Atiku Underestimated OBJ at His Own Peril

by Abiodun Ladepo

Those who recruited Olusegun Obasanjo to run for President in 1999 are now biting their fingers and lips for the grave error of judgment that they committed. Having just been released from Abacha’s gulag, the furthest thing from OBJ’s mind was becoming president again. But the clique that robbed MKO Abiola of the presidency had to find a way to assuage the angry feelings of the Yoruba people. Ernest Shonekan, the hapless stooge that IBB installed in order to placate the Yorubas had been kicked off by Abacha. So, when the dust settled a little and it was time to get back to real democracy, the clique that hitherto controlled power in the country faced the reality of the time: a Yoruba must emerge president or else the country would break up. They scurried the length and breadth of Nigeria and could not find a Yoruba better suited than OBJ. He had been there before. He understood the military and would be able to keep the soldiers out of government for a while. Being in jail had subdued him. He was cowed, tired, defeated and malleable. Above all, he was broke. The clique reasoned that it could prop OBJ up there in Aso Rock with its funds and connections, and then rule Nigeria by proxy. They formed this humongous political party called PDP, full of all kinds of cabals from time immemorial – those whose stock-in-trade was the fleecing of Nigeria, and they imposed one of their own – Atiku Abubakar – ( the man that OBJ had never met before going to prison) as the Vice Presidential candidate.

The arrangement was excellent, at least on paper. Except that OBJ could not believe his luck. Here was a man who was perpetually harangued by his own people for handing over power to Shehu Shagari (a Northerner who later used that power to allow his friends in the NPN to loot the country) over the Supreme Court protestation of Obafemi Awolowo (a Southerner who most people believed would have been a much better president) in1979.

The clique pumped money into the OBJ/Atiku campaign. They schemed out and bought off other candidates in the PDP primaries. Then they rigged the general elections to give OBJ and Atiku the presidency. Ask Muhammadu Buhari. He is still smarting from that “loss.”

Now that the clique, through the PDP captured the presidency, their plan seemed to have come to fruition. They could now resume the stealing of public funds. But they did not reckon with OBJ’s pride and desire to redeem and secure a different legacy than the one he wrote for himself in 1979. OBJ was not about to become anybody’s lapdog. He was not about to be burned a second time. He almost went to jail during IBB’s reign when he called on the toothy general to “give SAP a human face.” He was jailed by Abacha for openly criticizing his government. If he suffered those ignominies as a private citizen, he reasoned that he could do better with power now in his hands.

Except Theophilus Danjuma whom he appointed to the Defense ministry, virtually all of his Ministers were hand-picked by the leadership of PDP – meaning that OBJ would now have to work with people whose probity he doubted. But he accepted the price and proceeded to govern, using the time allotted to weed out in a gradual process, those canker worms that had eaten (and continued to eat) into the Nation’s fabric. OBJ knew that before long, the big shots in PDP would catch on to his plans, so he began by eliminating them first. One of the things they teach you about battles and wars in military academies is the need to decapitate your enemy by first eliminating his Command and Control assets. That leaves the rest of the army in relative disarray and you can then waltz through their ranks.

Well, OBJ started by scheming out the leadership of PDP both in the National Assembly and party National Executive Committee. Those that he figured were potential trouble makers; those that might spearhead a future impeachment plot against him and those that were corrupt beyond redemption, OBJ blackmailed them all into oblivion. Today, at the helms of the party, are men and women loyal to OBJ either because they believe in his cause, or they are mildly corrupt and he is blackmailing them to follow his leadership. You can not get them all.

He had known for a while that Atiku was one of the most corrupt entities known to mankind. Atiku had stolen so much money and bought so many PDP party members that OBJ would never have lasted six months had he frontally taken on Atiku before now. During their first term, Atiku controlled all the PDP governors. If you wanted anything in Nigeria, you spoke to Atiku or one of his aides. He was busy using Nigeria’s money to buy Nigeria. Some call it “laundering” or “parking” government money in your personal or business accounts and skimming off the interests. Some say you just undervalue a national corporation, invite your friends from overseas to buy it and get the kickback later. Some say you just take government money and spend it on yourself. Nigerian leaders find all forms of creative ways to steal from their people.

The majority of PDP governors, all with corruption ingrained in them, danced to Atiku’s tune. He, in turn, doled out money – stolen government money – to those governors and states’ PDP party officials. Not since MKO Abiola had any single politician been so generous with “his” own money.

Thousands of millions of naira belonging to the people of Nigeria went toward securing Atiku’s presidential bid. And therein lay the problem. OBJ’s anti-corruption crusade was at its apogee. He could barely contain his disdain for the VP who personified corruption. Whenever OBJ looked up the word CORRUPTION in his dictionary, it was always illustrated with Atiku Abubakar’s picture. No way in hell would he hand over government in 2007 to a person so grossly ineligible to rule Nigeria. And since Atiku had invested so much in his presidential bid, there was no way in hell he would allow OBJ to shove him out of the party he helped form. The battle was now joined.

When OBJ formed his various anti-corruption organizations, including the EFCC, Atiku was in full support, oblivious to the ambush ahead. OBJ knew all along that it was only a matter of time before greed, the Achilles’ heel of all power-hungry rogues, did Atiku in. So, when US Congressman Jefferson got nabbed in the States for bribery and corruption and he implicated our own vice president, OBJ feigned surprise. He let his deputy stew in his own goose while the FBI raided Atiku’s home and dragged his name through international mud. Just as Atiku began to feel some respite from the Jefferson case, OBJ unleashed the wrath of the EFCC on him. And from what we have come to know about the EFCC, if the organization is after you, you are as good as caught because it will not relent.

We now know that Atiku’s hand has been caught in the cookie jars of NDTV, iGate and PTDF. Even the party that Atiku helped form (the PDP), is now asking him to refund N500 million, supposedly contributed to the party by various people, and stolen by the VP. Atiku’s former business partner, Congressman Jefferson has, characteristically, snitched on his buddy, sending a letter to OBJ detailing all their nefarious activities. I will not bore you with the cascade of detailed information on the many cases against Atiku. All you have to do is Google the name Atiku Abubakar on the Internet and you will be educated.

But for greed, Atiku might have gotten away with his loot and his reputation intact. Had he not wanted to usurp the delicate political balance by exercising his inalienable right to contest the presidency, after serving eight years as VP in a nascent democratic dispensation that still strongly requires a rotational presidency (the East or t

he South-South in 2007), he might have walked away with all that loot and be respected all over Nigeria. Where else on earth would someone linked to so many corruption scandals (at home and abroad) still stand stoically and fight? Only in Nigeria would someone so tainted would continue to receive such vain sympathies and platitudes from sections of the media.

I have heard that Atiku pays his hirelings very well. Go and read The Guardian’s Dr. Reuben Abati’s various phony attempts to be impartial in commenting on the OBJ/Atiku crisis. You would have to be daft to not know that he is another of Atiku’s apologists. The sad part though is that he desecrates the pages of The Guardian with articles that bend, twist and shade the truth. “Conscience, nurtured by truth” has been The Guardian’s motto since its inception. Abati needs to shed his umbilical cord to Dr. Shuaib Adinoyi-Ojo, another erstwhile reporter of The Guardian who is on Atiku’s payroll, and write with a little less bias. Then people like me would take him seriously. Rather than use his newspaper column to berate OBJ’s high-handedness, Abati should practice some investigative journalism. He should use the vast resources of his newspaper to help us get to the bottom of the truth, instead of rehashing press conference releases by both sides. And that goes for all the other media practitioners who have taken sides too. The sides they take should be informed by the strength of the evidence they glean from their own INDEPENDENT investigations, not what each party sends to them.

Some in the media, like Abati, want us to believe that government has ground to a halt because OBJ is dissipating energy on trying to remove Atiku. I beg to disagree. Government is working on full steam. OBJ just traveled outside the country on official trip. The National Assembly is at work. All Ministers and ministries are at work. The only person who has not been gainfully employed since he was found to be a thief is Atiku. And he needs to go. Besides, spending energy on removing a corrupt but powerful VP is good for the country. It will go a long way to legitimize the fight against corruption and serve as deterrent to future VPs who might be inclined to dip their hands in government coffers.

Atiku himself knows that he needs to go. He just can not find a face-saving way of going quietly. He knows that the sycophants around him have taken his money and led him astray. All he is doing now is to avoid having to cough up so much money that he stole, like Tafa Balogun did. He is also trying to avoid going to jail like Tafa Balogun. Atiku has to fight not only for himself, but for a discreditable array of friends like Mike Adenuga, Umar Pariya and Musa Garba, all of whom he used as conduits to siphon the Nation’s money.

President Atiku? Forget it. Even in a place as corrupt as my fatherland, Nigeria, it will be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Atiku to succeed OBJ. Abubakar Atiku and his cohorts started fighting back too late. They have perilously underestimated retired General Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo. Even if Atiku is not impeached, he is forever, politically damaged.

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Yomi Dawotola September 19, 2006 - 8:09 am

My comment is directed to Mr Sanjo Emmanuel. Dr Abati writes as a journalist. He chairs the editorial board of the Guardian Newspapers. There is nothing wrong in his readers expecting a balanced and objective commmentries from him. I have noticed less of these from him. Mr Abiodun Ladepo is not informing us in his capacity as a journalist. If he is biased, that should be expected. Dr Abati personifies The Guardian newspaper. He commands a large followership because of the medium he represents. The truth is Dr Abati has been more critical of Obasanjo.

For now let us allow the little Machiavellians to get destroyed. The time for the destruction of the big Machiavellians will soon come.

Sanjo Emmanuel September 17, 2006 - 5:37 pm

You must be naive or very daft to believe that the business of governance has not been affected by the skirmish between the president and his VP. Tell me would it be right for me to label you an Obasanjo apologist on the basis of your write up? You have chosen to label those who do not write as you wish as Atiku's apologist. Shame on you. Your attack on Reuben Abati to say the least is strange and smacks of bad blood. Are you frustrated that Abati has more readership, visibility and recognition than yourself? I do not always agree with Abati's view point but to infer that he is on Atiku's payroll sounds very much like the philosophy of one Fani-Kayode: if you do not see the divinity of the president then you must be evil. imagine your arrogance in saying that people like you do not take Abati seriously. I retort that you are not the standard. By the way who are you and people like you that we should not take Abati seriously until you do? What arrogance. Ofcourse You are free to say you do not take Abati seriously but to arrogate to your self a class ("people like me") is nauseting.

Let it be clear to you that most clear thinking people do not believe that either Atiku or Obasanjo is telling the whole truth and most believe that both are rogues. Dr. Abati captures this view more that you do.

Benny3000 September 17, 2006 - 11:58 am

One major problem with many self-appointed 'analysts' who reside outside Nigeria is the false assumption that they are very much conversant with political events at home. The writer of this article is a glaring example of one such 'analyst'. To him, OBJ is the passionate leader with zero tolerance for corruption while Atiku's middle name could have been "Alhaji Corruption". Those who refuse to follow Obasanjo sheepishly, who attempt to raise questions about OBJ's saintly stand, (like Abati and a crop of other patriotic writers and commentators), are tagged Atiku's paid hirelings. Such 'diasporan analysts', having lost touch with current political realities in their homeland, can't see the contradictions in the president's anti-corruption battles and the many stains dotting his 'immaculate' robe. Ghana-Must-Go bags stuffed with raw cash used to bribe National Assembly members, OBJ's late wife's family members buying up government houses in Ikoyi, Obasanjo's son, Muyiwa, paying cash for a 500,000 house in the US, the "frugal" president's donation of cars and cash to his mistresses (some of whom are other people's wives!)

Atiku should be impeached, tried and jailed if he's guilty of embezzlement. But we should all look beneath the facade of the Mr Clean image the president is presenting to the public.

In any case, why is the president making all these revelatiions now? Why is he hunting all those who ensured the demise of his infamous third-term campaign?

Paul Odu (USA) September 16, 2006 - 8:07 pm

Honestly speaking, Nigerians never bargained for what they are witnessing from Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku. Obasanjo has been preaching chastity while at the same time embacking on dubious and corrupt practices since he came to power in 1999. The current indictments is just the beginning of the many atrocities and corruption extravaganza that these men have indulged in since coming to power. For example, both men have a well equipped university in their respective State and they are both multi-billionaire having enriched themselves from questionable activities. For God sake, where did they get their billions from? This is not the kind of men or leaders that Nigerians need at this critical stage of its political and economic emancipation. The simple conclusion to be drawn from the present bravado between them is that they are both very corrupt and should be impeached together because of what each camp has been dishing out to the Nigerian public in the past ten days. There is no option for them in this present show of criminality than for them to go out in shame. In their almost 8 years in power, they have not done anything meaningful to improve the state of deplorable infrastructures in the country, even when Nigeria is making billions of Dollars from oil. Rather, they chose to divert the oil funds into their private accounts, and the most shameful aspect of it all, is to hear that the president used public money to buy a brand new car for his girfriend. Nigerians, what else are you expecting from these men? They are not competent to give Nigerians a credible leader in the coming elections because you just cannot give what you do not have.


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