BY Osita Okechukwu
His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, with his sustained umbrage on the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), His Excellency Atiku Abubukar, could be likened to an ancient masquerade in my hometown, Eke, Enugu State.
The masquerade, by name, Odomagana, comes out once in a four-year cycle, exactly akin to Nigeria’s general elections cycle. Odomagana has its own aura, fear encapsulated personae, and is said to, among other prowess, empowered by the gods to set agenda for good governance, power of reward and sanction of good leaders, and castigation of bad leaders.
To fortify this aura, oral history posits that the masquerade has the ultimate power to kill people. The story has it that with the advent of Christianity some converts to Christianity started doubting openly the powers of Odomagana to kill. In defense of its powers, Odomagana said that those doubting his powers to reward good leaders and powers to sanction or kill, are ignoramuses. Odomagana cited one example of the person he killed, and in defense, the Christian converts challenged Odomagana by pointing out that the dead person the masquerade mentioned, was actually killed by roadside tree with pins.
In reply, Odomagana said that whoever dies in the course of running from him was killed by Odomagana. It boasted that as long it was the one who triggered and stoked the fear which made the man to run, the person was incontrovertibly his victim.
Accordingly, it will not be wrong to state unequivocally that Wike’s Odomagana drove Atiku into the Ethnic-Goof, a thunderous fire raging in the political firmament. Atiku’s Ethnic-Goof some pundits have betted, will be raging beyond the 25th February, 2023 presidential election.
When Wike started chastising Atiku for violently breaching the rotation convention of the PDP and by extension the Federal Character principle in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, some of us warned of the looming danger ahead. The fear is that many will quietly vote with their feet against the PDP as it is grossly unfair for a Fulani to succeed a Fulani in a plural and multi-ethnic society like our dear country.
Atiku’s Ethnic-Goof maybe adjudged an offshoot of a misjudgment, targeted at stopping Governor Wike. The story which emanated from Atiku quarters has it that the initial plan was for Atiku to support Obi and he later reneged because of Wike. Wike will not be president and Wike will not be vice president; the true origin of Wike’Odomagana.
According to this credible source of information, narrated on television by many, among whom, was my friend and his spokesman, eloquent Daniel Bwala. Many still confirmed that he threw his hat into the ring when information reached him that His Excellency Nyesom Wike was warming up. Many had asked, is this a cogent reason to manipulate, mangle and deliberately breach the constitution of your party and that of Federal Character principle of our dear country? Some had asked why Atiku didn’t mobilise his enormous war chest for Obi, which could have achieved better result. Atiku supporting Obi could have guaranteed PDP’s victory and made him unquestionably a statesman. These are his initial unforced errors, plus this painful ethnic card. These errors and minuses may deny him victory, talk less of being part of possible runoff being predicted.
One other possible outcome of Atiku’s Ethnic-Goof is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Peter Obi who are beneficiaries of the rotation convention, will easily garner the votes that genuine patriots of North and South will deny Atiku.
For instance, is it possible that the APC Northern Governors Forum that on June 4, 2022, post our presidential primary election, proclaimed publicly in a statement that in the interest of corporate existence of our country, national loyalty and integration, that a southerner will succeed President Buhari, will vote along the ethnic gospel according to Atiku?
“We, therefore, wish to strongly recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari that the search for a successor as the APC’s presidential candidate be limited to our compatriots from the southern states.”
The APC Northern Governors Forum quoted above are most likely to fulfill their promise by not voting for Atiku.
It is on record that pundits had before this gamble cautioned Atiku to be careful because he never aligned with the North. They argued that as far as northern political elite are concerned, he has never aligned with the North, so they don’t know what gives Atiku the impression that the northerners are in one dormitory and he will railroad them to the polling booths to vote for only him. This is big goof and an unforced error.
Atiku’s unforced errors are legendary, critical one of which is rejection of Wike because of his brash and belligerent nature. It is an error because Atiku has had the best and bitter times as vice president, which show that no matter how brash or belligerent one is, his powers as vice president is dependent on the latitude of powers assigned to him by Mr President.
The pundits maintain that northern voters are the most sophisticated and some segments did not even vote for Buhari who had constantly in four successive presidential elections, demonstrated Vote-Bank of 12 million votes.
Like Odomagana, surely Wike and his battalion have denied Atiku the stronghold of the PDP – Southeast and South-south. And ethnic-goof has the negative potential to cut off his votes in the Southwest.
For the truism is that every political party has its strongholds, and the North is not that of the PDP. In the same vein, every political actor has cult following located somewhere. That Atiku has more or less lost the base of his party, which is the Southeast and South-south, is not in doubt, no matter how sweet the spin.
Secondly, going down memory lane, when he joined politics in the late 80s, unlike Buhari, he didn’t identify with his fellow northern political elite. He went to the Patriotic Front, whilst the northerners floated ANC. And when the former President Ibrahim Babangida decreed two political parties, he joined SDP, and the northerners mostly joined NRC. The same scenario played out in 1999, when the northern elite formed the defunct APP, and Atiku joined PDP. Therefore, it will not be so easy for him to align seamlessly, especially when his bosom friend, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is in the race. Their permutation is that he may not be in the runoff, especially without Wike and his battalion. It simply means that Wike’s masquerade drove Atiku to Ethnic-Goof.
The question is, if his campaign is going on well, and Wike in harmony with Atiku, there is no way a veteran and consummate politician like Atiku will drive off tangent into utter desperation and publicly goof, by inter alia,saying:
“I know the whole of this country. I have built bridges across this country.
“I think what the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the North, who also understands the other parts of Nigeria and who has been able to build bridges across the rest of the country.
“This is what the northerner needs.
‘He doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate or an Igbo candidate.
“This is what the northerner needs.
“I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
The ex-vice-president stated clearly and undoubtedly in a viral video.
Moreover, my worry over Atiku’s Ethnic-Goof as one watched his spin doctors battle in defense of the indefensible, is how bad his dear wife, Her Excellency Titi Abubukar felt in sighting her lovely hubby out of desperation consigned her people, the Yoruba, to the dustbin. I know that my sister Jenifer may feel the same, to sight on television the man he shares children with, consigned her people, Ndigbo, into the dustbin of electoral history. This is especially when it is South’s loco.
Therefore, it means that there are many casualties of Wike’s Odomagana, including his running mate, His Excellency, Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta State. Atiku Ethnic-Goof regrettably has created a big burden for Okowa, as he will find it difficult to campaign wholeheartedly for Ethnic-Goof in Asaba, Enugu, Abakiliki, Owerri, Awka, Port Harcourt and many Southern states.
Even the Arewa Joint Committee that organized the event via their Chairman, Malam Murtala Aliyu cautioned: “The exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is extremely dangerous, and the nation is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.”
• Okechukwu is a foundation member of APC and VON DG