By Baba A. Baba
Never in the history of Nigeria has the country been threatened by the inordinate ambition of one individual like Atiku Abubakar. Atiku, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has his party in tow in his quest to unravel the country. The unfortunate part is that Atiku and PDP, in their quest to destroy Nigeria, are presenting their evil mission as a salvage operation to rescue the country from a dictatorship that is the creation of their imagination.
Atiku, his associates, supporters and the PDP lost their minds after the presidential election, where he was resoundingly rejected by voters, who had to make the easy choice between a man around whom hangs the miasmic air of prebendal corruption; one that is transactional to the point of having no qualms about gifting national assets to his cronies versus a President that expressed the commitment to fight corruption. Since that rejection, they have all lost their minds. They have thrown caution to the wind and engaged in acts that are capable of jeopardizing the long-term stability of the country.
Interestingly, while voters might have rejected Atiku because of the taint of corruption around him, while they might have rejected the PDP because of its 16 years of criminal rule, but what Nigerians needed to be afraid of is the desperation on the part of Atiku and his party. The kind of desperation that has seen them undermine the very institutions upon which democracy is based.
Prior to the elections, they had done everything possible to erode the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) such that had Atiku himself won the election he would have himself face an acceptance problem because he had effectively pushed the narrative that the electoral body will not be fair. Himself and his party alleged everything from INEC taking directives from the president to some staff being his relations.
If demonizing INEC is bad then we need to find a description for the crime that this band of unpatriotic Nigerians committed during the Presidential election and its aftermath. Atiku and PDP hacked INEC servers. They not only chopped the servers but flaunted the proceeds of their crime to the extent that they tendered the same as evidence before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Although, one must apportion some blame to the government for not identifying the individuals that were directly responsible for the hack and arraigning them in court under the Cybercrime Act 2015.
This is not to say that the judiciary insulated from an Atiku that is rampaging all over the place out his frustration at losing the election. Atiku and the PDP have consistently harassed the judiciary. During his time as Vice President (in the course of his faceoff with his boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) he was widely acclaimed as a politician that relied on the judiciary to define and determine issues, something for which he was wrongly credited for deepening democracy. What was not known at that time was that he was compromising judicial officers with bribe – the shameful participation of the erstwhile Chief Judge, Walter Onnoghen, at his Dubai strategy meeting gave an inkling of the extent he must have compromised the judiciary for the chief judicial officer to do his bidding on that scale.
His inability to bribe judges like he was used to has seen him and his party amped their onslaught on the judiciary as seen in the way they harassed Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to recuse herself from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. With that singular achievement, Atiku has created a monster, the monster of the tyranny of the opposition, a situation whereby any allegation made by the opposition is deemed as the correct position.
Law enforcement and regulatory agencies are also being demonized. All any criminal has to do be above the law is to declare themselves as Atiku’s supporter; should they be arrested afterwards the PDP and Atiku will promptly issue statements about how there is a clamp down on the opposition. Agencies with regulatory functions are also no longer allowed to sanction their licensees since this would amount to suppression of free speech in the view of Atiku and his associates. Perhaps, the only regulatory action that the Atiku-PDP has not interpreted as clamp down on the opposition is the withdrawal of the Air Operating Licenses of some airline by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The foregoing pale into insignificant against the alarm raised by the military about how officers are being approached to overthrow a legitimately elected government. What kind of person will profess belief in democracy and then have their associates approach military officers to plot a coup? The Atiku-PDP combo has not been able to convincingly distance themselves from the unhealthy contacts with military officers especially when they can be seen daily engaging the questionable segment of the international community to allege that the incumbent government is illegitimate.
Since the military spurned the overture, at least cautioned officers against being drawn into treasonable plots, a more sinister phase of Atiku’s game plan appears to have been activated. He did warn in December of 2018 that “Unless Nigerians vote out the All Progressives Congress administration, killings by herdsmen will continue and ultimately spark series of ethnoreligious crises that will be irreversible.” Unfortunately, the records are there to show that there has been an upsurge in the number of pointless attacks against Nigerians since Atiku lost the election. Curiously, though, the quick pace at which the PDP and its presidential candidate issue statements about these attacks raise dark possibilities. The possibilities become more ominous against the backdrop of the concerns raised prior to the elections that a military coup was one of Atiku’s fallback options in the event that he was defeated.
Atiku’s defeat has not in any way lessened the threat he poses to Nigeria’s democracy. In the weeks before the election, a key plank of Atiku/PDP’s campaign was to saturate the public discourse space with utterances that manipulating people into thinking he already won the elections and that the actual polling was a mere formality. That ended badly or him. He lost. But the damage was that his supporters are now using that manipulated mindset to claim that he was rigged out. The PDP presidential candidate is back to applying the same failed tactic; only that this time, he is parading himself as the president in waiting – one that would be installed by the ruling of the Tribunal. For a man that claims to believe in the impartiality of the judiciary, this trick of manipulating public opinion to box the judiciary into a corner is the worst form of irresponsibility possible, even for someone as desperate as he is.
He has, by the interplay of all the pranks he has been pulling with INEC, military, regulatory agencies and the judiciary, lit the fuse for a potentially cataclysmic explosion for when the final verdict declares him the loser. The kind of instability that Atiku, with his party, is contriving is being made to have the semblance of spontaneity, the “unfurling of national anger” against a dictatorship. In reality, Atiku is priming the gullible ones among Nigerian to misdirect unnecessary anger against a duly elected government when they should be calling for the prosecution of those that crippled the country with years of misrule. Atiku is making the undiscerning see him as the solution when in reality he is eager to precipitate instability so that he would at the very least be brought back into government so that he will resume his personalization of national assets from where he stopped.
Only a few fortunate coincidences are saving the country from the meltdown desired by Atiku. The first is that he is the same ethnic nationality as President Buhari, else he would have used that to spark off the civil war he desperately wants. Atiku is also broadly from the same geographical base (north) as the president or we would have been having our own version of “north and south” war. Finally, they are both Muslims, which makes it impossible for Atiku to start a religious war. But even with these glaring realities, Atiku, through his associates, loyalists and party, continues to deepen the false division among Nigerians with the lies of “Fulanization” and “Islamization” agenda even when the ethno-sectarian dynamics could not have been different if he were made, to the horror of an average Nigerian, made the president.
The experience in the course of the past one year teaches us that Atiku and his party, the PDP, cannot be expected to be reasonable because they are lost minds that will wonder in Nigeria’s political firmament in perpetuity until they self-destruct or their time is up. We cannot expect logic from them, which places the responsibility of curtailing their excesses in the hands of the federal government. This responsibility must not be shirked by the Buhari Presidency for a desire to be politically correct and not be seen as hounding the opposition. Whoever breaks any law should be dealt with in accordance with that law.
Baba is a public affairs commentator and wrote from Abuja.