In politics, reputation is critical to the success or failure of a candidate at the polls. And so, advertising and indeed, branding are used relentlessly by politicians to fight for the mind of voters.
One of Nigeria’s most intelligent and most gifted politicians, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the Turakin Adamawa, is carrying a burden; a political cross of sorts placed upon him by a tiny but influential group of politicians, who are determined to use any means possible to destroy his ever-rising political influence. They are committed and sworn to doing anything, whatsoever; legitimate or illegitimate, moral or immoral, even the outright peddling of falsehood, to deny Nigerians the dividends of Atiku’s election to political office.
In this enterprise of stopping Atiku by any means, the former Vice President and stalwart of the APC’s traducers have deployed the practice of branding, the process of creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer’s mind mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. In communication, if you say a thing consistently, it goes into the consciousness of the people as the truth.
In Nigeria, all you need to do to destroy a politician’s electoral fortunes is to put on him or her, the toga of corruption, whether true or false. And that is the strategy of those who feel embittered and threatened by Atiku’s political pedigree – brand Atiku as corrupt and promote this theme of corruption consistently before the voting public – lie consistently to the public and destroy Atiku politically.
None of those painting Atiku as corrupt has produced any shred of evidence that he is indeed corrupt. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and members of his kitchen cabinet, who are credited with placing this corruption tag on Atiku in vengeance over the Turaki’s truncating of his (Obasanjo’s) Third Term bid, investigated Atiku in Nigeria and virtually in every country of the world. But everywhere Obasanjo and his henchmen went, Atiku was given a clean bill of health. No corrupt act was found to have been perpetrated by Atiku in Nigeria or in any country of the world. No court in Nigeria or in any nation on earth has found Atiku guilty of any iota of corruption.
But still, the stop-Atiku-cabal continues to advertise and brand Atiku as corrupt. Their reason is simple: If Atiku stopped Obasanjo from getting an unconstitutional Third Term in Aso Rock, then Atiku must not be allowed to enter Aso Rock.
Even those who did not plot Obasanjo’s Third Term bid but who see Atiku’s growing influence as a threat to their own ambition have now joined the Atiku-is-corrupt symphony in order to dislodge the former Vice President politically and realise their own ambition.
Obasanjo, while President of Nigeria, hounded then Bayelsa State governor, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, impeached and jailed him because of corruption. Obasanjo also went after then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, arrested him, tried and jailed him also for corruption. A rampaging Obasanjo went after Atiku, searched the entire world for evidence to nail him but could not find any evidence to show that he (Atiku) committed any crime or act of corruption whatsoever, in Nigeria or in any country on earth.
Considering Obasanjo’s yet-to-be diffused anger towards Atiku for his (Atiku’s) almost single-handed truncation of Obasanjo’s infamous Third Term bid, if the Turaki was remotely corrupt, Obasanjo would have given him something far worse than the Alamieyeisigha and Tafa Balogun treatment. As the Americans would say, Obasanjo would have eaten Atiku for dinner. That Atiku is able to move freely, even with Obasanjo still seething with anger towards him is because Atiku’s hands are clean.
Atiku’s political opponents who are clearly intimidated by and envious of his never-fading political influence and goodwill among Nigerians have consistently floated the false narrative that Atiku is wanted in the United States for criminal activities, bordering on money laundering. This evil rumour, which has circulated for very long in Nigeria despite Atiku’s refutation of the allegation, was finally dispelled in November 2016 when the spokesman of the United States Department of Justice, Mr. Peter Carr, said, in response to an enquiry by The Punch Newspaper, that the US had no case against Atiku.
In an email sent to The Punch, which was reported in the newspaper’s edition of November 20, 2016, Carr wrote: “Thank you for reaching out to us. I have checked the public court records, and they do not show cases filed against a defendant named Atiku Abubakar.”
In his decades-old involvement in politics, Atiku has always come out tops, as the leader with the brightest ideas on governance and policy. His views always resonate with the wishes of the people. His policy documents are the best articulated and that Nigeria continues to grapple with poor electric power supply is because the Atiku plan has not been implemented in Nigeria. Atiku’s power strategy is the construction of smaller power generating plants all over Nigeria to serve clusters of people in the areas where these plants are located. Nigeria’s current power strategy has continued to invest and waste billions of dollars on white-elephant power infrastructure that have continued to produce darkness, decades after.
Which of Atiku’s opponents can match the Turakin Adamawa’s job creation acumen and record? Which of them has Atiku’s pedigree in business and financial management? Which, among them, can equal Atiku’s track-record in human resources development? Are these not some of the most important qualities a person, aspiring to national leadership should possess?
Nigerians should look at the origin of the Stop-Atiku-Project and see it for what it is – a vengeful and selfish reputation-destruction mission embarked upon by a tiny but influential group of envious politicians embittered by Atiku’s intimidating track-record of enviable achievements, and his growing capacity to sweep the polls in any free and fair electoral contest.
Atiku’s traducers should play fair in politics. Politics is majorly a contest of ideas; and the superior ideas captured in manifestoes and policies, win the votes. They should come up with governance ideas that will best Atiku’s own. For it is in the purveyance of great ideas that Atiku holds the ace. Atiku’s traducers should not resort to lies, character assassination, conspiracy theories and hitting below the belt to destroy the man. Discerning Nigerians are already beginning to see through the smokescreen and the tide is now turning the way of Atiku.
For Atiku’s traducers, I leave them with the immortal words of William Cullen Bryant; that “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again. The eternal years of God are hers; by error wounded, writhes in pain, and dies among her worshippers.”
• Udenna Orji, writer, businessman and political analyst lives in Abuja.