17th April 2024
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Atiku’s requiem

Atiku’s requiem

By Sam Omatseye

The Supreme Court verdict was, to me, not about legalistic niceties, or the casuistry imposed on the law by those who feel rigged out of the presidency. Not the remorse or bloodlust in their rhetoric. Not even who lost or won, or the mechanistic frustration of those who would have wanted to appeal the verdict. They hope, in their fantasy, that they could court the heavens and so God is made flesh, wrestles like Jacob and upturns the ruling. Not even the assertion that the Supreme Court is infallible because it is final is any consolation.

It is about Atiku Abubakar’s love. It is an enduring love, unfeigned but blood-eyed in battle. A love for power. It is sometimes innocent, sometimes Mephistophelian, sometimes naïve, but always distinctively insistent. Innocent in his eyes of a little boy, which is deceptive because he pursues it with the rage of the wounded, and that makes it Mephistophelian. During his campaign and elections, money dropped in huge tranches, his foot soldiers roared and perspired, ballots vaporised and arrived in preferred precincts and numbers, the men in his sanctum sanctorum devised plots to win at all cost like the argument about the phantom server. He was naïve when all seemed clear, but he still insisted he won, even when some pointed to the cunning and rapacity of his lawyers.

Was it mere naivety or innocence when he unveiled a stylised response to the Supreme Court verdict, soaring into the moorlands of philosophy and history, and tail-gaiting Aristotle. He even made himself look like an Awolowo at the birth of a new tragedy at the electoral gate.

In fact, three personalities come together, in varying degrees of counterfeit, in the political biography of the Adamawa Chieftain. One is Awo, the second is Muhammadu Buhari and the third Chief M.K.O Abiola. As Awo, he tries to make himself into a sort of political thinker and innovator. As Muhammadu Buhari, he wants to ride a longevity of ambition. He would not want to follow Awo in that part because the Ikenne sage was a bust in his presidential dreams. As Abiola, he borrows from the Egba money bag’s profile by burrowing into his own deep pockets.

But he does not have the Awo prescience or depth, or even his understanding of history, nascent heroics. Awo wrote books, engaged at a high level of dialectics. He had a mythical status among his people. Nobody saw Atiku in the moon. Atiku does not even have a political slogan that enchants viscerally, like “Awo!!!” He lacks the aplomb, ascetic remove from or even affectionate contempt for the excitement of the crowd. His reference to Aristotle seems cute, contrived. Obviously somebody inserted it into his piece. To be clear, he wanted to present himself as a progressive, a thing that was out of character when he was on the hustings. He certainly had the southwest and the Biafran rabble in mind and, perhaps, Awo when he started calling for restructuring and fiscal federalism. He did that with zest, which I admired, if this essayist didn’t believe him.

As Buhari, Atiku never had the talakawa appeal. He may be a better speaker than Buhari, and that is not what he will take. He wants the fruitful longevity of ambition, just as the scripture says, “Be thou faithful unto the end and thou shall receive the crown…” He also lacks the ascetic quiet and the protestations of rectitude the Katsina man commands. No one cries for Atiku on the streets like sai baba. No one goes to church or mosque for him. No one kisses the earth or stops the rain for him. When they see him, they see money. He is not a material-mystic hero; his appeal is materialistic.  Even when he whipped up the federalist sentiment, he did not own or ride it. He did not give it his language or presence. He became a mere contributor to a hackneyed ideology. He cried, but no one shed tears. He crooned but no one dance. He raged, but no anger on the public square. He did not have the power to change, like John Adams who said of the American “revolution was in the hearts and minds of the American people.” We cannot say anything approximating this in Atiku’s barnstorming.

MKO was a moneybag, but also a sort of windbag of the people. He predated Fayose in his visits to bole (roasted plantain) sellers and riding okada. He was rich and poor simultaneously, dropping from the sky and erupting from the earth genuinely. He made a song of his humble beginning. With his stutter, he brought humour, even endearing gaffes, to his profile. He was a giver, a man thought to have too much money and wanted to turn himself into a compulsive donor to all good causes to everyone he met in every part of the country. Atiku cuts the image of an acquirer, lapping from the nation’s super ice cream.

But what makes Atiku’s story unconvincing was that he is a partisan wayfarer, the Ajala traveller of Nigerian politics. He stumbles from a party to party to make fortune out of opportunity, to use his charms at any chance, all to become Nigeria’s president.

One reason for this is that Atiku has tasted the forbidden fruit. He was vice president, and acted when Obj trusted him and opened the doors for him. Obj saw his ambition and shut it out. That scent of power haunts him and he wants it in its full glory and majesty. In the language of the young sensational Vietnamese writer, Ocean Vuong, Atiku was “briefly gorgeous” at the top. He was merely a cameo, a comet, a glorious flash.

Hence the loss at the Supreme Court was so painful. Age may not help next time. Age, for me, is no disqualifier. But has he lost his chance. That is why his reaction invokes the following words of Shakespeare’s play Merchant of Venice: “If you prick us do we not bleed? /If you tickle us, do we not laugh?/ If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, do we not revenge?” It is that sense of loss, as though wronged, that pervades his soul, a sense he has lost it forever. So, even if the absence of a server means justice is served, he will deny it. He does not want his career over. His political career must loathe the scriptural line that says: “You have a reputation that you are alive, but you are dead.”



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