Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is desperate. He is desperate to become Nigeria’s president. This ambition is written all over him. He has shown that he can do anything to realize this ambition. He eats, sleeps and breathes this ambition. He is not pretentious about this. He is not feigning disinterest. In fact, his ambition to rule Nigeria has straddled the present political dispensation that started in 1999 and the urge to realize this ambition has made him a restless, perpetual political nomad that switches political parties and camps at the flip of a finger. He has traversed every party since 1999 seeking to realize this ambition. He keeps moving back and forth, joining, leaving, and rejoining political parties with the prurience a prostitute changes clients. His ambition has made him so restless that the only thing certain about him is that he will not stay long in any political party.
Since he was selected to tag Obasanjo for the 1999 PDP presidential ticket, Atiku sees every opening as viable to realize his dream of ruling Nigeria. It is so consuming that he bats no eyelid joining any party that promises him the opportunity to run for the presidency on its platform. But from all indices, it seems Atiku, despite his desperation, has missed his best chance to become Nigeria’s president. Of course, his best chance was in 2003 when, as Vice President to Obasanjo, he held the key to who eventually wins the PDP ticket in that year’s general election. Yes, in 2003, he was firmly in control of the political structures of the ruling PDP as he controlled the party’s governors. He was equally in charge of the economic structure of that government with which he enriched himself and his cronies stupendously. With such intrepid factors, he was in pole position to decide who wins the 2003 PDP presidential ticket. This fact was so obvious that Obasanjo, his boss, reportedly knelt down for his support in the contest for that ticket and that was enough for Atiku to transfer his support to his boss and there and then, his decline started in earnest.
Obasanjo was to mercilessly deal with Atiku such that by the time the duo left in 2011, Atiku was reduced to a mere political vegetable, fighting so many wars to rescue his battered reputation, his dismantled political structure, and future and his fatally bruised ambition. Atiku was to decamp to the ACN where he ran a listless presidential race, return to the PDP where he was wedged from contesting for the presidency and then to the newly-formed APC where he was beaten to a remote third position in the party’s presidential primaries by President Buhari despite that he came to the convention with sack loads of dollars which he freely shared to party delegates in expectation of their votes.
After he lost the APC presidential primaries, Atiku was to sulk into a nondescript corner where he watched as President Buhari went on to defeat then-incumbent President Jonathan in a historic contest that changed the contours of Nigerian politics- to the surprise of a certainly flummoxed Atiku who, from all indications, wished otherwise.
Soon after President Buhari emerged as president, Atiku gradually emerged from his shell. Making ludicrous claims of helping to secure the victory of President Buhari, though nothing showed he did, he started what was seen as an annoying grudge war against Buhari and the APC. Touting his claim of helping APC to secure the presidency, Atiku became the implacable rattling irritant. He complained and riled against anything and started what was largely seen as a war of attrition against the APC. Atiku ranted about everything, complained about everything, abused and insulted APC, President Buhari and the APC government at the slightest instance. He claimed he was neglected and became so implacable that he saw himself as the main opposition to the APC and President Buhari. If they noticed, both the APC leadership and President Buhari government did not show it. They ignored Atiku’s cheeky antics. They pretended they never saw or heard all his rants. They suffered Atiku gladly. They treated him with a deliberate silence which certainly emboldened him to go over the cliff in attacking the party, its government, and President Buhari. But in the midst of this parody, most Nigerians saw the vaunting ambition of Atiku at play. In the midst of his irrevocable tirades, most Nigerians saw a character that is ruled by wild, insensate and reckless ambition and in the heat of this ambition, every tactic; both foul and fair were considered a good game.
Atiku did not stop there. Knowing his target audience and desperately seeking to warm himself to the rump of the waning PDP sympathizers and members, Atiku started launching thoughtless attacks on the North so as to harvest a despicable ethnic support of Igbo and other Southerners who he felt were aggrieved by PDP’s loss of power. He started childishly aping mass appeal; drinking sachet water here and there, sounding deceptively patronizing to clannish sentiments, playing the ethnic card; all in an attempt to drive a wedge against what held Nigeria today and harvest the political fallout. Atiku became a broken gramophone and tried all populist antics to give a life to his fading ambition.
Perhaps, Atiku realized that in electing not to reply his many tactless, reckless and ill-motivated tantrums, both President Buhari and the APC showed him to be a poor blackmailer that will do anything to realize a hugely faded and unrealizable ambition, Atiku voted with his feet and rejoined the PDP on whose behalf he had been launching his poorly-articulated attacks on the APC. He left the APC and rejoined the PDP knowing fully well that his dream of even flying a presidential ticket is doomed in APC.
Now that Atiku has rejoined PDP, he has not stopped his sly antics to nick the presidency. Today, Atiku lies blatantly and childishly like in the false, tendentious and ludicrous claim that President Buhari was banned for fifteen years from visiting the United States, apparently to explain away his embarrassing inability to visit the United States because he is banned from that country as a result of corruption. Now, in PDP, the desperation of Atiku has become so consuming that no trick, no lie, no crooked means is considered too low to play to improve what is seen as a no chance. Atiku rejoined PDP as a sole orphan. All his claim of having so many APC chieftains, including governors and senators, joining him to PDP has been a hollow story, a mere baloney. Even his state governor, whom many claimed is a protégé of Atiku has told him he will never follow him to PDP. In fact, to spite Atiku and prove his lack of political influence even in Adamawa State, the state chapter of the APC has vowed it will buy the 2019 presidential ticket for President Buhari. What a way to work oneself into a corner!
But the reality is that Atiku is a very damaged and unsellable ware. He is perceived as very corrupt, vain, petty and unintelligent politician who is ruled by such elephantine ego that can sacrifice any value for selfish ends. Atiku is seen as a desperado that sees political office as a compulsive addiction. His present trajectory shows a power monger that is ruled by innate desire for office and nothing more.
Atiku remains a moral wreck whose contempt for scruples is well known and who unabashedly believes that Nigerians are buyable wares who trade their electoral mandates with illicitly acquired money. Even with the rude awakening he got at the APC presidential primary in 2015, Atiku still believes a successful presidential campaign could be ran with the generous appeal to ill-gotten wealth. Everywhere he goes, the star of a huge thief whose name honors many egregious corruption cases follows him. It is so bad that he is a fugitive in the United States where many cases of corruption are pilled against him. He had tried in so many unconvincing ways to explain this embarrassment but none sticks with Nigerians who consistently heckle him to just pay a visit to the country and shame his traducers.
In all, Atiku is a bad product and the annoying inconsistency trailing his age-old desire to rule Nigeria adds to the heavy baggage he drags along with his vaunting ambition. He has no moral underpinning and cares no hoot about scruples. These are hardly qualities needed of a leader of a Nigeria where President Buhari has raised the bars on integrity and honesty in leadership. The only thing certain about Atiku presently is that he is still a nomad and will still change camps tomorrow, while his dream of ruling Nigeria will continue to float rudderlessly in the wind.
Peter Claver Oparah