STATE OF THE NATION .........Atiku, ambition and the endgame
By Louis Odion, FNGE
So, after all his thunderous imprecations and venomous profiling of the Wazirin Adamawa as “hopelessly corrupt”, OBJ could not resist the temptation of a N50m “egunje” from the same tainted hand. Perhaps, our ever sanctimonious patriarch never reckoned the secret would leak.
No less amusing was the explanation offered by the giver when the EFCC hound uncovered an assortment of fingerprints and footprints of beneficiaries of a staggering 150m Euros (N60b) moneybag Atiku allegedly laundered ahead of the 2019 polls of which a consortium of local and foreign marabouts were said to have assured him, with oracular certainty, of a landslide victory. If the last hurdle to Aso Rock was cash, the free-spender from Jada was ready to break the bank, whether in local or hard currency. Without the least regard for logic or shame, Atiku’s spin doctors told us the strange N50m found in the account of Obasanjo Library was only “a donation” to a “non-profit organization” involved in humanitarian work.
The gods are surely wise.
Of course, only kindergarten pupils would buy that. Coming after OBJ had literally declared war on APC and virtually parlayed any forum available to hurl personal insults at President Mohammadu Buhari, it must have finally dawned on the more discerning why prescient Professor Wole Soyinka chose to christen Obasanjo’s mammoth Ota edifice “a Laundromat” at its founding more than a decade ago.
How tragic then that those who now wish to be looked upon as the harbingers of Nigeria’s ethical rebirth are, alas, still unable to prove to the nation they had in any way outgrown their old vice of money-sharing rackets.
Well, the danger of astrology is its addictiveness. In his most recent autobiography entitled “My Watch”, OBJ had, based on stated “research and observation”, characterized his deputy (while president for eight years) as both perennial captive and slave to sorcerers.
So, once assured of the presidential crown by fortune-tellers, it would appear Atiku has become rather obsessed with becoming king, even if that meant sedating himself into a nirvana and dreaming up a magic-realist kingdom in which he is both lord and lone inhabitant.
Only such fixation could indeed explain the desperation lately of Atiku and his enablers - mostly lurking in the shadows of cyberspace - to foist the fable of a coming coronation, not based on facts but sheer fantasy.
This psychosis partly manifests in the juvenile twisting of facts by a mob who, apparently scarred by the prospects of languishing another four years in the political wilderness, now conveniently choose to not only inhabit that fantasyland, but also luxuriate in its numbing make-believe.
It explains their desperation last weekend to exhume the light-hearted words uttered by Lai Mohammed in 2015 as APC spokesman on the needless controversy around Buhari’s certificate, package and re-present same in a totally different context, just to prop their lame argument which similarly failed to fly five years ago.
It is also the reason the Atiku people would lie shamelessly before the election tribunal that the otherwise thoughtful and compassionate TraderMoni and MarketMoni schemes initiated by the Buhari administration was a bribe to induce voters ahead of the 2019 polls.
Apparently failing to do their research properly, they even declared, with a ring of authority, that the funds being disbursed to market women and the vulnerable in our society were extra-budgetary spending. Seriously? But the last time I checked, the twin programmes were approved by the Federal Executive Council and duly funded by the Appropriations Acts of 2017 and 2018.
To be sure, it is quite within the democratic rights of the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party to contest the outcome of the February polls which gave APC 15,191,847 votes as against his own distant 11,262,978. But it is debatable if the arguments marshaled so far in the past few months by his legal team are convincing enough.
Given the cold letters of the law and legal precedents, it would be herculean indeed to prove the claim of electoral malpractices in a presidential poll. That means the petitioner is saddled with the arduous task of producing witnesses to give testimony proving such infraction in more than 100,000 polling units where the exercise took place.
This requirement is already well stated in the decision of the Supreme Court in Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) thus: “The very big obstacle that anyone who seeks to have the election of the President or Governor upturned is very large number of witnesses he must call due to the size of the respective constituency. In a country like our own, he may have to call about 250,000 - 300,000 witnesses. By the time the court would have heard from all of them with the way our present law is couched, the incumbent would have long finished and left his office and even if the petitioner finally wins, it will be an empty victory bereft of substance.”
So, PDP’s present case at the presidential election tribunal is anchored primarily on two main legs viz INEC server and Buhari’s “lack of school certificate”.
But rather than persuade, the argument on the server has been most amusing. From the outset, no one disputes that the entire polls were premised on the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Relentless pressures mounted on President Mohammadu Buhari to assent to a raft of amendments proposed by the Bukola Saraki-led Senate seeking electronic transmission of results did not succeed.
The President’s action was informed by the superior argument that for the purpose of the 2019 polls, much as desirable as electronic transmission would conduce to the sanctity of the ballot, the sad reality was that a considerable ratio of the over 100,000 polling units in 774 councils across the federation and Abuja was yet to be covered by digital networks to experiment with such innovation.
What’s more, an authority no less than the nation’s chief electoral umpire himself did attest, before hand and without ambiguity, that only manual transmission of results was applicable in the exercise.
Despite all these unassailable facts, it remains a big puzzle why the Atiku people still chose to gamble with the theory of electronic server. By the curious calculations of the fictive server, PDP polled 18,356,732 votes ahead of APC’s 16,741,430.
Fine. But the devil is actually in the details. It turned out the Kenyan the petitioner had touted as possessing the “smoking gun” himself admitted, under cross-examination, that the data he tendered was gleaned from the website created two weeks after the results were announced by a faceless “whistle-blower”.
Worse, it was discovered that the IP address of the website is a commercial one patronized by all manner of businessmen in many countries across the world.
More comedy. Again invoking the same “server” like a talisman, the Atiku people had pooh-poohed the INEC results announced in Borno in favor of Buhari on the grounds that the high numbers were unjustifiable given the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the area. But wait a minute - it turned out that the figures allocated to Atiku in the same Borno by the all-knowing “server” are far higher than those of Buhari which they had faulted vigorously as impossible because of security issue!
However, the “server” was not bold enough to discredit the figures from Atiku’s own polling unit in his native Adamawa where Buhari entered a symbolic victory by polling 186 to the former’s 167.
On the issue of Buhari’s academic credentials, it is perhaps a measure of PDP’s infinite capacity for mischief that the bogey of “no school cert” is still being retailed till date, having failed woefully to gain traction back in 2015. To begin with, isn’t it amazing that a nation could even be beguiled into entertaining such a doubt about a man who records clearly confirm had not only attended numerous official courses conferring higher academic status during a career spanning over three decades, but also had the uncommon privilege of leading the country as head of state between 1984 and 1985?
Perhaps the easiest way to validate history is to cite witnesses. Luckily, some of Buhari’s classmates at Provincial Secondary School, Katsina in 1961, are still alive. To prove doubters wrong, the President has even gone the extra mile by making public a black-and-white photograph showing him then in company of classmates including now retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi.
This truth has not been disputed, nor has Justice Abdullahi denied.
On the contrary, it is open secret today that, in their last-ditch effort to rake up muck but in abject ignorance of the confidentiality principle of English system, PDP’s agents had approached University of Cambridge in the U.K. to ascertain whether Buhari actually sat for school certificate. But seen as “busy-bodies”, the authorities at the British institution declined the applicants. The request was only granted when Buhari’s representative duly applied for the results which was later tendered before the court.
Against this overwhelming backcloth, the rationally minded cannot but wonder what may be giving Atiku and his crowd confidence. Maybe, it is the metaphysics of the marabouts.
*Mr. Odion is Senior Technical Assistant (Media) to the President.