There is a saying that you cannot fool all the people all the time. Although the sentence is widely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that attribution is still contested. There is no evidence or proof that Lincoln made the statement. Regardless of the source, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, still believes he and other ageing politicians in Nigeria can fool all the people all the time. They perceive citizens as gullible people who can be deceived all the time.
The extent to which politicians can fool all Nigerian voters before and during the 2023 presidential election remains will soon be put to test.
On Tuesday, September 27, Atiku told South-East leaders that, if he was elected President in 2023, he would help a candidate from the region to become President at the end of (Atiku’s) own tenure. As the leaders were chewing over that half-baked proposal, Atiku extended a similar offer to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike. Atiku told Wike on Thursday, September 29, that he (Atiku) would support Wike’s presidential ambition in 2027.
Atiku’s propositions are delusional. They are narcissistic, self-centred and egotistical. In one breath, he said he would support a presidential candidate from the South-East but only after he (Atiku) had served as President. In another gasp, he offered the same dud cheque to Wike. Again, the offer of support to Wike would be actualized only after Atiku had been elected and served as President. What a smart and ambitious man Atiku must be.
The message is that, if the people in the South-East wanted to produce a President in their lifetime, that opportunity would only emerge after Atiku’s term had ended. It is this kind of arrogance, self-importance and overconfidence that offends voters across the country, particularly people in the South-East.
There is something of a theatre and disingenuousness in the proposals Atiku made to the South-East and Wike. Atiku’s vaulting presidential ambition has driven him to make farcical promises about who would succeed him regarding a presidential position he has not even won. How preposterous.
Atiku’s weird promises showcase a desperate man frantically eager to become President. Evident in those promises are all the traits of a fox – craftiness, stealth, slipperiness and unpredictability.
Atiku lacks the power or authority to confer the position of President on a candidate from the South-East or on Wike. Everyone knows the PDP has imploded and turned into a dysfunctional political party dragged in different directions by internal disagreements.
It is easy to understand where Atiku stands on the question of leadership. He believes that, in Nigeria, the capacity for leadership is not open to public contestation. He thinks that, within our geographic space, leaders are born in the same manner that servants are born. Leaders must lead and servants must serve forever. No one must change what nature has ordained. It is this primeval and supercilious mindset that informed Atiku’s boldness to make propositions he did not have the right or strength to tender.
Atiku’s political trajectory is clear. He has moved from one political party to another in his eagerness to be given a platform to contest the presidential position. In the PDP, he served two terms as Vice-President and came so close to clutching that elusive high office.
For all the years he served as President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Vice-President, Atiku spoke like a monarch, behaved like a monarch, moved around like a monarch, travelled like a monarch and walked the streets like a monarch. Contrary to public perceptions, Atiku likes to be seen as a humble, obedient, God-fearing politician on a mission to rescue Nigeria from the jaws of financial sharks; a politician determined to disentangle the country from the vice grip of political cowboys; a reformed politician on a special mission to save Nigeria from the precipice of political disintegration.
Unfortunately for Atiku, Nigerians have seen enough of the underbelly of politicians to the extent they can no longer take their words seriously. The more baseless promises politicians make, the more they expose their teachery, their duplicity and the void in their lives. That is why Peter Obi in his modest ways is enjoying unprecedented cross-party support across the country because of his unpretentiousness and his down-to-earth approach to national problems.
The existential problem that confronts Atiku is that many people are disenchanted with the poor quality of leaders that have emerged since Nigeria achieved political independence in 1960. Six decades of post-independence Nigeria have not improved the economy, the socioeconomic conditions of citizens, the quality of higher education, crumbling infrastructure, poor healthcare and the terrible condition of roads. Certainly, all is not well with Nigeria, regardless of what a political optimist such as Atiku Abubakar might say.
Throughout human history, ambition has defined the rise and fall of politicians. While some politicians have ridden ambition (like a horse) to their early grave, others have seen ambition take them to the high point of glory. While some politicians have carefully restrained their ambition so that it does not jeopardize their fortunes, other politicians see ambition as an irresistible piece of brown chocolate cake they must consume at any cost.
The odd “marriage of inconvenience” between Atiku and Obasanjo was disrupted for eight years by a clash of unrestrained political ambitions. Both men knew they possessed high political ambitions but they did not know how to manage or control their character flaws in the interest of the nation. That was the beginning of the collapse of the relationship between Obasanjo and Atiku. Atiku is yet to learn from that sour experience.
Atiku’s presidential ambition was sustained on the belief that the vice-presidential position he held would serve as the springboard from which he would grab the post of President after Obasanjo had left office. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Atiku was inconsolable. He calculated wrongly. In politics, things never go according to plans.
If Atiku couldn’t read Obasanjo’s mind for eight years, why would he expect the South-East to believe that he would support the region’s presidential candidate after he (Atiku) might have served out his imprecise tenure? By making the offer to the South-East, Atiku laid a sneaky trap for political leaders in the region. The South-East is not a region that would easily be caught in a trap laid by an ambitious politician such as Atiku.
Atiku is a man in a hurry. So are people in the South-East. A delay in correcting longstanding injustices directed against the South-East can be an everlasting delay.
What is obvious now is that Atiku has not been forthright or sincere in swinging within three days the same artificial carrot he dangled before the eyes of South-East leaders and Wike.
People in the South-East have heard such poppycock promises before now. No one is fooled. Would people in Atiku’s region agree that he should delay his presidential ambition till someone from the South-East has been elected President? If the North would not accept that proposal, then there is no reason to expect the South-East to agree to wait till Atiku has served as President.
Atiku should take his message to his own part of the country where people still believe they have the divine right to produce Nigeria’s Presidents perpetually. Their appetite for power is insatiable. And power, like money, has no marginal utility. The more they hold on to power, the more they want to hold it forever.
The South-East has been suppressed and marginalized for years. Waiting for Atiku is not an option now.