Ahead of Saturday’s PDP presidential primary election, the spokesperson of the Atiku Campaign Organisstion, Mr Segun Showumi, spoke to BODE GBADEBO on the selling points of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Former vice president Atiku is throwing his hat in the ring for the fourth consecutive time. After three unsuccessful outings, what is he doing differently now?
Well, the way that question has come across gives the impression that you think that or could be assumed that having put himself forward for the presidency, that his inability to get the ticket of a big party like PDP or APC is down to some fault of Atiku. No! It is not. I need to put this straight on record that the tendencies that have kept Nigeria from achieving her potentials have been the same tendencies that have not allowed one of the best materials that Africa has to offer in terms of presidential aspiration. What is he doing differently this time? I think one thing that marvels me about Atiku is that most people spend a lot of time feeling frustrated after an unfortunate or may be a non-result yielding exercise. Atiku, on the other hand, usually takes some time to rest and having gathered back his strength and stamina, what he normally does is interrogate the issues all over again to see whether there is any agenda he believes so passionate or there is any agenda not talked about that is now ripe to be discussed. What we saw from 2007, 2011, 2015 and now 2019 is that Atiku has been very consistent on messages he has always believed, that this country must rework the governance structure in such a way that it gives every section of the country the opportunity to deliver more for its people and to contribute more to the general wellbeing of the nation, Nigeria and as such, he has always been consistent on restructuring. Atiku has always believed that for an African country with the population size of Nigeria, where the poor people are the majority with unemployment, lack of inclusion is the major reason for the despondency of the young people. In between elections, he has in his own little ways, consistently increased the number of opportunities for getting people employed in his private work to the high point of it, which is about 50 to 60 thousand direct employment and 250 to 300 thousand indirect jobs. That means, in spite of not being in power, yet, he has put his money where his mouth is by creating jobs. He understands that if you get them employed and they have something of value doing, they will contribute better and be better citizens. Africa has consistently felt that the bridge of cooperation and integration, which is a political philosophy that was first introduced to Atiku by Shehu Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory, where Yar’adua was of the opinion that having come from a regionised Nigeria with the mutual suspicion of the tribes, the political philosophy going forward should be building bridges across all the ethnic tribes. And you will see that Atiku has always been mindful of the need to ensure that all Nigerians can be involved in whatever it is that he is doing. Some of these efforts have not been celebrated because people take them for granted and it is easy to have achieved the integration in politics that Atiku has done but these things have happened by deliberate ideas around listening to other guys’ point of view; accommodating cultural differences; respecting ideological and religious differences and sustaining the friendship around the commonality of purpose. I doubt if anybody in Nigeria living now can say he has lived his life that way. Now to top it all, the 2019 run has compelled Atiku even more than before that the circumstances and the challenges in Nigeria today is such that his life, his precious experience, the level of exposure, vision and things he has observed over the years, including how he has ordered his own private life and how his family structure and the kind of work experiences he has, both in private and public sectors and as vice president have positioned him as it were as the messiah of the present set of circumstances that Nigeria is battling. So, whereas he has been presenting himself as candidate before, right now, Atiku’s life, vision, ideas, the energy that is bustling through place him and Nigeria as being on the threshold of greater life of developmental direction. So, if Atiku is on the ballot in 2019, Nigerians can consider it to be a referendum.
Can you be specific about the tendencies inhibiting Atiku and whether they have ceased to be or not?
There are no specific tendencies. You see, to describe it or to try to simulate your imagination, I will just ask and say, have you ever bothered to wonder why is it that concerning all or most Nigerians, be it in the market, farm or beer parlour or anywhere, some things come true when you talk about Nigerians and their country. Leave out criticisms, you will almost be able to feel and taste the hope that Nigerians have and an idea that things are better in their country. Now that hope has been dashed a few times, especially in 2015, the people were really hopeful but now beyond holding one individual responsible, you have to ask, why is it that leaders come and go but Nigeria is still not satisfied with the quality or service that their leaders are offering? If I am to give some specific examples around how candidates find themselves on the ballot, you would see that many times, for example in 2007, apart from the fact that these tendencies have been challenging the government of Nigeria, most nations in the world, who want to do sustainable development, could have transmitted power from the president to his vice president, who can continue the agenda and probably improve on it. And if you are not sure it works, we saw in Lagos that it works or it can work. In the build-up to 2015, if not for those tendencies, it is difficult to explain why returning power to northern Nigeria along the table management of the diversity and the power sectors of this country, didn’t make sense to PDP in 2015 and as such, again, I put it down to the tendencies contending with Nigeria as its glory.
Not a few Nigerians believe Atiku Abubakar ought not to vie for the presidency given his wealth and political connection as he is seen as a kingmaker…
I will use Biblical explanation to tell you how these things work. The leadership that will be meaningful in the affairs of a nation is always by an instrument from above. What that means is that, God, in his infinite mercies and nature prepares a leader, exposing him to experiences to get him ready for the assignment before nations and like it was in the time past, so it is now. Until you have crossed one leadership developmental mantle, you are not able to bequeath the land to the successful generations. Where Nigeria is now is very divided, if you have a divided country, the first thing you have to know is that everybody that wants to unite it must have relationship that all the sections can key into, for it will no longer be easy for one person with an isolated relationship with one section to generate the level of trust in the other section, Atiku has that. My duty and the duty of all Nigerians, including the journalists, civil society is to expose this conversation in such a way that we can focus it on the right thing. Any nation has the right to decide that they want to see the road of growth or choose the road of stagnation. If it is done in a credible manner, it is their right to choose but it is my duty as one that has been toiling on the Nigerian project for more than 20 years to sound the bell and tell them what is behind. The duty before me is to say this is what he represents, this is what he has done in the past, this is what he promises to do in the future and this is where he is going.
He had, at various times, condemned the policies of the present government regarding the economy, security and job creation. He was a vice president for eight years. Specifically, what did he do about these issues when he was in power?
You see, the worst thing that can happen to those of you who are supposed to do investigative journalism is to run into the generalisation of the mob you are meant to educate. The safest periods in recent history that Nigeria enjoyed were years when Atiku was vice president. Although, they confronted a lot of issues at that time, among them were the sharia uprising, here and there and the early stages of criminal political thugs that metamorphosed into Boko Haram terrorism. In a private procedure and position, Adamawa has a well-tutored security and religious committee managing security. He also brought American University to Adamawa, a programme that brings the IDPs from terrorism into a sustainable re-integration back to the society crusade that runs on the theme, ‘The World From My Eyes.’ He brings them and educates them, speaks to them, mentors them and gives them opportunity to tell how they see the world plus direct submission of his money to IDPs via his foundation. Atiku understands the maxim of nature that, not everything you do for the benefit of humanity must be brought to public space to achieve popularity. Are you aware that Atiku has a micro finance bank that has operating principles to give his credit to 90 per cent women and is still running and has been running for years, only targeted at putting small money in the hands of women and getting them to improve their lives.