Yes, It’s All About Atiku

Yes, It’s All About Atiku

“This is not about Atiku Abubakar. It is about democracy, rule of law and the future of Nigeria. Let no one be deceived about the ultimate objective of these anti-democratic forces. They are unrelenting in their desire to create a maximum leader for Nigeria who will turn our dear country into his private estate and make our strong and dynamic people his vassals…Throughout human history, leaders who in their delusion equate themselves with the state have ended up in ignominy and at great cost to their countries. We all have a duty to prevent this tragic fate for our country.”

Oh yes, it is about Atiku. It is about one man’s unrelenting desire to govern Nigeria. No, it is not an offense to have an unrelenting ambition. In fact, it could be a virtue when pursued with dignity and honor. But Atiku has not been an honorable man in many respects. How could he have claimed that his decampment from the ruling PDP to the opposition AC in December 2006 to run for president was not all about him? Atiku was a sitting vice president elected on the platform of PDP! He defected to the ACN to challenge whomever the PDP was going to nominate for the 2007 presidential election when he failed to receive President Olusegun Obasanjo’s support to succeed him. That “whomever” turned out to be the late President Umar Yar’Adua. Of course, in that contest, Atiku ended up a distant 3rd behind Yar’Adua, the winner and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) who came second.

It was an extraordinary manifestation of disloyalty, spurred by an insatiable, narcissistic vaulting ambition to become Nigeria’s President. That ambition started in 1992 when Atiku lost the SDP presidential ticket to the late MKO Abiola. Abiola reportedly promised him the VP slot but something about Atiku caused Abiola to ditch him for Baba Gana Kingibe. Although Obasanjo ran and won with him as his VP candidate in 1999, near the end of OBJ’s first term, Atiku had started conspiring with renegade PDP governors to deny OBJ a 2nd term. Atiku found ready support in people like Ayodele Fayose and Alamieyeseigha who were beginning to sense that they were being targeted by the EFCC. With many of the governors in his corner and the leadership of the legislature (especially that of the Senate) beholden to him, Atiku practically called the shot at PDP. He believed he owned PDP. There was this penniless and clueless former military man who had just been rescued from Abacha’s hangman’s noose and used by the north to placate the west over the June 12 saga, Atiku thought. Somehow, in his pedestrian reasoning, he believed he was one of the founding fathers of PDP and therefore he could decide when the favor done OBJ was over. Atiku thought the favor was supposed to be over in 2003.

Unbeknownst to him, the military establishment, nominally represented (but not led) by Abdulsalam Abubakar, formed the PDP and installed OBJ as president, regardless of whoever considered themselves as members of the parties Board of Trustees (BOT). If the military didn’t want OBJ as president, he would not have been sprung from jail and “elected” president. And although it is another topic for another day, let me remind us that in 1999, given the politically-charged atmosphere in the country and the precariousness of the precipice on which we sat, nobody was better than the civilian OBJ to take over from Abdulsalam. So, Atiku needs to stop thinking he became vice president by his sheer political prowess or wealth. He, too, was a beneficiary of the need to throw a bone to the politically “marginalized” northeast.

It was this over-inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance that pushed Atiku to arrogate to himself the powers he didn’t have. It is an open secret which Atiku has never denied that OBJ prostrated to him in 2003 before he (Atiku) “allowed” him to run for a 2nd term. Think about that for a minute: As a sitting vice president, you connived with others to humiliate the president in 2003 so that you could blackmail him to support your presidential ambition at the end of his second term in 2007. You want to be vice president of 180 million restive Nigerians for eight years and then president for, possibly, another eight years! And this is not about Atiku? Of course, it is very much about Atiku.

If Atiku was not so blinded by ambition, he would have known that the vengeful OBJ would come after him and his cohorts with a sledge hammer. Atiku had surreptitiously gotten control of the Senate and House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003, just like he did immediately following Buhari’s election in 2015. He basically controlled the PDP Governors Forum. But when OBJ was ready to take on him, it was a multi-front blitzkrieg, essentially overwhelming Atiku and causing him to discombobulate.

OBJ began by systematically dismantling his political structure. He disrupted Atiku’s power base in the Senate. It was easy. All he had to do was remember that most of the Senators were corrupt. He would hold the evidence over their heads and force them to remove their own leaders. Under his watch, they got rid of Evan Enwerem and Chuba Okadigbo in 1999. Both were accused of corruption. Anyim Pius Anyim who succeeded Okadigbo decided against re-contesting because he didn’t want to lose his deposit. OBJ was against him returning. Before the Senate got David Mark, a former military officer as president, OBJ had forced them to remove Adulphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani as Senate presidents.

When he got Atiku, he got him by the jugular. OBJ went after governors who were beholden to Atiku. Forget about immunity from prosecution. He orchestrated the impeachments of Ayodele Fayose, Rashidi Ladoja and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Ekiti, Oyo and Bayelsa respectively) and got other governors cowered and groveling at his feet to let them finish their terms in peace.

As he waged a virulent assault on Atiku’s flanks in the Senate and in the PDP Governors Forum, OBJ also launched a ferocious, frontal attack on the Turakin Adamawa. All of a sudden, we heard that the FBI in the U.S. had written a letter to OBJ to ask that Atiku be investigated for alleged complicity in some fraudulent business deals involving U.S. Congressman William Jefferson. Below is how the influential Washington Post reported the story in July 2006:

“On July 18, 2005, a chauffeur drove U.S. Congressman Williamn J. Jefferson (D – Louisiana) and his Northern Virginia business partner, Lori Mody, in a Lincoln Town Car down the winding pavement on Sorrel Avenue in Potomac to Abubakar’s 2.3-acre property, partially shrouded by trees and protected by a six-foot-high black wrought-iron fence with gold tips. Unbeknownst to Jefferson, Mody was wearing an FBI wire, and the chauffeur was an undercover FBI agent. Jefferson met privately with Abubakar, without Mody, to discuss iGate Inc.’s involvement with a Nigerian partner in a high-tech venture to market Internet and cable television in Nigeria, according to the FBI affidavit. Mody had invested $3.5 million, and Jefferson had a secret share of her business and of iGate. Following the meeting on Sorrel Avenue, Jefferson told Mody that the vice president had demanded a cut of the profits. He said they also needed to give him a $500,000 payment “as a motivating factor,” the affidavit said. On July 30, Mody gave Jefferson a $100,000 bribe to pass on to Abubakar, and shortly after, Jefferson assured her that it had been delivered. On Aug. 3, FBI agents found $90,000 of the marked FBI bills in Jefferson’s freezer at his Capitol Hill apartment. None of cash had gone to Abubakar, according to the FBI affidavit.”

Of course, Atiku denied all allegations. But it is instructive to note that Atiku, who still owns that $2.2 million house in Potomac, has not visited the property or anywhere in the US since 2006. The FBI doesn’t play. And it is difficult to buy justice in the US. By the way, his alleged accomplice, Congressman Jefferson, served five out of 13 years jail sentence emanating from the corruption case for which Atiku was accused before he was released this past October.

While the Jefferson accusations raged in the US, OBJ obliged the FBI and set the EFCC on Atiku in Nigeria. Along with the allegations that he received bribe money from Jefferson, there were also allegations that he pilfered extensively from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). Here is how OBJ’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs. Remi Oyo put it in September 2006:

“On Tuesday, September 6, 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo forwarded two reports to the National Assembly: report of the investigation of the  funds of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the findings of the Administrative Panel  on the investigation of the PTDF by the EFCC. Since the reports were received by the National Assembly, attempts have been made to read political meanings into a purely administrative and constitutional issue.  That, really is to be expected, especially as the matter concerns high political office holders. However, we observe that most of the commentaries, to be modest,  ignore the facts of the case.

Why the investigation
Following a dispute between NDTV and iGate chaired by Vernon J. Jackson, Congressman William J. Jefferson, representing Second Congressional District of  Louisiana on May 28, 2004, wrote to President Obasanjo alleging corruption in the PTDF. To understand the origin and motive of the investigation of the PTDF in the first instance, it will be necessary to copiously quote Mr. Jefferson:

”One of the principals  of NDTV demanded a kick-back of one million dollars of the $6.5 million.  Additionally, Mr. Jackson reported to me that he was deeply troubled by comments  made to him by the managing director of NDTV that the funds were delayed on the contract because they were expecting funds allegedly related to Petroleum Trust  Development Fund (PTDF) fixed deposits to pay for the rest of the project. Mr. Jackson worried that this source of payment might be improper or perhaps even illegal.  After hearing this from Mr. Jackson, I, therefore, refused to be of further  help to NDTV to continue its contract with iGate as I did not want a smudge on my reputation, nor that of iGate or Mr. Jackson in dealings in Nigeria.  A final  concern that Mr. Jackson reported to me, unrelated to the contract violations, nonetheless disturbing, was that he feared he would become involved in Nigerian  politics. This is because two of the principals of NDTV continued to press him to agree to have their partnership provide funds out of upcoming operations for the  2007 elections for the current Vice President of Nigeria to become President.  At bottom, this is all there is to the matter – a business dispute that is left to be settled  between the parties through good-faith negotiations – not through outrageous claims of wrongdoing.”

On receipt of the letter, containing allegations which clearly put question marks on the anti-corruption credentials of his governments, the President in a letter of June  9, 2004, thanked Mr. Jefferson.  Additionally, he said he ‘had taken immediate steps to ensure full investigations of its (PTDF) activities in order to establish the  veracity of the allegations made on the use of its resources to settle the obligations of the NDTV, a private company.’  Preliminary investigations indicated that Mr. Jefferson was right about the PTDF. As a result, Alhaji Hamisu Mirago, the Fund’s executive secretary was removed.  To get to the bottom of the matter, the President directed the police to continue the investigations. These are on-going.

By coincidence, Jefferson became entangled in another case, which involved Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The case was about allegations that Jefferson had  asked and received bribes on behalf of the Vice President on a transaction involving the Nigeria Telecommunications Company Limited (NITEL). That case led to the  well-published raid on the US home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Because the matter involved a high-ranking US citizen, the FBI wrote to the EFCC to investigate the case and share information on the findings. Based on this, the  EFCC took over the investigation of the PDTF. It is interesting to know that it was Mr. Jefferson, who has very obvious and deep business links with Vice President  Abubakar, and his associates, who blew the whistle that informed the  investigation of the PTDF.

After the investigations, a copy of the report was forwarded to the FBI and another to the President apparently because it was found out that the Vice President was  directly involved in certain transactions and received cheques in his name. Funds from the PTDF have also been used to fund private projects of the Vice President.  Taking great care not to be perceived as operating double standards on the matter of corruption, the President set up an administrative panel to study the EFCC  report and advise the Federal Executive Council (FEC).  The recourse to administrative panel of inquiry was informed by the fact that government was so  embarrassed that it could not trust any other mechanism to advise the findings of the EFCC.  Again, the nature of the persons involved required that the report be  treated with utmost confidentiality and secrecy.

The panel’s report, presented to the FEC, concluded the Vice President abused his office, violated oath of office and the constitution.  Since the President has no  powers to sanction his deputy, he decided to forward the report to the National Assembly for the information of all members. Less than 90 days after the first deposit on October 10, 2003, TIB advanced a loan of N400 million to NDTV and two days later gave a loan of N420 million to  MOFAS.  Chief Fasawe has interests in NDTV and MOFAS and serves as Chairman of both companies. A second loan of N30 million was given again to NDTV  by TIB barely two months later on Jan 1 2004.

Some eight months before its first TIB loan, February 18, 2003, MOFAS gave N250 million to Marine Float, a company owned by Vice President Atiku Abubakar  and incorporated in 1992. The Vice President’s company, Marine Float, had in the preceeding month paid N30 million as deposit for the purchase of the  headquarters of NDTV, confirming the Vice President’s interests in NDTV.  From October 2003, MOFAS paid more than N500  million to Umar Pariya, the Personal Assistant of  Vice President Atiku Abubakar. On one occasion,  the sum  of N61 million was paid by MOFAS directly to the Vice President on Jan. 29, 2001. MOFAS also paid N60 million directly to Musa Garba on May 22 2002.  Garba is, among other things, a contractor who works for the ABTI establishment comprising the Academy and University owned by the Vice President.

Musa Garba had said, among other things in his statement during investigation, that he had cashed cheques in the past for the Vice President. ‘I remember around  2002-2005, Alhaji Atiku brought some drafts on different occasion(s) in favour of my name. He said it is not for ABTI, one of his friends donated to PDP  North-East, then I gave him cash for the drafts. He did not tell me the name of the donors since I am not a politician.’ (excerpts from statement of Musa Garba). Following the receipt of the loans from TIB in October 2003 and Jan 2004, NDTV concluded the payment for the headquarters of the organisation to the tune of  N170 million. NDTV also paid $6.5 million to iGate in two instalments. In his letter of May 28, 2004,  to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Representative William J.  Jefferson of the United States complained that ‘One of the principals of NDTV demanded a kick back of one million dollars of the $6.5 million.’

(Vernon L) Jackson, Chairman and CEO of iGate Inc. had, according to Jefferson’s letter, ‘reported to me that he was deeply troubled by comments made to him  by the Managing Director of NDTV that the funds were delayed on the contract because they were expecting funds allegedly related to …PTDF fixed deposits to  pay for the rest of the project.’ (Note that Vice President Atiku Abubakar authorised that fixed deposits be paid by PTDF under his supervision into ETB and TIB  without authorisation of Federal Executive Council).

The left bottom of the chart shows three deposits made to Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) between June 2002 and July 2003 by PTDF then headed by Yusuf Hamisu  Abubakar (aka Mairago). The first deposit of 50 million US dollars was made on June 25, 2002 from the UBA New York account of PTDF to the Bank. (Less than  two months after this on August 6 2002, ETB paid 20 million dollars in support of the bid by Globacom). The second deposit of 52.9 million dollars was made by  PTDF on July 14 2003 to ETB, while the third deposit of 62.1 million dollars was made on July 17 2003.

Hamisu Abubakar  (aka Mairago), former Executive Secretary of PDTF benefitted from loans in excess of 200 million naira from PDTF. A three-million dollar  contract with Univision of United Kingdom for the provision of consultancy services for the upgrade of Petroleum Training Institute, Warri and PDTF scholarships  was inflated by two million dollars and the fund diverted to four companies owned by Hamisu under the pretext of the companies offering services. The companies are  FDZ Nigeria Limited, 19 Wharf Road, Apapa with corresponding bank in Bankers Trust Company in New York; Edginton Limited, 15, Osborne Road, Ikoyi,  Lagos with corresponding bank as Habibsons Bank Limited, London and Biosynthesis Nigeria Limited 18, Enugu Crescent and corresponding bank as  American  Express Bank, New York and Remington Limited, Abuja, BTC, NYC, Brussels.

Hamisu Abubakar remains a dealer and transporter for Conoil owned by Otunba Mike Adenuga. It is now known that Jeffrey Tesler facilitated a loan of 700 million  US dollars for Conoil.  Tesler is known as an associate of former President Ibrahim Babangida. Mohammed Babangida owns 10 per cent shares in Conpetro which owns 30 per cent shareholding in Conoil. On August 30, 2002, Conoil paid 180 million dollars to support the Globacom bid. The chart, annextures and explanations clearly show that President Obasanjo’s submission to the National Assembly was in keeping with his constitutional responsibilities as an elected President who swore to uphold the Constitution. The transactions had nothing to do with the President.”

It was bare-knuckle punching and OBJ was tearing Atiku to pieces. For that 2003 prostration, Atiku was going to suffer to no end. By this time, Atiku was no longer on speaking terms with OBJ. The PDP effectively belonged to OBJ and Atiku who thought he had power was left flailing. He had no choice but to leave the party. And he did in 2006 when he issued that statement in which he lambasted OBJ (excerpts of which is the first paragraph above) and bolted to the ACN. It would appear a courageous and principled move, perhaps even patriotic like he wanted us to believe, if he had resigned his position as vice president too. He did not. He remained in office and started to fight the government from within. He started to use his government-paid staff to rain invectives on the president. And because OBJ did not have the constitutional power to remove him, he got in the gutter with Atiku. OBJ pulled his official plane, drastically cut his official vehicles and cut his special advisers and special assistants, including Natt Yaduma and Garba Shehu – yes, the same Garba Shehu that now works for PMB – down to two from 10. Atiku decamped to the ACN ostensibly because that party promised him its presidential ticket, which he got and on which he ran against the PDP’s flag bearer. As it would turn out, Atiku polled a distant 3rd behind Umar Yar’Adua (PDP) and Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP). No sooner had he lost the election than Atiku had a falling-out with ACN strongman, Bola Tinubu. Atiku then decamped back to PDP in 2009. How his dog returned to its vomit to ever so easily and without compunction confounds me.

Back in PDP again, Atiku continued to act like he owned everybody. His modus operandi remained funding legislative and gubernatorial candidates from all over the place in return for their support for his presidential ambition, no matter who was president. And there was no shortage of such candidates. When Yar’Adua died in office and vice president Goodluck Jonathan tried to step up as president, Atiku was one of those who balked. The presidency belonged to the north and a northerner should complete Yar’Adua’s terms, the so-called cabal insisted. Atiku worked behind the scenes to deny Jonathan the seat. He had to bow to superior forces but not before securing a promise from Jonathan to do just one term.

By the time Jonathan concluded his first term in 2013, he had amassed enough financial and political capital to look Atiku and others in the eye and say “I am going for 2nd term”. Yet again, Atiku the player had been played. The over-ambitious has been beaten by another over-ambitious man. And what did Atiku do? He colluded with others and petulantly dumped PDP again, this time for…you guessed it…the ACN and its principal partner, Buhari’s CPC, in the amalgam now known as APC. Basically, Atiku tried to call the shots in GEJ’s PDP. He was denied that power by GEJ like OBJ did and Atiku had to leave. And he says his political prostituting is “not about Atiku”? Sure it is.

When he arrived in APC, the party was already formed, as Governor Nasr el Rufai reminded him the other day. Although he had money and clout in the legislature as usual, he was coming to a party bestridden by other political colossuses, chief of which was Buhari himself. While he may be old and physically fragile, Buhari, like OBJ, does not suffer fools gladly. He has no time for massaging anybody’s ego. For Atiku to not know that PMB and OBJ had talked at length about him and the danger he poses to the polity and to Nigeria as a whole, he has to be quite naive. Atiku contested the APC presidential ticket and the result was very ugly for him. Despite being the wealthiest in the race, he came 3rd again, behind Buhari and Rabiu Kwankwaso. Atiku was so desperate that he was reportedly doling out $5000 in cash to delegates who would vote for him. But he ran into Tinubu’s superior political machine which reportedly out-spent him on behalf of candidate Buhari. The final tally of votes had Buhari with an unassailable landslide of 3430 votes, Kwankwaso – 974 and Atiku – 954.

Atiku never forgave Tinubu for the loss and he never respected Buhari’s victory. He barely even celebrated it. He thought it was his turn to be president. He felt he was an important man. He felt he should be courted and pampered. During the general election when Buhari faced GEJ, Atiku was hardly seen in the country. He claimed he was not consulted on campaign strategies and schedules. Clearly, he was bitter. Buhari took note of that and started cutting Atiku to size as soon as he became president. Things got so bad for Atiku that he couldn’t even get the APC chairman to do his bidding. He found himself again in a despondent political wilderness despite his vast financial resources.

To add insult to injury for him, last October, the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) revoked the contract it had with Atiku’s biggest money-making venture – Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (Intels), for failing to comply with the government’s requirement that all revenues collected must first be deposited into the Central Bank before sharing. Intels had agreed to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) agreement, but it later reneged, saying it had loan commitments with some commercial banks that made it impossible to comply. The TSA was set up to foster transparency in revenues accruing to government and plug most of the avenues for stealing. After a couple of warnings, the NPA Managing Director, the no-nonsense Hadiza Bala-Usman, revoked Intels’ contract.

What! If Atiku was in doubt about his political weight in this Buhari dispensation, it was now crystal clear that the feather was heavier than him. He would show Buhari that he was a force to reckon with. He would splinter the APC like he did the PDP under GEJ and see whether Buhari would not face in 2019 the kind of fate that GEJ faced in 2015. And last month, Atiku dumped the APC. He is expected to return to PDP again and vie for the presidency…again.

I know you have lost count how many times Atiku has left a party. Heck…I am writing this and I have lost count! What too many decampments do to you are that your loyalty and perseverance become questionable; you lose seniority and respect each time you join another party; and your followers suffer whiplashes from your whimsical political oscillations. At 72, it is clear that Atiku does not think he has the time to wait for Buhari to do two terms. That’s six years. If the APC would hand him their ticket in 2023, Atiku will be 78 then. But how likely is it that one party would have two back-to-back presidents from the same region?

Atiku must ask himself some salient questions: Has he himself been a good follower? Has he been loyal to and respectful of the people elected or appointed over him? Does he really care about Nigeria or does he just care about massaging his own ego? Why is he not satisfied with the eight years he served as vice president? What did he leave behind at Aso Rock that he wants to go back and retrieve? With his ignominious and unbridled quests for power, hasn’t he equated himself with Nigeria? Isn’t it now obvious that whatever he has contributed in all the parties he has joined he did for the sole purpose of getting himself elected as president? Isn’t it all about him then?

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Image: atiku.org

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