By Femi Ayelabowo
Resplendent in colourful sportswear, which was reminiscent of an equally splendidly attired President Olusegun Obasanjo when the latter took the first kick at a football event during his second coming as Nigeria’s leader, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar posted pictures of himself in the jersey of his preferred English Premier League team on Twitter sometime in 2013. Ignoring the inappropriateness of a former Vice President of Nigeria donning the garb of a foreign football club (can you picture Gordon Brown sporting a Kano Pillars jersey?), Atiku looked quite elegant and every bit an athlete ready to strut his stuff. And yet, despite his sports finery, it wasn’t until Wednesday, September 24, 2014, that Atiku reconfirmed that he is indeed an acrobat.
Before the Atilogwu dancers of Nigeria’s South East become afraid that Atiku will soon overshadow them in the quite impressive acrobatic displays that their dance form entails, let it be known that Atiku’s mastery of acrobatics lends itself more to matters of principles and verbal communication. Our man Atiku has carved a niche for himself as Nigeria’s foremost politician of the summersault variety. His ability to flip-flop on any and every issue is almost without equal. And it is quite gratifying to see that, with his September 24, 2014 declaration to contest the Presidency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, Atiku is at least being consistent in his inconsistency.
To situate this discourse in the proper context, let us give the floor to Atiku so we may hear him in his own words. At his recent declaration of intention to run for the office of President, Atiku said: “I want to lead a government that will create a Nigeria for all. A Nigeria that is not about North or South, Christian or Muslim….” This is all very eloquent and very well put. Indeed, some may even say this is a very patriotic intent. The only problem with this statement coming from Atiku is that, a man who was the PDP “Northern Consensus Candidate” in 2011 cannot in good conscience be talking of “a Nigeria for all” except he has done another summersault as acrobats are wont to do.
Since Nigeria, sadly, is populated by many people who tend to have selective amnesia, let us quickly recall that on November 22, 2010, a Committee of Northern Elders chose Atiku as the preferred “Northern Consensus Candidate.” Atiku thrashed former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser, AliyuGusau, and the then Governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, to win what was—if we are to be honest with ourselves—a divisive if not dubious honour. Fast-forward to 2014 and the ‘Northern Consensus Candidate’ has done an about turn and is now preaching “a Nigeria for all.” If this is not acrobatics of principles, one would like to know what it is.
Let us also recall that, after being thoroughly disgraced in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Atiku was most unstatesman like after running back to the PDP in a last ditch effort to clinch the presidential nomination ticket at the party’s 2011 primaries. In a manner that made many other politicians and most Nigerians cringe with disgust, Atiku poured vituperation upon vituperation on the person of then President Goodluck Jonathan all in an attempt to sway the PDP faithful to his cause. However, Jonathan routed the returnee by polling 2,736 votes against Atiku’s 805 votes.
Barely a couple of years later, the same Atiku who had abused Jonathan to levels unheard of before then or ever since, went on record to praise Jonathan’s administration. He said: “To the government’s credit, an ambitious Almajiri education scheme has been put in place. This year, the Federal Government built and handed over tens of Almajiri Model Schools to state governments. As part of this scheme there is a commendable focus on girl-child education.”
So, what are we to make of all these flip-flops? Is it possible that Atiku’s strategy team is falling on the same sort of hard times that has afflicted his once proficient Media Office? It is worth recalling here that in February 2014 Atiku’s media team shot itself in the foot through an advertorial titled “Hogwash!” which was published in some daily newspapers. 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 Leader, Bola Tinubu, to cede the party’s presidential ticket to the former VP.
Having let the cat out of the bag as far back as February 2014, is Atiku’s declaration just a dance for the cameras before the hitherto revealed deal is consummated? Whatever the case maybe, despite the many unsavoury things that have been said, and continue to be said about Atiku, especially by his ex-boss, former President Obasanjo, nobody can deny that Atiku is a very articulate and energetic acrobat; and as he steps out again to contest the presidency, he is certain to entertain Nigerians in this latest outing.
Femi Ayelabowo via email@example.com