A few years ago, I was invited to participate as the Chairman of the Education Sub-Committee of a private initiative named Kano Renaissance Think Tank (KRTT), under the guidance of world renowned Manitoba mathematician, Prof. Abba Gumel, and we sat and marshaled out the most feasible solutions to Kano’s myriad of problems. Mid-way into the work, the Kano State Government got wind of it and the Secretary of the State Govt joined us online and made informed contributions. On completion of the work, we were invited to present our recommendations to His Excellency, Gov. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. I was unable to join the team as I was not available, but I got the biggest dose of happiness when I heard that Gov. Kwankwaso did not only appreciate our efforts, but he also received the team while his Executive Council was in session to underscore it. He immediately handed over the document to the SSG for study and express implementation. For this reason and many others that eyes are witnesses to in Kano, whenever I hear his name mentioned or his famous ‘Kwankwasiyya Amana’, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. For his kind of effective, focused and dedicated leadership, I think he is qualified to aspire to lead Nigeria in the next dispensation. You only need to visit Kano to say ‘Amen’. However, given that the people’s general, Muhammadu Buhari, has already accepted the call to reverse his decision so as to be available for the people, should His Excellency Kwankwaso’s entertain that aspiration?
I have never had any contact with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, besides sitting in an audience in an Arewa House activity that he chaired sometimes last year, and so I am not qualified to appreciate his leadership qualities. All I know about him is what I hear on the streets. And if all those things are true, then to be perfectly honest, I may not be his best fan. It is interesting that Atiku’s interest in the Presidency is being described on the Streets as an obsession in spite of the fact that he has aspired for it fewer times than Muhammadu Buhari. When he fought President Obasanjo’s desire for Third Term, the Streets believed it was due to his burning ambition to succeed him. When he participated in building ACN, it was interpreted as a desperate move to actualize his dreams. And when he left the ACN and went back to PDP (akin to swallowing your own vomit), I want to believe even his best friends could not understand it. That he checkmated other northern PDP aspirants, including the ‘Evil Genius’, and became the ‘northern consensus candidate’, cemented his Machiavellian credentials on one hand, but on the other, it made the ordinary people on the streets cower into corners in utter shock. It was a phyrric victory. Many believed that he lost the PDP primaries only because he executed the ‘consensus’ process so ‘neatly’ that the northern aspirants that ‘lost’ to his ‘specialty’ left him to his devices.
Again, I do not know anything about Atiku Abubakar besides what the Streets said when he left PDP the second time as it became clear that President Jonathan would display and utilize his full arsenal to clinch the nomination. Putting two and two and getting four, many thought Atiku’s ambitions would not let him sleep until he joined APC ( ACN’s merger miracle) for no reason but to use his ‘specialty’ to acquire the presidential ticket. Well, today, Atiku was the first to purchase the expression of interest and the nomination forms. Nobody on the streets was surprised. The truth is that very few, if any, see Atiku as different from Obasanjo and other PDP leadership materials. So nothing will really change if he gets to Aso Rock. Now, given that Muhammadu Buhari is not only remarkably different but also the biggest asset of APC north of the Niger, should Atiku Abubakar insist on contesting?
This is where it becomes clear to me that both His Excellency Kwankwaso and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have a chance at immortality. Let me explain.
There is no gainsaying that Nigerians of Yoruba stock are some of the most politically astute demographic in the world. The foremost leader of that lot, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, recognized long ago the need for transforming ACN into a national party that can pull its weight not only as a leading opposition party, but also as a legitimate, credible and viable alternative to the ruling party – the sad fate of UPN under the Great Awo (despite his legendary qualities) is fresh on their memory. The ACN looked about the Nigerian political space, made dispassionate calculations and arrived at the conclusion that as long as credibility remains the number one watchword and so long as democracy remains a game of numbers, then there is no alternative to attracting General Muhammadu Buhari into an alliance with ACN. Although parties like ANPP and APGA had governors and members of national assembly to boot, ACN did not consider either as worthy of attention. Rather, ACN focused on wooing Buhari and his neonate party, CPC. At a point, in spite of the existence of a nominated Presidential candidate in the person of Mal. Nuhu Ribadu, another credible Nigerian, the ACN/Yoruba leadership continued wooing Buhari hoping that he would accept their conditions and fly the flag of ACN/CPC merger. For some reasons, that was not to be. In the end the merger efforts collapsed (grapevine had it that Buhari refused to accept Muslim/Muslim ticket) and the Yoruba block chose to support PDP in the presidential elections given that any other option would have brought Buhari to the Presidency without being beholden to the Yoruba block. But when the PDP Govt did not perform to their expectations, there was no option but to go back to Buhari again – hence the 2012/2013 merger rebirth.
The merger succeeded because General Buhari chose to lose the battle of technicalities so he could win the war of saving Nigeria from itself. As a politician, he had to apply the principles of consensus, compromises, etc, so as be able to work with all agents of positive change regardless of their antecedents. Buhari needs all the votes he can get from the South and the North to make a difference – and the ACN is the Queen of the South. ACN needed national reach and the fastest key to the North is the people’s General. It was a match made in heaven. If truth must be told, the presence of ANPP and a faction of APGA in the merger discussions is a gift from God to help these two power houses get broader base to emancipate the poor of Nigeria from the grip of its elite. This is why no one needs to deceive himself on who should be the presidential flag-bearer of APC in this dispensation besides General Muhammadu Buhari.
The only thing left is for these varied blocks and powerhouses that merged into APC to come together, pull their resources and deliver the gift of General Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency to Nigerian citizens. This is where I think His Excellency Kwankwaso and Ex-VP Atiku Abubakar can write their names in gold for the rest of Nigeria’s history. I have written extensively on Kwankwaso’s accomplishments in Kano in my column in Blueprint within last two years and I have nothing to add but prayers to God to reward Kwankwaso with his Paradise and grant him long life so we can benefit more from his brand of leadership in the future.
That is why I pray that he (Kwankwaso) can see the unique opportunity he has to give honour and support to whom it is due, give the masses whom they love, and give the nation a lifeline, in the figure of Muhammadu Buhari. Clearly, there is more benefit to the overall process if Kwankwaso would support Buhari’s candidature rather than go to primaries with him. The universal goodwill that would flow from millions of voters under Buhari’s grip would ensure the immortality of Kwankwaso in the masses psyche. There is no predicting that Kwankwaso would then be in an enviable position to milk the goodwill of Buhari and his supporters should he aspire for anything in the future. In fact, I see Kwankwaso slipping smoothly into Buhari’s shoes as the great man approaches the end – but we are not there yet. I am very optimistic that His Excellency would consider this unsolicited advice seriously.
However, it is with respect to Ex-VP Atiku Abubakar that I am greatly concerned. He is a formidable opponent as his ‘northern consensus’ escapade proved. His unique ‘specialties’ in capturing delegates may deny Nigerians this unique opportunity to benefit from the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari. Sadly, given that Atiku Abubakar was at best a loyal deputy to Obasanjo’s govt in the first dispensation, (he spent second, fighting for his political life), he has not held any Executive position even at State level (Kwankwaso has great advantage here), there is no way to gauge his abilities at that level let alone risk it in this dicey situation that Nigeria has found itself. There is no doubt that Atiku is a mobilizer of human and material resources to deliver votes. But nothing is known about his credentials as a Chief Executive in a public concern. He had a unique opportunity to display that in Adamawa when he won the Guber elections, but he could not resist Obasanjo’s invitation to become a deputy, with no executive power, at the national level. Adamawa people are the best positioned to assess the consequences of his ‘desertion’, to put it mildly. In the end, there is really nothing to Atiku’s credit that the masses on the Streets can be really proud of given that Obasanjo took credit for all the good of PDP at the national level from 1999-2007 and Boni Haruna took that of Adamawa in the same period. And since 2007, Atiku has only amassed more personal wealth that get deployed in line with projects that would deliver the presidency onto his lap. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s problems need more than just ambition. It needs a history of integrity and values. It needs a background of purpose and selfless service. Atiku may not lack these, but surely Buhari has more. And I think Atiku Abubakar is grossly advantaged to, for the first time, do something uniquely beneficial to the masses of Nigeria – and that is to support the aspirations of Muhammadu Buhari.
Kwankwasiyya Amana and the PDM machine of Atiku Abubakar can begin by publically acknowledging the chance that Nigerians now have to install Muhammadu Buhari as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come May 2015. They should use their political machinery to campaign for Buhari before the elections and, importantly, be there to help him deliver his noble promises to Nigerians after he wins. Kwankwaso’s experience at delivering promises in the latter and Atiku’s Machiavellian expertise at ‘neutralizing’ opposition and his enormous wealth in the former shall surely come in handy. I expect them to not only give their support publicly but they should also instruct a few ‘ill-mannered’ supporters from their massive followership of cultured supporters to respect Muhammadu Buhari by keeping their mouths shut, for he is not only a presidential candidate, he is also a true leader of the masses of Nigeria.
Nigeria must put its best foot forward to confront the existential challenges that face it. Buhari, a former governor, former minister and a former Head of State that gave all and took nothing from Nigeria’s coffers is the best chance we have to redirect us back to the right, credible path. And then everything else shall fall in line. I look forward to that day, perhaps in the next few days, that HE Kwankwaso and Ex-VP Atiku would mount the podium and hail, ‘Vote Buhari, Vote APC, Save Nigeria!’ And then their names would be written in gold… in the Streets.