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Open duel

By   /  October 8, 2018  /  No Comments

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It was first a grudge match. Atiku Abubakar was persona non grata at the Aso Rock, and the man with deep pocket and perennial ambition did not cherish it. Buhari and his men had placed him below the ladder. He grumbled and got tired of it.

APC provided no way up the presidential tier. Atiku does not hide his ambition under the eaves. Why grumble when you can rumble across the aisle? To PDP, that is. He did exactly that about a year ago. He did it at the risk of being labelled a harlot, a peripatetic rambler. He wears that cloth of an asewo like a fashionista. On Sunday, it paid off. For the first time, Atiku will be a presidential candidate of a party that looks at victory with a rosy, unblinking eye.

Now, it has transformed from a grudge match to an open duel. Atiku can now confront Buhari, face to face, rhetoric to rhetoric, barnstorm to barnstorm, money stash for money stash. In Port Harcourt, at the Adokiye Amaesimaka Stadium, he kicked the first ball. The applause did not roar. But from the cheers of the delegates, it betokened a battle of gunfire and splintered shards.

But it did not seem automatic that he would be the flag bearer. Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki had looked good on paper. So did Kwankwanso. But reporters say it was not the ideas, or the charisma or the electability that swung it for the Adamawa man. It was naira and dollar. All of the dozen candidates sprayed, and eventually the top plutocrat won the day.

Up to the time of writing, no candidate had raised a perfidious eyebrow. On the podium, Saraki stood, visibly crestfallen, with a wan-and-ashy smile, a feeble clap of the hands, his head swaying as though the wind tossed about. Kwakwanso’s face winced like one blaming the sunshine, his eyes squinting as though he should borrow Uche Secondus’ cumbersome goggles. David Mark looked demilitarised and former Governor Jang seemed dazed out of his depths.

With his babaringa and dark glasses, Atiku’s mien and even tone camouflaged his triumphal glee.

Nothing savvy about the speech, but I spotted a contradiction. He said the PDP had now rebranded, yet he looked back at his party’s time in power as model of governance unlike the suffocating poverty of the Buhari era. More potent was his beggary moment when he praised the Owu chief who has remained unforgiving of Atiku’s alleged treachery. Will OBJ take the olive branch or toss it into an Ota bush?

More surprising to many was that Saraki came a distant third, and Tambuwal might have won the ticket if the Adamawa man had not turned pirouette from the APC. But that leaves Tambuwal, nonetheless, in one of the most inexplicable miscalculations. He loses governorship and gets nothing. Maybe it was because he never wanted to be governor anyway.

In spite of the apparent weakness of the Buhari era, Atiku will have to rely on more than his money and his capacity to work the elite in a deal. He has never been a man of the crowd, a man who pulls the emotional springs of the people. Against a government that claims to fight corruption, Atiku appears to be the wrong man to pit against it. A successful businessman, he has never been known to touch the culture, to tingle the sports fan, to appeal to a pious sentiment, to stir a social function. There is something curiously placid about Atiku that, beyond his money and ambition, he could just pass through the crowd without a jolt. Even when he yells, he sounds forced and uninspired. His voice hardly tingles, or even sings to, the ear.

He may have to rely perhaps on local virtuosos to do that for him across the country. And he will need his money and elite consultations to push him up that path. I had thought the PDP saw Kwankwanso’s virtue as the man to counter Buhari’s charismatic strangle-hold on all of the Northwest and the much of the Northeast. The former Kano governor cannot play in the second electoral prize, the Southwest, because of his recent meddling in Lagos and Osun State when he lunged at the locals over Fulani fights. But he has a strong base in the Northwest, and would have chopped off some of Buhari’s cult following and used that as a launching pad and momentum. Atiku’s appeal is broad, not deep. Broad appeals do not wake up passion; just distant, even speculative, admiration.

Buhari has a different sort of persona. He appeals to the talakawa of the North who would not probe his intellectual pedigree, or question his obvious contradictions or hypocrisy, or rile at acts of corruption in his government. He is a man of great Mohamedan piety, according to their lights. And that is sufficient for them. In some sense, his followers are like the shepherds of Trump who once claimed that if he shot a person on a New York road, his followers would not flag their support.

Tragically, it will turn out to be another hotbed campaign season, but cool on ideas or soaring personalities.

Obviously, for all his imperfections, Buhari is still the man to beat. Atiku will have to overcome his lethargic image, and that remains to be seen.



Borno’s Mr. Marshall

The man was a United States general. Our Borno man is a professor. The American took up the job as secretary of state, not as a soldier. Our Borno man took up the task as a commissioner, not as an ivory tower maven. Both looked at the scars of war and decided they would restore the broken places of the country.

George C. Marshall began the task in 1948 after the Second World War. The project to restore Europe was named after the general and was designated The Marshall Plan. Professor Umara Zulum, in 2018, is looking to take over that task not as a commissioner but as the helmsman of Borno State as successor to the cerebral, who has piloted the state with aplomb through fear and storm in the past seven and a half years. Umara Zulum has been the Mr. Marshall of Borno, getting his hands and feet dirty in the jungle, in the areas that Boko Haram had pillaged. He is the commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. He defrocked this professorial toga, and has supervised not only brick and mortar, but to bring the mortals from the brink. A lot of work has been going unsung over the years, the rebuilding and construction of housing units, schools, roads, markets, hospitals. The mortals on the brink have been gradually returning to their old lives, in spite of the sporadic renewal of Boko Haram onslaught.

Governor Shettima made the point clear in an essay, showing how he picked him and why. It was the case of the man and the moment conjoining. According to the phrase redacted from Bible, “cometh the man, cometh the hour.” In soulful, persuasive prose, Shettima laid out like no one else the intellectual necessity of Zulum and his practical imperative. Cool-headed with clear diction, Zulum is poised more than anyone else in the Borno firmament to be the Mr. Marshall of Borno State as governor.



No funeral wreaths, please

A bullet cruised down through the roof into Nsima Ekere’s bedroom. His wife, Ese, and another person narrowly missed it. Whether by an act of God or providence, the APC governorship candidate and NDDC managing director had moved his scheduled meeting next door to the home of Umana Umana. It was clear: an assassination attempt. Whodunit? Was the bullet just flying like a bird or was it shot? Technology shows that bullet only obeys the trigger man.

Just a few days after he grabbed the APC ticket to duel Emmanuel Udom, the state governor. Not long before, Godswill Akpabio also survived another attempt, barely three months after dumping PDP.

This coincided with Udom’s pardon to hundreds of daredevil hoodlums who had unsettled the state over the years. The polls in the state should not descend into blood duel. All we want is the will of the people. Ekere has lobbed at Udom over rising violence in some of the local government areas. You don’t address that by playing flower girl to them and handing the holy communion.

Ekere’s warning might be seen as a political assertion, but should he be a victim before it is taken seriously? We abhor funeral wreaths ahead of elections. Let the people garland their choice.

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