Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nigeria: Before Backing Atiku

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
Since we seem fated to chafe under the carapace of duplicitous politicians, we are justifiably cynical about their promises. In their desperation to get power, politicians harangue us with these promises in varied shades. But there is often that lurking caution that we should treat these promises as mere hallucinations of people who flay at anything in sight to assuage their hunger for power.
*Atiku Abubakar 
Yet, how do we measure the authenticity of our politicians if we accept as a given that politics is not a site of credibility? How do we align with the self-immolating notion that politicians are free to live in a world that is divorced from the reality of the rest of the citizens? We should not rule out the possibility that it is politicians who do not want to meet the demands of their offices but want us to take them seriously who are the purveyors of the expectation to gloss over the tragedy of the violation of their promises. 
Thus, notwithstanding the dilettantism that hallmarks the promises of politicians, it is necessary that they unfold before the citizenry the agenda that actuates their quest for public office. But here, they must not be oblivious of the need to meet the higher obligation of their thinking through their promises and ensuring that they are the ones they can execute. Clearly, we take cognisance of the fact that some politicians do not make any promises. How would they tell the citizens a vision of the future they are taking them into when they are only political neophytes who are being imposed on the people by their godfathers? We encounter these political godsons on the grotesque occasions that are anomalously christened campaigns where they are spoken for by their godfathers. Not for them the need to embrace the prospect of their potential voters swooning over a picture of a future of plenitude they have succeeded in bringing before them during electioneering. 
We are riled at the ease with which President Muhammadu Buhari and his political party have repudiated the promises they made under the banner of change. So, it is easy to think that there is no need investing hope in the promises of our politicians. In the dizzy days of their quest for office, they promised restructuring and the parity of the dollar and naira . Buhari promised that he would not belong to anybody but belong to everybody. He promised to fight corruption in such a manner that no citizen would dare to even contemplate sleaze of any kind in public office. But all these have been repudiated. On Buhari’s watch, Aso Rock has been turned into a cocoon where the corrupt luxuriate while the perceived enemies of the president and his cronies are easily denigrated as enemies of financial probity who must be punished.
So, we may justifiably snigger at the promises of politicians . Yet, we need such promises as an inkling into the minds of those who have offered to lead us. We need to focus on the visions of development those seeking the highest office in the land would bring. The primaries and other forms of the prelude to the 2019 presidential election have thrown up a phalanx of presidential candidates. Clearly, we can see what most of them do not see – the stark fate of not going far in the presidential race. Or they see but they do not bother. Since only a few Nigerians are immune to the obsession with highfalutin titles, these ones who are doomed to aborted journeys are probably satisfied with the prospect of being identified as ex-presidential aspirants, or better still as ex-presidential candidates. Thus, only Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are considered as the two main contenders in the coming presidential election. But we need not bother ourselves with Buhari since we are familiar with his positions on many issues.
Atiku’s emergence seems to blur the fissures that have been pulling the nation apart under Buhari. Even though Atiku like Buhari is a Fulani from the north, there seems to be the notion that this fact does not matter. There seems to be no fear that Atiku would replicate ethno-religious bigotry the citizens have been subjected to under Buhari. So, the citizens do not really have any problem with their fellow citizens. It is rather Buhari who through his provincialism engendered ethnic distrust in the country.
However, Atiku needs to assure the people of the different regions that he has the right vision to improve their lot. Because of Buhari’s failure to rein in Fulani herdsmen, the people of the south-east, south-south and middle belt have been subjected to pillaging and carnage at the hands of the herders. Their farms are being destroyed while their women and daughters are being raped. In the Niger Delta, Buhari has failed to put in place policies that would ensure that they benefit from their oil revenues. Buhari has failed to clean the Ogoniland. And in the south-east, Buhari has neglected them because they belong to the five per cent who did not vote for him. The only time that the people of the south-east know that the government of Buhari exists is when he sends his military operatives under the ghoulish rubric of Operation Python Dance to kill the agitators for equity.
The south-west under the auspices of Afenifere on Tuesday met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in order to agree on the presidential candidate they would support. They are likely to support Atiku. But before Afenifere, the south-west, south-east, south-south, the middle belt and other parts of the country support Atiku, they have to ensure that he has met some minimal conditions.
Atiku should tell the citizens what he would do about restructuring. Clearly, Atiku has been talking about restructuring. He has been travelling to different parts of the country to give lectures on restructuring. So he is ready to promise to restructure the country when he gets to office. But the issue is that Atiku needs to spell out the measures he would deploy to prosecute his agenda of restructuring in order to make it believable. 
Atiku should also tell Nigerians how he would resolve the problem of herdsmen’ terrorism. We do not expect him to get to office and blame herdsmen’s lunacy on vanishing Lake Chad or the influx into Nigeria of terrorists displaced from Libya and other crisis-torn parts of the world. He should tell us concrete steps he would take to stop the crisis. He should not give us the impression that since he is Fulani and indeed a patron of herdsmen, he like Buhari would allow them to be afflictions to other citizens.
Atiku also needs to give a blueprint for the development of the Niger Delta. His mission should not be like that of Buhari who would take the resources of the Niger Delta to develop his northern region only to threaten the people of the Niger Delta with war because they are asking for their equitable share of the revenue their oil resources have produced.
While Atiku may give his blueprints for development and the eventual improvement of the wellbeing of the citizens, he should go further to outline how he would realise them and be held accountable for them. It is only after the people are sure of the sincerity and pragmatism of Atiku’s promises that they should work for his success in the presidential election. Or else, their support for him to become president would amount to their giving their backs to another ogre like Buhari that would live off their blood and torment them.

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