There’s a certain new kid(?) on the block! His name is Atiku Abubakar. Do not mind that he’s just 71. And would be 73 by the time he seeks his ultimate prize by 2019. He’s the newest cool thinh in town. And girls, and guys too, are all falling for him. He’s such a refreshing presence. Almost like we’re seeing him, or his ideas for the very first time! Except that we’re not just meeting him afresh. In fact, he’s always been a recurrent force in our politics since 1993. He was one of the contestants for the Social Democratic Party’s nomination for President which MKO Abiola won. He was vice president to Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years, and has contested every presidential race since then, at least to the party primaries level. What is surprising is this new zeal Nigerians suddenly have for him. It is not without reason.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been totally underwhelming. And that is to put it lightly. Buhari has disappointed friends and foes alike. Not until recently, when his health thankfully improved, have we seen any thing close to what governance should be. It is to our collective shame, that the major policy direction Buhari is pursuing, since bouncing back from the sick bed, is a reelection campaign. From whispering it quietly abroad, to dropping clichés to suggest so at home; and to openly bragging about his 2019 chances in Kano recently, Buhari has shown he has very little regard for the collective yearnings of Nigerians. It is not out of his right to seek reelection, but it is obviously not something that should be on the table now that all the energy of the administration should be geared towards rescuing the economy from a disastrous brink. This has pushed not a few people into looking for formidable alternative candidates, who can match Buhari weight-for-weight, especially from the North. Enter Waziri Adamawa.
Atiku, a (former) member of Buhari’s party, read the handwriting on the wall: No opposition to Buhari would be tolerated from within. He decided not to deceive himself. And he pulled out. Not that the party was properly run in the first place. Since winning the landmark 2015 election, APC folded up, and ended up in the president’s pocket. Not even the so-called National leader, Bola Tinubu could make his voice heard. In vain he protested the usurpation by the grossly incompetent Yahaya Bello, of what rightfully belonged to James Faleke, his protégé from Lagos. In vain he resisted the emergence of Bukola Saraki, and even failed to install Hon Gbajabiamila as Speaker. While President Buhari was not allowing power mongers take control of the party, he himself provided no leadership at all. So, the party went to the wolves. With each faction pulling it from their end. The cracks have led prominent members to warn of shipwrecking the APC. Well, the cracks became wider and people like Atiku became the first to walk away. Many others will certainly follow suit. They’re just waiting to see how PDP will settle its own internal crisis.
The exit of Atiku Abubakar has certainly changed the game. Wealthy, experienced, and willing to play dirty, Atiku is an obvious threat to Buhari. And the presidency knows. Maybe that’s why a campaign has been launched against some of his business interests and person. But Atiku is also not lying low. He has launched series of strategic moves that have absolutely hit target. One of which has been a super social media rebranding like never before, to captivate the Youth and present him as the next hero. It has worked so far. But there’s a little problem. Haven’t we been here before?
In 2014, Nigeria’s Social Media quacked under the weight of a propagandist rebranding the like of which we’ve never ever seen before. Before our very eyes, General Muhammadu Buhari was derobed of his ethnocentrism and extremism, his military garments were removed, and upon him came a silky, soft and pinkish dress of motherliness, his breasts dropping of kind and compassionate milk! And we all fell for the make up. “He’s a reformed democrat” was the standard answer to our many queries about his character. He actually shunned public debates, with zero explanations whatsoever, and that was right in our faces. It didn’t take long for the scales to fall off though. Those who helped package the 2014/2015 Buhari have gone back to their previous lives, leaving a country set back some developmental indices.
Atiku has started worming his way into the hearts of our young population again. Most of those who have any opposition at all to his emergence at the moment are the die-hard supporters of President Buhari. Many are just neutral about him. To such people, it seems anyone would do a better job at the moment. And Atiku is in that regard a very potent man. With business investments all over the world running into billions of naira, Atiku is an accomplished business man. In Adamawa alone, he has businesses that has created jobs directly for over 30,000 people. His university is a first-rate one staffed with many Americans. That is in stark contrast to Buhari who hasn’t contributed anything much to the economy. Some say nothing at all, as even most of his kids schooled abroad. If it comes down to “anyone but Buhari” as it became “anyone but Jonathan” in 2015, then it is safe to say Atiku would have the support of many Nigerians. I once tweeted that if it ever comes down to Buhari Vs Atiku in 2019, I would thumbprint for Atiku, and go home a happy man. But Atiku isn’t the only man that is challenging Buhari. And that’s why the social media frenzy he’s generating shows we are still highly sensational.
From epic clapbacks and funny replies on Twitter, to trendy Instagram pictures and even announcing his PDP move on Facebook, Atiku is wowing us on social media. And he’s definitely winning people over. But that’s where the problem lies. We all know certainly that Atiku is not the one personally running his social media accounts. He definitely has a crack team doing that job. Maybe once in a while he grabs the phone and types some posts, but he certainly can’t be as savvy as his accounts portray him. If you are already falling in love with the Atiku on Twitter, then you may be falling for the wrong guy. Again. No one is asking him what his plans are. He has said one or two things in interviews, but Atiku hasn’t actually “Atikulated” his plans for Nigeria at all. We only know for sure, for now, that he’s interested in the presidency just as he’s been interested since 1993. Nothing exceptionally more. Atiku may actually be a better candidate than Buhari, but so is Bola Tinubu, and Donald Duke, and Remi Sonaiya. There are a million and one Nigerians that will do a better job than Buhari. Does that make them ideal for the job? No. It would be insensitive to rule him out based on his age, as Buhari is four full years his senior, on paper. Age is just a number. And youthfulness could often come with comic doses of stupidity as Kogi’s Yahaya Bello, and Rochas Okorocha of Imo (Oh, Imo!) prove. But Atiku will only be a good candidate, if he truly proves to be willing to serve, and serve faithfully. While he doesn’t have to get off social media to actually drive home his point, he needs to stop hiding behind social media. Many Nigerians are too gullible to know the difference. Atiku needs to let Nigerians know WHY he wants to be president after previously claiming he had reached his final bus stop with APC. What changed? What does he want to do differently. What are his real plans? And HOW does he want to achieve them? Enough of smooth talk on social media. Nigeria needs a real leader, with real change. If he’s honest, and has really got it, Nigerians are forgiving people, they will unlook his past. But if its just to satisfy an inordinate lust for power, then its too bad.
We fell for MMM so cheaply. We fell for APC too. All Promises Cancelled! We shouldn’t fall for Atiku if he’s insincere. Or, have we been bewitched?