Every time he gets set to run for the highest office in the land, some invisible but sturdy obstacles are rolled on the way. His political opponents and their friends will reel off a legion of reasons why he should not run. Some will simply say in a most damning manner that he is not fit for the job; a former vice-president not qualified for the number one job?
He has been derided for changing parties- as if he is the only notable politician who does this routinely. He has just jumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) ship. There are speculations that he plans to rejoin the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That common action has attracted attacks and derisive jokes.
On the social media has suddenly appeared a caricature of the Turaki Adamawa, smiling, in a doctor’s clinic, a heart monitoring equipment strapped onto his chest and a blood pressure cutt on his arm. The caption: “Atiku undergoing medicals at PDP Headquarters in Abuja. On free transfer.” Some soccer buffs at work, no doubt.
It is, I dare say, a big credit to his tenacity and sense of purpose that Atiku, like a marathoner, stays the course. He keeps throwing his hat in the ring.
There seems to be a problem of perception, his minders may have told him. He recently challenged anybody who insists that he is corrupt to come out with the proof or remain quiet forever. Again, to his credit, nobody has accepted that simple challenge.
Atiku plans to pick the PDP ticket and give President Muhammadu Buhari a run for his money in 2019. Buhari has not said he will run? Will Atiku get the ticket? Nobody can tell, for sure.
As usual, there have been suggestions, propositions and postulations on how the Turaki should go about his life-long ambition. Of all such suggestions, the most striking seems to be from former President Goodluck Jonathan. He asked Atiku to beg former President Olusegun Obasanjo – Atiku was the vice – president in the Obasanjo presidency – if he must realise his ambition. Obasanjo and Atiku had a turbulent relationship that almost cost the former a fresh tenure.
The story is told of how Obasanjo grovelled before Atiku to get the governors’ support ahead of the crucial PDP convention. Those who claim to know Baba Iyabo closely – they are few, I am told – have sworn that was sacrilegious. The Ebora Owu, they stress, would surely take his pound of flesh in a bigger measure. He takes no prisoner.
The Jonathan advice sparked a round of questions and speculations. Why should Atiku beg Obasanjo? What is his offence? Does anybody need Obasanjo’s endorsement? Will he speak for potential voters? Is the PDP ticket in Obasanjo’s pocket? Did Jonathan prostrate for Obasanjo when he wanted to run?
The questions are so many. Some of them are ridiculous; others simply absurd. Besides, many have been suggesting how a meeting of Obasanjo and Atiku will go, if it ever happens. Here is one of such imaginary scenarios of such a meeting:
Obasanjo springs up from a seat in his expansive sitting room as soon as Atiku is ushered in. He smiles briefly and offers a handshake. Atiku throws himself at him for a hug.
“Please, sit down. Good to see you again. I’m sorry I couldn’t give an earlier appointment. I’ve been travelling. The problem in Zimbabwe, Kenya and so many others. Anyway, what brings you this time?”
“Baba, I thank you for your time, for receiving me despite your tight schedule. I won’t take much of your precious time sir. I bring peace. You’re our leader; our pillar. We do not think it will be wise to take any important step without informing you and carrying you along. In this country today, nobody can say you don’t count. You are not just an ordinary person; you’re an elder statesman. And…”
Obasanjo cuts in, raising his right hand. “Please, go into the specific. What exactly do you want? That long introduction seems to be confusing. Straight to the point.”
“Baba, I’m running and I wish to get your blessing.”
Smiling, Obasanjo looks straight at Atiku, his visage betraying some incredulity. “You ’re running? Where to? Why? Is anybody pursuing you?”
“No Baba. I’m planning to contest the presidency on the platform of our great party, the PDP. And I am honoured and privileged to be telling you this so that I can receive your blessing. Former President Jonathan and many other eminent Nigerians have advised me to visit you and settle whatever differences we may have. This is my mission sir.”
“Hee he. Jonathan asked you to come here? Am I in their party? Please, I’m a statesman. I announced it that I’m no longer a politician. When I resigned from PDP or whatever they call themselves, I didn’t do corner corner o. I tore their card. So, if that boy, em…eeem…eeeem… Jona, is telling you to come and you’re coming here, is he sincere? I remain a farmer and a statesman. One million Atikus can’t change that whether they are running or walking or flying. I’m sorry, Mr Atiku.”
“You seem to be getting it all wrong sir. I’m not asking you to come out of retirement and campaign for me. No. I’m only informing you and asking you to bless me so that I can succeed.”
“Again, I’m not a politician. Are you listening? I’m too honest and frank to remain in that circle – of lies, backstabbing, intrigues and corruption. Deceit. No. I’m done. My politics now is Nigeria. Anybody who says Nigeria will not rise and move forward, I am ready to go konkobilo with that person. So, oga, that is my position.”
“Baba, I salute your sincerity – and courage. You are not the type who will deceive anybody to score cheap political points. You’re blunt. There are many of us in the race. That is why I crave your endorsement. You must have an opinion on this important matter.”
“Yes. I have heard that some of you are warming up. I’m not the type that fears. I have my opinion on each and everyone of you. The other boy (wetin be im name now o?). Obasanjo scratches it aggressively. He looks up and continues.
“Makarfi. Yes; I hear he too wants to contest. I know he used to be governor of Kaduna. He was a senator. And now chairman of what they call Caretaker Committee. Hmmm…
“Sule Lamido is my boy, but dem say he get baggage. And you know Buhari is a soldier. He will simply ambush him and that will be the end of the matter.
“Buhari sef. I said so that he will not steal. He will fight corruption and jail all the thieves making noise and gallivanting all over the place. But Buhari may not do well in the economy. I said so. No be so?”
“Baba, I thank you for your insight. The words of our elders… . Do I take it that I have your blessing to pick the PDP ticket for 2019?”
Hmm…hmmmm…hmm (Obasanjo clears his thrioat). “PDP my foot. I don’t care who gets the PDP ticket. Dat one na dem toro. I’m not a member and I don’t plan to be one. Let them sell it or give it or dash it to whoever they like. Me o, Olusegun Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo, I don’t care. A statesman I will remain. I thank you for visiting.”
A crowd of reporters and photographers have set up a camp outside the door. As Obasanjo and his guest emerge from the main house, they spring up onto their feet and rushed towards them.
“Baba, good afternoon. How are you sir?”
Obasanjo, smiling without showing his teeth:”I dey kampe, as you can see.”
“How did the meeting go?”
“Which meeting? No meeting o. You know Christmas will soon be here. The former VP came to wish me merry Christmas. Is anything wrong with that? And I wish you all Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.”
After a handshake with Obasanjo, Atiku walks briskly towards his car, adjusting his agbada. The reporters rush to catch up with him.
“Sir, how did it go? Is it true you came to tell Baba to support your ambition? Did he promise to back you?”
“Baba has spoken and that is all. I have no comments – for now. Have a nice day, my friends.”
An aide opens the door. Atiku jumps in and the car rolls out of the large compound.
Gbenga Omotoso contributed to this post