyon’s dramatic ouster by the Supreme Court in 2020, Sylva allegedly pledged to back his second bid in 2023, even as he promised supports for other APC chieftains for the governorship he reportedly excluded himself.
But ahead 2023, Sylva “reneged on the promises,” declared for the governorship, took the primaries by a landslide, and told primarygoers he’d replicate same on November 11 against Diri, who mocked him as “dishonest and insincere” for allegedly deceiving members of the APC over his ambition, and his disqualification by an Abuja Federal High Court.
In a statement, “Bayelsa Doesn’t Deserve Serial Deceiver As Governor,” Diri said: “Bayelsa needs an honest and sincere leader that is focused on its development and not a man widely known for deception.
“Timipre Sylva is a man you cannot trust. He displaced all those he promised that he would give the governorship ticket and turned around to become the candidate himself.”
Diri’s accusingly behind the court cases by APC members, to ensure Sylva didn’t participate in the governorship. Sylva’s lawyers in his disqualification appeal, and even some of the three-member panel of Justices of the Appeal Court, hinted about such a possibility.
An APC member in Bayelsa, Mr Demesuoyefa Kolomo, filed a suit on June 6, asking the high court to determine – given sections 180(2)(a) and 182(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution – whether Sylva was qualified to contest in the poll, having occupied the governorship from May 2007 to April 2008 and May 2008 to January 2012.
Ruling on the night of October 9, trial Justice Donatus Okorowo held that having been inaugurated twice and ruled as governor for five years, allowing Sylva to contest would amount to expansion of the constitution or its scope.
Justice Okorowo directed INEC to remove the names of Sylva and his running mate, Mr Maciver, from the list of candidates for the poll, to prevent Sylva from exceeding the eight-year tenure for governor if he won the November 11 election.
But Sylva argued that he’s elected once as governor – citing an April 2008 Court of Appeal ruling that nullified his 2007 election – and filed a three-ground notice of appeal, through a team of lawyers, led by Dr. Ahmed Raji (SAN).
When the case was called on October 27, Sylva’s lawyer, Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), and APC’s counsel, K.O. Balogun, urged the appellate court to allow the appeals, set aside the high court judgment and affirm Sylva’s candidacy.
Arguing Sylva’s position of having been sworn-in once as governor, Mr Kehinde described the high court judgment as “a hatchet job just to tie this man (Sylva) not to campaign and participate in the election.”
Also faulting the decision of the high court, Mr Balogun said, “What the 1st respondent (Kolomo) is asking this court to do is to deem the nullified months as four years.”
He accused Kolomo of “fighting a proxy war” (for Sylva’s opponents at the poll), because “he cannot be a member of the APC and be fighting to destroy its candidate and chances at the election.”
Similarly during the proceedings, some members of the Justice Haruna Tsammani-led panel wondered why Kolomo, who claimed to be an APC member, but not an aspirant at the primaries, would want to destroy his party’s chance in an election!
Noting that Kolomo could’ve voted for another party in the November poll “if he assumed Mr Sylva did not deserve his vote,” the panel condemned the attitude of lawyers, who failed to advice their clients appropriately, saying, “it is a moral issue.”
Kolomo’s lawyer, Mr Abiodun Amuda-Kanike (SAN), and INEC’s lawyer, Mr Ahmed Mohamed, prayed the court to dismiss the appeals, and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
However, on October 31, the court set aside the high court decision for lack of jurisdiction, and awarded N1 million cost against Kolomo for lack of legal right to seek Sylva’s disqualification from the election.
Again on November 9 – two days to election – the Appeal Court in Abuja came to Sylva’s rescue, dismissing an appeal, seeking to prevent him from the poll, as without merit.
Reading the lead judgment, Justice Binta Zubar held that the subject matter of the appeal by Hon. Isikima Ogbomade Johnson was non-justiceable, adding that “the case was brought in bad faith.”
The court held that having been sacked by the courts in his first election, Sylva couldn’t have taken the oath of office as a governor twice, which informed the conduct of another election that Sylva won in 2008, and governed till 2012.
On the issue of Sylva not duly nominated as candidate, the court held that overwhelming evidence presented by the INEC and APC showed that no legal provision was violated in the primaries.
“From the uncontroverted independent report of INEC, it was clear beyond any doubt that a valid primary election was conducted by APC and monitored by the electoral umpire as required by law,” the court said.
The court upheld the judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which on September 26, dismissed Mrs Johnson’s suit for lacking in merit and substance, and imposed a cost of N1 million against her.
Noting that the appellant’s case was statute-barred, having been instituted outside the 14 days allowed by law, the court upheld the judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja which on September 26, dismissed Mrs Johnson’s suit for lacking in merit and substance, and imposed a cost of N1 million against the appellant.
The court cases against Sylva definitely put a wrench to the efforts of Dr Abdullahi Ganduje-led National Working Committee (NWC) to return APC to power in Bayelsa.
Yet, besisde court’s barring of Sylva, and INEC’s delisting of his name, prompting the APC to suspend campaigns for weeks, Sylva owns his undoing by incurring enemies in Messrs Lyon and Lokpobiri prior to the primaries, and election, leading to cries of their sellout to, and a deal with Diri for the poll.
As reported by an online portal quoting sources, Diri conceded 50 slots of Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) each to Lokpobiri and Lyon, and also promised them some measure of influence in decision-making if he won re-election.
The APC dismissed the alleged Lokpobiri and Lyon’s alliance with Diri, with the Secretary, Media and Publicity Committee of the National Campaign Council of the APC, Hon. Yekini Nabena, on October 9, releasing pictures of Lokpobiri and Lyon recommitting themselves before the National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, to deliver Sylva and APC in Bayelsa.
Nabena’s words in a statement: “Our attention has been drawn to a sponsored propaganda in some quarters suggesting cracks in the solid camp of the Bayelsa APC ahead of the November 11 governorship election in the State.
“We will not be distracted because we are fully aware how desperate the incumbent Governor Douye Diri has become, therefore employing all manner of tactics including propaganda and lies just to cause confusion.
“For the benefit of the doubt, the attached pictures will tell doubters that the Minister of State for Petroleum (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, and the 2019 governorship candidate, David Lyon, most recently held a strategic meeting with our candidate in the presence of our National Chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, where everyone recommitted himself, and massive mobilization has since begun.
“We, however, sympathize with the restless Governor Diri and his camp for acting too late, bearing in mind that their days are numbered in the Bayelsa state Government House.
“We urge all our party members, supporters and Bayelsans in general to remain calm, expectant of landslide victory and disregard lies suggesting cracks in our camp.”
Lokpobiri, via his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Nneamaka Okafor, denied the allegation same day as baseless, and reaffirmed his commitment to the APC success at the poll.
“We categorically state that these allegations lack credibility and are merely propaganda,” Okafor said, adding, “Senator Lokpobiri’s dedication to the APC’s principles and values is unquestionable, and he remains steadfast in his commitment to the party’s success in Bayelsa State.”
Whichever, Sylva, who allegedly went into the campaigns as his own director-general – either he’d no confidence or trust in others to lead the team or those he approached turned down the offer – was literally a lone ranger, starved of the necessary backing from party chieftains, such as Lyon and Lokpobiri, with his eventual defeat at the poll glaring in the strongholds of APC’s topshots.
So, for Sylva to win the November 11 election would’ve been nothing short of a miracle, which, like that of Mr Diri, could still happen via the instrumentality of the courts. Till then, it’s another four-year wait for the APC to break the 24-year rule of the PDP in Bayelsa State!
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria
ATIKU @ 77: Glorious homecoming for homeboy
By Tunde Olusunle
His best efforts to observe his birthday quietly as has been his preference over time, differed from the thinking of many others. I had indeed asked him two weeks before the date if he would approve of a public presentation of my handy, newly published compendium of essays on him, as part of the event. He intoned that the President of the American University of Nigeria, (AUN), Dr DeWayne Frazier, indeed created a window for cake cutting on the draft programme of the “Founders Day” scheduled for Saturday November 25, 2023. The event is held in his honour on the 25th day of November every year, to commemorate his birthday. He said he advised Frazier who is fairly new on his schedule, that the Founder’s Day lecture itself sufficient commemoration of a day that is very special to him.
The public presentation of the book of essays he advised, should be planned for the first quarter of the new year. By that time according to his wise counsel, subsisting electoral litigations arising from the 2023 polls would have been substantially dispensed with. The national political temperature aggravated by unprecedented ballot thefts, unrivalled judicial indiscretions, and unthinkable disenfranchisement of the electorate in several instances, would have calmed somewhat, especially with the imminent yuletide. If he thought he had wriggled free of plans to celebrate him, however, his eldest son, Adamu Atiku-Abubakar and some of his siblings had other ideas.
Adamu, incumbent commissioner for Works and Energy Development in the administration of Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State is growing into a good student and budding exemplar of his father in politics and public service. He surreptitiously convened a meeting of critical stakeholders from four contiguous local government areas in the southern zone of Adamawa State to discuss and buy-into a suggestion by his peers and good self. Enthusiastic participants came from Toungo, Ganye, Jada and Mayo Belwa local government areas, to articulate a week-long series of events to mark the 77th birthday of the older Atiku Abubakar. These included council chairpersons, commissioners and the Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mohammed Jidjiwa, from the aforementioned four local government areas.
The lineup of activities for the “Atiku week” included: a football tournament tagged the “Atiku Unity Cup;” a day to reach out specifically to the indigent and an “Empowerment Day” for would-be entrepreneurs. Specific days were also set aside for “community service,” “visitations to educational institutions within Atiku’s primordial catchment;” “finals of the Atiku Unity Cup” and a jum’at service to round up the festivities. Each of these activities were scheduled for different days between Friday November 17 and Friday November 24, 2023. Not too many people would wished for a better, richer, activity-packed birthday programme.
Atiku arrived to tumultuous reception at the Yola International Airport on Monday November 20. It was his first visit since his hard-fought judicial battle challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu as winner of the Saturday February 25, 2023 presidential election in which he contested and felt arguably robbed. Deputy Governor of Adamawa State, the first woman to occupy such a position in Nigeria’s north east, Professor Kaletapwa Farauta, led the reception party on behalf of Governor Fintiri. She was accompanied by members of the Adamawa State executive council and senior state officials. Farauta extolled Atiku’s uncommon grit and zeal in bolstering democracy and popular rule in Nigeria. She noted that the former Vice President had etched his name in the documentation of Nigerian politics as a brave battler for fairness, justice, equity, rule of law and best practices in the nation’s fledgling democracy. Her speech was intermittently interrupted by loud applause by the audience and approving nods as she delivered her homily about the presidential flagbearer of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), at the last general polls.
Atiku thanked the Adamawa State Government for putting up such a grand reception for him on what was supposed to be an innocuous and routine visit to his home. He applauded the Fintiri-led government for its notable strides in the provision of infrastructure in the state, and for the attention it is paying to education and healthcare development. He assured of his availability at all times, to offer guidance and admonition. He restated the place of Adamawa in his heart, a state he desired to serve as governor, won the applicable election in December 1998, before fate intervened in his political course. Atiku noted he was thankful to God for his modest contributions to the socioeconomic life of the state and expressed the hope that other well-meaning patriots will contribute their tokens by continuing to investment in Adamawa State.
Wednesday November 22, Atiku visited his boyhood school, the Central Primary School, Jada. In his post on his *X* handle, (hitherto twitter), Atiku wrote: “Nostalgic: Today I returned where it all started, my alma mater.” The quality of buildings and facilities in the school suggest it has benefitted from Atiku’s legendary large heart. Not too many public schools in rural Nigeria are anything close to the new storey buildings in the school. The former Vice President toured the premises even as excited school children poured to the balconies of their classrooms and waved happily at him, a gesture he returned. He subsequently presented scholarships and awards to outstanding students in the Ganye chiefdom of the state, a gesture he enthused, brought him tremendous joy and fulfilment.
Saturday November 25, 2023, Steven Titus, President Emeritus of the Iowa Wesleyan University in the United States, delivered the inaugural address for the Founder’s Day. He described the university as “one of the greatest, boldest and most consequential universities on the entire continent of Africa.” He extolled the AUN as a “vibrant legacy of the founder, Atiku,” who was being honoured at the same event. He celebrated Atiku as “a man of peace and unity, a leader who listens more than he talks, who inspires those around him, who is empathetic and appreciates the dignity of every human being.” Dr Titus saluted Atiku’s abiding faith in his country Nigeria as a land of possibility, and his conviction that education is the fuel and inspiration for the crystallisation of that possibility.
Titus further noted: “The Founder was an 11 year-old orphan who had barely enough to eat. Today, the Founder is a world citizen and tested leader of the largest and most complex country on the continent.” Espousing on Atiku further, Titus submitted: “It was the gift of education, the gift of opportunity and teachers who cared, and the value of hardwork that ensured his pathway to success and service at the highest levels. Through the Founder’s vision becoming reality, AUN is offering you and those who came before you and those who will come after you, the gift of education and opportunity.
Atiku’s paper at the event was titled “AUN in the Age of Socioeconomic Crisis and Emerging Disruptive Technologies.” He thanked Dr Steven Titus and everyone who made out time to be at the event with his beautiful family. He welcomed DeWayne Frazier whom he noted had always been enthusiastic about Africa and heading the AUN. Atiku alluded to his two previous applications to be President, before his triumph at the third attempt. He expressed the hope that Frazier will demonstrate commitment to the ideals of the institution and changes in its overall administration. The era of deviation from the set goals of the university, arbitrariness in decision making and profligate management of resources, Atiku observed, must henceforth be consigned to the past. He expressed optimism in Frazier’s capacity and ability against his demonstrated interest in the university. Atiku enjoined Frazier to constantly remind the world that the AUN is alive and thriving albeit an oasis of excellence in its part of Nigeria.
The AUN, Atiku advised, must be heard in the crowded marketplace of private education in Nigeria, or painfully lose out. The university faculty he admonished, should be responsive to dynamics in the national and global economies so as to be guided in articulating its programmes and offerings needed by intending students. Atiku implored the university to grow its numbers and to buildup its finances in order to be more self-sustaining. He thanked the new AUN President for facilitating a few more programmes in the institution’s bouquet of courses, within his brief stint at the helm. Atiku reminded Frazier of the urgent need to “modify and update inherited practices to keep up with the changing financial situation of the unit and that of prospective parents and students.” According to Atiku, “new technologies are emerging that will completely change the face of education as we know it, and by implications, educational institutions. The direction of those changes is not entirely clear, but will include greater individualised learning.”
DeWayne Preston Frazier who was inducted as the sixth President of the AUN, confirmed his excitement and optimism for the future of the university. He expressed confidence that together, stakeholders in the university will achieve great things and continue to be a beacon of knowledge, enlightenment and progress. Dr Frazier explained: “I am committed to upholding the values and principles that have been the foundation of this university. Values such as excellence, integrity and service that permeate through the entire campus. I will follow and uphold our bylaws like never before as I accept them with great honour. When you do things rightly, God will bless you… this is a promise.” Frazier acknowledged Atiku as a man of big dreams who, 20 years ago, envisioned the very first university in Nigeria to “adopt the American model of higher educational, offering a liberal arts-based education that promotes critical thinking, creativity and experiential learning.”
At the Founder’s Day to honour Atiku were several dignitaries including Governor Fintiri and his Deputy Farauta; Chairman of AUN Board of Trustees and Governing Council, Ben Obi, CON; and Mustafa Barkindo Aliyu, (Kauran Adamawa) who represented the Lamido Adamawa. Former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoaka, SAN, as well as Members of AUN Board of Trustees and Governing Council, among others. The event was a befitting finale to a string of activities and events carefully planned and executed in honour of one of Adamawa State’s and Nigeria’s most prized prodigies. It was a cherished season of reconnection with his roots and origins for the “original homeboy.”
Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA)
Atiku: A man for all seasons, by Phrank Shaibu
Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them – a desire, a dream, a vision, says the great Mahatma Gandhi. This typifies clearly the life and times of Waziri Atiku Abubakar, who, despite the odds against him from early childhood, overcame all the hurdles and vicissitudes of life.
Born on November 25, 1946, to the family of Garba Abubakar – a Fulani trader and farmer – Atiku was the only child as his sister died at infancy. Before adolescence, his father died by drowning while crossing a river to Toungo, a neighbouring village in Jada. He was thus raised by his widowed mother, Aisha Kande, and his maternal relatives. As the man of the house, he did menial jobs while also schooling at the same time to provide for the family. He was a herder, a trader, and a farmer.
Of course, his life changed when he joined the Nigeria Customs Service in 1969 and quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the most senior officers within just 17 years of service. And through it all, Atiku never forgot his humble beginnings. This is one of the reasons he has continued to support several causes and foundations and has awarded dozens of scholarships to indigent students so that they can also have a chance of a bright future.
In the late 80s, he joined partisan politics even though he did not need to having fulfilled his immediate dream of lifting his family out of poverty. But out of this burning desire to lift millions more out of poverty so that they could achieve the Nigerian dream just like he had achieved his, he decided to join partisan politics. Despite winning the governorship election of Adamawa State back in 1991, his victory was questionably annulled by the powers that be.
He contested the presidential primary of the Social Democratic Party and lost. But he soldiered on. Even though he was not directly affected by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election since he was not on the ballot, he put everything he had on the line in order to fight for democracy and was almost killed by Abacha’s goons in the mid 90s. Despite getting his fingers burnt in politics, he decided to contest again in 1999 for governor of Adamawa State and won. But he was picked as running mate to General Olusegun Obasanjo and subsequently became Vice President.
As Vice President, he fought against attempts to amend the constitution and extend the tenure of executive office holders even though he could have been a beneficiary of such a move. By this move, he played a role in not just entrenching democracy but preventing Nigeria from becoming a failing state like some African countries that have removed term limits for their heads of state.
During his trying days as Vice President, his official privileges were revoked by the powers that be. But this did not stop the Waziri from paying salaries and allowances of his personal aides. He continued to look after them and tried as much as possible to shield them from persecution.
Many in government today are products of Atiku’s benevolence, including some in the country’s ruling party today who have gone on to become senators and governors. Simply put, he is a leader amongst leaders.
He also believes in the power of education as a liberating force for the individual and the country. He often says that education gave him all the advantages he had and that he will also stop at nothing to make sure that quality education becomes a priority in Nigeria. Atiku, also, is a deliberate educationist
As a family man, he is almost immaculate. His belief about family is that discipline should be the watchword. His children, of course, are well educated, and he enjoins them to be good ambassadors of the family who must not be associated with any immoral conduct that will tarnish the family name.
As a principal, I say without hesitation that Atiku Abubakar is a father figure. He is compassionate and humane. He is affectionate, too. It is almost impossible to be around him and not feel the energy of the goodness of his character.
He is also a deliberate politician. He sees political power as an instrument to create a progressive society. He is very deliberate about everything he does and takes time out to reach out to associates in their great moments and sad ones
Atiku has made several unsuccessful attempts at the presidency, which have cost him money and comforts but he continues to do so in the service of motherland.
He has made mistakes but has also been a victim of the fraudulent nature of Nigeria’s elections and the judicial malpractice associated with election cases. Despite his string of defeats, not a single life has been lost on his account. This is because he continues to have faith in Nigeria and its people and also believes that his ambition to serve the people of Nigeria cannot be done at the expense of human life.
This cannot be said of other politicians who have promoted violence because of electoral defeat. For some, Atiku’s many attempts at the number one seat in Nigeria smacks of desperation. They think he should remain a private businessman and retire from politics. He may not have succeeded at becoming president, but he has tried and has done so for the most altruistic of reasons.
Some had even argued that he should not have challenged the result of the presidential election in such a vociferous manner but congratulated the winner of the fraudulent election so that he could continue to enjoy government patronage. But he stood his ground and pursued the truth and made sure that Nigerians knew it. This is the height of bravery even though our courts decided to dwell on technicalities rather than substantial justice.
There are no regrets whatsoever. Because as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Without a doubt, the story of Atiku Abubakar is one of victory, success, and beating the odds. It’s about a man who was dealt a bad hand early in life but refused to be limited by his background and rose from the ashes like a phoenix. It is about a man who, despite his many defeats, has refused to lay flat on the canvas like a defeated boxer but continues to rise every time he falls. He is a man who has lifted others and has continued to trust in humanity despite the many betrayals he has faced.
His, indeed, is a life well spent. It is only fitting to conclude that Atiku Abubakar is a gift to the world. Waziri, your birthday deserves to be a national holiday,
because you are a special treasure
for all that you’ve done.
May the love you have shown to others
return to you in manifold measures.
I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Your Excellency
Phrank Shaibu is Special Assistant on Public Communication to Atiku Abubakar
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