A great leader takes his people to where they ought to be, not necessarily where they want to be. Leadership is vision matched with actionable mission -Anonymous
For some time now, the Nigerian political firmament has been running out of a constellation of real stars and deep-rooted gladiators. This dearth of political juggernauts and women of substance, leaves politics bland without its usual witty candour and glitzy glamour. So sad.
Gone are the good old days when practicing and aspiring politicians, as well as the ordinary folks, were treated to eloquent philosophical polemics and pragmatic oratory by the likes of Nigeria’s first civilian president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik of Africa; or the golden broadcasts of former Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; and not the least, the well-researched policies and evergreen essays of the former Premier of Western Region and legal luminary, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo. Also in that league from the Middle Belt and now South-South, were erudite fellows such as Joseph Tarka and Chief Anthony Enahoro (who moved for Nigeria’s Independence from the colonial masters through a plausible paper presentation in 1957).
Have we hurriedly forgotten the flower-power of the wordsmith and media delight, erstwhile Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary, Chief Kingsley O. Mbadiwe – the phrase-configurator of “political juggernauts, Iroko and mahogany” fame. The hilariously bombastic one, Mbadiwe, a stalwart of President Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, once described the political merger between the NPN and the NPP (Zik’s Nigerian People’s Party) as an “ACCORD CON-CORDIALE.”
Those were the days of political colour, candour and glamour. Days of deep-rooted sound bites and philosophical thought. Do we still remember the lone voice in the wilderness and exponent of “Politics Without Bitterness”, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of the GNPP? He was a convert of India’s Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence struggle for people’s emancipation. What of the Great Oyi of Oyi, the horsetail-carrying former Senate President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo? Or the man with the longest handmade cap and double white handkerchief, Chief Solomon Lar. And many more who have passed on, blessedly.
Lest I forget the one they vernacularly called Money, Kudi, Owo: Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olambiwoninu Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential mandate. And the godfather of bridge-building and national unity, former Deputy Military Head of State and astute politician, retired Lt. General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (elder brother of former President Umaru Yar’Adua). Alas, these stars have left our sky. So sad!
Recently, politicians have become not only half-baked, but voraciously greedy and ravaging like locusts. Many have left the head for the stomach, craving existence rather than living. In other words, many Nigerian politicians have become hasty overlords and feudalistic conquerors with embedded hegemonic tendencies. Many of them live to eat, not eat to live. They corruptly plunder the commonwealth through self-aggrandisement and pauperising the populace. So sad.
It is, therefore, not uncommon to hear them relish in gangster philosophies and coinages such as “No shaking”, “Seru ba won” (inject fear in the people). “Divine Mandate”, “gun salute”, “Money power”, “awa la ni” (we own it) etc. This was the deep that Nigeria was dug into before the advent of current INEC National Chairman, Mahmud, and his 2022 electoral act, backed trouble-shooting biometrics card reader machine, to curb election rigging in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States elections respectively. Thus giving enormous hope to all Nigerians that their votes will eventually count at the General Elections slated for February 2023.
However, amidst this colossal wasteland of Nigeria’s political desert stands an oasis of good hope – a connector of the past to the present and ‘forecaster’ of the future! He is nationalistic, patriotic, detribalised and a massive investor in the local Nigerian Project. He is a mercurial entrepreneur, human capital asset investor, philanthropist par excellence, a people’s politician and a great family man. Who does this cap fit? Naturally, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri of Adamawa.
Atiku has had a chequered history. His immense contributions to democracy and democratic struggles have been spelt out in over a dozen Atiku judicial judgements or case studies – even as a sitting Vice President. These landmark court decisions have hugely helped in reshaping and developing the political landscape and constitutional narrative in the country today. But this great man had a very humble background. His peasant father had to be sent to prison, in order to withdraw the young Atiku from the open field of hazards to the comfort of an educational classroom, provided by American missionaries. And quite a few still share the memory that little Atiku later bought a mud house to shelter his mother from the harsh elements in Northern Nigeria at the teen age of 15!
For the records, those privy to the great listener-but-taciturn team leader, see Atiku like a volume of books that cannot be read or analysed in a hurry. They also said that his childhood attributes of patience, endurance, bravery and courage, business acumen and problem-solving, all stand him out, head above shoulders, amongst his peers.
Meanwhile, it has been chronicled that it was Atiku, as a young customs officer, who in 1984 seized, at the Murtala Muhammed airport in Lagos, the scandalous 53 allegedly ‘Naira-loaded suitcases being smuggled into the country with a royal stamp’, during the first anti-corruption leg of General Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State. The man Atiku was said to have stood his ground and refused to be compromised or intimidated. Yet, Atiku to some is corrupt; whereas he left the public service at 43, and never made it to the pinnacle of his career as Director General of Customs and Excise, before he voluntarily retired. Then, no one ever said Atiku was corrupt or overly ambitious as he paid three months’ salary advance to the Government in lieu of quitting public service early.
Having been mentored by the Great Tafida, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, under whose ideology Atiku and others found accommodation, and went ahead to become a two-term Vice President (1999-2007), the Waziri has since become a living legend and most sought-after politician in Nigeria. Hence, he stands tall as solid steel for the unification of a nation tethering delicately on an existential cliff, while battling insecurity, poverty and disunity.
With a huge wealth and wide range of socio-political ideas, coupled with a vast local and global understanding of events and issues, Atiku remains the dazzling damsel in Nigerian politics that many hate to love, or vice versa! Little wonder, no political story in Nigeria is complete without the Atiku touch or angle in three decades. For him, silence is not just golden, but also a story in itself.
For instance, those keen on Atiku adore and respect him wholesomely, while his opponents or detractors see nothing good coming from his Nazareth. Nonetheless, Atiku is a friend worth having and an enemy you don’t want to keep. He is a detailed politician – rooted in planning, research, strategy and clinical execution.
The PDP Presidential flagbearer, no doubt, is the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics and an embodiment of resourceful human capital asset, administrative creativity and innovative ideas. As a mercurial entrepreneurial industrialist and undying developmental education investor, Atiku the pragmatic politician is capable of lifting Nigeria uphill from her current deep slope of socio-economic woes, with a strong rope of actionable plans and hope.
At this juncture, what is desirable is for the Peoples Democratic Party to put its house in order, by resolving pending conflictual situations, cementing strained relationships and consolidating its achievements. The task to redeem and rescue our nation from the cold claws of banditry, brigandage, carnage, national electricity blackouts, perennial university closures, hyper-inflation, mass unemployment and state of general hopelessness must become the top priority of the next government. For it is obvious that the incumbent All Progressives Congress government has scored below par on national trust, equity, unity, poverty alleviation and wealth creation, security and communal development.
After all, a philosophical sage, Alexander Pope, once postulated that: “for forms of government, let the fools contest; whatever is best administered is best governed”. Let’s be guided to do the needful in the next presidential elections. Nigerians would wish to welcome a political bridge builder, social crack mender, economic pathfinder and a nationally tested reformist on anti-corruption, banking and telecommunications liberalism and expansion; pioneer of ATM credit cards and GSM telephones. Nigeria deserves her best at this critical time – for good and better are motionless words where best is present. Our country can no longer settle for less amidst the sea of abundance. Articulate Atiku is the oasis in Nigeria’s political desert, ever ready to quench the people’s thirst for good leadership and better administration.
Finally, a truly genuine leader is one that would not leave his people in the messy situation where he first met them. Patriotic Atiku has the fire of desire and a sense of direction to drive our nation to her long-aspired destination of boom and joy, contrary to the current APC’s unenviable reign of gloom and doom.
*** Chief Akinrogun Alaba Yusuf, an international communication strategist and publicist, wrote in from UK