Atiku: A Babel Of Responses

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Rrecent publication by a group that goes by the name, Governance Support Group, further underscores the apparent contradictions in the pro-Buhari camp in responding to the recent claim by former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, that he has been sidelined by the Buhari administration in spite of his contribution towards its emergence. With no official response to Atiku’s claim, the unofficial responses from the pro-Buhari camp have been essentially contradictory, hasty, ill- digested and laden with emotions.

What first looks like an official response by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and which was made by the national vice chairman (North West) of the party was quickly denied by the party’s national publicity secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, who said he was expressing a personal opinion. That was quite instructive.

The next unofficial response was from Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State who, according to media reports, was the “first governor to visit the Presidential Villa” after Atiku’s statement. el-Rufai’s statement was, of course, quite predictable. He regurgitated his narrative on the 2019 presidential election; that is that Atiku was after Buhari’s job.

But the contradiction and opaqueness in the pro-Buhari camp became more apparent with a recent publication by the so-called Governance Support Group, which accused Atiku of beginning his own campaign for the 2019 presidential election. In a newspaper advertorial on September 12, 2017, the group claims that “we see all these claims by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar… as unfortunate and befuddled dress rehearsal for 2019 general elections, adding, “this is a premature project…” Clearly, the group’s statement further brought to the fore the incoherence and insincerity among those who have taken it upon themselves to respond on behalf of the administration

To begin with, the idea of a Governance Support Group made up of 23 odd fellows should embarrass the Buhari administration which claims to have a broad-based support across the country.

Even before the emergence of the Governance Support Group, the nation was already being inundated by the antics of different groups that daily match the streets of the nation’s capital city, Abuja, and other parts of the country lashing out on imaginary enemies of the administration while canvassing for support for it. Not long ago, there were media reports to the effect that two separate pro-administration groups clashed in Abuja over issues bothering on the sharing of funds apparently earmarked for hiring the crowds.

While Nigerians expected the administration to take steps to curtail this unprecedented spate of sycophancy, there came the latest group that has taken the matter to a most inglorious height. However, Nigerians still believe that it is not too late for the administration to take steps to halt this trend. It should not portray itself as being so desperate in search of support that any group can spring up at any time to begin to assault the sensibilities of Nigerians in the name of garnering support for it. This is what the so called Governance Support Group did in the advertorial referred to above.

Before Atiku made his feelings public, it was no longer a hidden matter that some other notable leaders of the APC who, like him, made significant contributions to the emergence of the Buhari presidency, were no longer enamored by the administration. This other  perceived ‘victims’ of  the Buhari style of administration might have, for certain reasons, chosen not to speak up but that does more harm than good first for the ruling party, the administration and the country as a whole. Therefore, it would amount to a big disservice to the entire nation for a fellow of Atiku’s calibre, who had had the privilege of presiding over the affairs of this country as a vice president, to continue to remain silent, even at the risk of expected attacks that would be coming from the direction of make-believe groups like the Governance Support Group.

In the publication under reference, the group alluded to ministerial nominations and “the benefits of regular consultation with Mr. President”. But if Atiku’s only interest in contributing to the success of the APC in the 2015 presidential election was to simply nominate ministers and have “regular consultations” with the president, then he would be guilty of under-rating himself.  It was no big deal accepting nominations from a former vice president who had in the past received nominations from people himself. It is also not a big deal for a former vice president, who was for eight years the second-in-command in the country, to have access to a sitting president.

Instructively, some stalwarts of the party in reacting to the matter, have corroborated Atiku’s statement by giving account of their own personal experience in their respective states where they are similarly being treated by some of the APC governors.

The group tried to fault Atiku on his statement that a comprehensive success in its fight against Boko Haram and corruption is yet to be recorded. Nigerians have continually expressed dissatisfaction over the method being employed in the fight against corruption.

The group quoted the amount of N434.76bn as haven been recovered. But it knows that, as far as Nigerians are concerned, the issue is not the amount recovered. The question Nigerians are asking is, from who were the amount recovered? The group claims that the recovered funds are “intact” and are “being judiciously utilised in improving the lives of citizens…” This is a big contraction and which goes to show that the group is merely out to deceive Nigerians.  The money recovered cannot be “intact” and at the same time “being… utilised…” Even so, do Nigerians know in what areas the recovered funds are being specifically utilised?

Similarly, the group’s claim that the deadly Boko Haram sect no longer control any territory goes against the grain of evidence available to even the least discerning Nigerian. Not too long ago, the administration celebrated the “defeat” of Boko Haram, with television footages of the captured official flag of the sect at the Sambisa forest being handed over to the president by the military commanders. But up till now, our military is still fighting in the same Sambisa forest. So what happened? How come that the insurgents regrouped and came back to the same forest with even greater force? How come that suicide bombing in the North-East has continued unabated?

Finally, a careful study of the list of signatories to the publication under reference will reveal that it was masterminded by new appointees of the administration who are probably looking for ways of showing gratitude to the president. One of them was recently appointed head of a top federal agency; after it appeared that he had been forgotten by the president with whom he had had a long standing association. The story making the rounds that he was sidelined for over two years because of where he comes from may not be true but what cannot be denied is that today, his area has been invaded by soldiers and that some of his siblings are falling victims to this invasion.  That should be his major concern today, especially because the development is further tarnishing the image of the administration he so desperately wants to protect.

 – Okere  is a public commentator. He wrote from Owerri.