Atiku’s politics and the spectre of failure
Now that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has finally slunk back into the PDP once again, the party that he once helped found and twice futilely helped to kill, all absurd arguments to justify this third missionary journey into the party are been spewed by different characters across the nation’s political landscape.
Only recently, the so-called Adamawa State PDP’s leadership and an amorphous group that calls itself Katsina State People’s Democratic Party Elders’ Consultative Forum are reported to have publicly pleaded with the erstwhile Vice President to come back to the PDP.
The Katsina group implored him “to forgive former elements within the PDP, who forced him to seek further political relevance and justice in alternative political enclaves and return for a successful rebirth of the PDP.” The so-called elders hailed him as a “political son of Katsina State, who has made indelible contributions to the foundation and development of the PDP.”
While I do not here intend to dispute whatever contributions Atiku may have made to the PDP, I however reject the notion that he was maltreated in the party. Nobody treated Atiku unfairly; whatever happened to him in the PDP was the result of his own making! With an avid ambition for power, Atiku took many indecent steps to achieve his political self-interest, and many of these steps came back at him with devastating consequences.
As a Vice President, he plotted against his principal by conspiring to unseat the president and take over power in 2003. It was an opened national secret that Atiku did not want Obasanjo to contest a 2nd term and took to so many subterranean antics to stop the president from doing so. Nigerians are not in a hurry to forget how Obasanjo on good ground accused him of conspiring with Ghali Umar Na’abba, a onetime Speaker, to serve him with impeachment notice in August, 2002 after failing to get the president adopt “the Mandela option” – i.e. not to contest a 2nd term and handover to his deputy! No sensible president would simply sit back and watch his deputy run him down the way Atiku tried on Obasanjo. Hence, Obasanjo’s defensive move of taking away PDP from Atiku’s grips and subsequently bludgeoning him against contesting under its platform were the results of Atiku’s own political misdemeanours to his principal and not the other way round.
So when he left the party in 2006 and desperately persuaded Bola Tinubu to join him form the AC and contested the presidency under its platform in 2007, Atiku was simply pursuing his own self-ambition. But, perceptively, events were not kind to him in that presidential election as he came a distant 3rd with a mere 2 million votes. Then what happened after he lost that election and lost at the tribunal was shocking. Without telling any of his compatriots in the AC, he sneaked into Abeokuta to beg Obasanjo for reconciliation! Not only Obasanjo did not forgive him, but he further lost the confidence of his AC compatriots who stood by him in his ill-advised fight against Obasanjo.
That brought the end of AC, except that Bola Tinubu, being a man of will, foresight and means, restructured it into ACN and forged ahead to build a colossus political empire. And for Atiku, having betrayed his new-found compatriots, he creeped back into the PDP in July, 2010, shortly after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, in the hope of pushing out the supposedly weak and inexperienced President Goodluck Jonathan. But again events were not kind to him, for in the December presidential primaries, Atiku managed to scoop a mere 800 against Jonathan’s over 2000 votes. So when in August 2013 Atiku, along with others, derisively walked out on the PDP at its national convention and subsequently joined the newly formed APC, which he described as his last and final political bus-stop, all those who understand his politics knew that he would still jump ship the moment the APC fails to satisfy his self-interest.
Just like his returning to PDP after President Yar’Adua’s death was aimed at displacing the ‘inexperienced Jonathan’, his joining APC was also with the naive plan of using the power of money to defeat ‘poor Buhari’ and gain APC’s presidential nomination. Again, like in the previous two elections, events were not kind to him as he woefully lost the contest to a distant 3rd, after Buhari and Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso – thanks to Bola Tinubu who refused to allow himself be bitten twice by the same insect!
But of course the turn of events in all his three self-serving contests were just as they should be – you just don’t reap from where you did not sow!
Agreed, politics is said to be a game of interests; but being a matter that directly affects the lives of people in society and determines the future of society itself, politics is indisputably also a game of principles. In playing the game, therefore, one just cannot pursue one’s interests at the expense of its principles. It is a standard universal norm that any political actor who pursues self-serving interest against public interests is acting against set principles of politics; and time has ascertained that such a politician is sure to fail.
The politician’s skill or lack of it to distinguish the great disparity between self-interest and principles, and the ability or inability to balance these two elements, is what makes one a good or a bad politician, and consequently what decides the ultimate destiny of one’s politics.
Characteristically, over the years, Atiku’s unprincipled politics not only failed to conform to these political dynamics but it also defines him merely as a self-serving politician. This character trait didn’t start in the presidential villa – it started much earlier!
Nigerians can recall that, by his own testimony, Atiku claimed to have joined politics at the behest of late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who he always refers to as his political mentor. Although this claim did not prevent him from abstinently opposing the late General’s immediate younger brother, Umaru, when the latter emerged president, but for the purpose of the present discourse, let’s take him by his words on this. So together with General Yar’Adua, Atiku formed or joined several political associations and political parties, including PF, PDM, SDP and NCPN. In the process of building the NCPN, popularly called the Centre Party, his political mentor was arrested by the General Sani Abacha government, charged with treasonable felony and sentenced to death. While General Yar’Adua was languishing in jail on a commuted sentence of life in prison, Atiku had no qualms in abandoning the Centre Party to join the government-favoured UNCP and be given its Adamawa State governorship ticket.
Shortly after, Yar’Adua died in jail.
And he has now again crawled back into the PDP with, no doubt, a vein political trajectory to get the party’s presidential nomination. He must have calculated that with the zoning of the party’s presidential candidate to the North, being obscenely wealthy, he will use money to secure its ticket. That may well be so, but it is also clear to all discerning analysts that the man has again not thought through this political gambit.
Atiku has once again not only committed another morally repugnant action to advance his self-interest, but by it he also proved himself to be an undependable and unreliable political ally, both to the people he associates with and the political parties he joins. He neither embodies virtues Nigerians can emulate nor holds worthy moral and ethical principles upcoming generations may extol. But like all acts, we all get wiser after the events; he therefore won’t know the folly of his present move until the effects come calling.
And, as sure as God made little apples, the universal truth of ‘what is morally wrong cannot be politically right’ will, as before, ultimately become the bane of his political failure. But, as the saying goes, time will be the true judge of all affairs.
– Umar Ardo, Ph.D is a public affairs analyst cum politician.