It was a mockery of a familiar scripture. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” So Atiku Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo could sit together, after the firestorm of laughter a few years ago. They now see themselves as sons of God because they sat together to fulfil Atiku’s ancient ambition and pursue Obasanjo’s grudge. Both grudge and ambition embrace in the enmity of Muhammadu Buhari. In pidgin English, we call it jiga belle. Where is God here but bad blood, a coalescence of the sons of malice.
So one said “I dey laugh o” and the other lashed back with “I dey laugh too o.” It was exciting headline fair for newspapers. When both foes folded into friendship, one thing was especially missing in the Abeokuta setting: laughter. Both miens bowed in frowns as though it was no happy moment, except Bishop Oyedepo, whose face kindled with a doubtful holy halo.
Others present were Bishop Kukah, Gumi and, of course, the familiar Obj acolytes of Bode George, Ayo Adebanjo, et al. Adebanjo, the expiring politician as fuddy-duddy, once called Obj a whited sepulchre. So, what a necromantic hug he had with Obj. An Adebanjo, a nonagenarian, embracing Obj the corpse?
Obasanjo clearly needed Atiku to save him from his self-spun scorn, from the disaster of his political party, the ADC. Its first litmus test was Osun, and Obj’s party was a yawning no-show. The Owu chief has collapsed into silence since he boasted he would craft an alliance into a party that would faze Buhari out of the throne. He needed Atiku as a prop, so he won’t fall facedown. His face is already down. The Owu chief has crashed, his body parts all over the floor like glass shards. Atiku is pretending to help him put them back together.
The Owu chief also wants to pay back Buhari for snubbing him. He the Owu chief, the ebora. He who, in an air of remorseful royalty, tore his party card to enthrone him. He who campaigned and teamed up with his enemies, including his nemesis like Asiwaju Tinubu, in order to earn him a furry path to victory. Yet, Buhari dared to toss him aside. That is the megalomania of the Owu chief. He forgets two things. One, Buhari would have won without him. He came on board when victory flashed in the horizon. He has little electoral value. They made him a superfine passenger in the campaign, a flattery he could not know. Two, that his pedigree as kingmaker has always made him a little lower than an angel. Under Jonathan, he felt pooh-poohed. Yar’Adua never played servile to him. Buhari, a junior in the army, forgot to inflate him with the deserved salute.
Atiku, the man he foreswore in the name of the Almighty to never forgive, suddenly turned Obj into a tender soul. This is Obj born again indeed. The man who never forgave anybody unless they lost their offices. Ask Okadigbo in his grave. Ask Wabara about his disgrace. Ask Audu Ogbe, who is back to grace as minister. The same Obj is now rewarding an arch foe by promising him the biggest office in the land. He called Atiku our next president. This is malice as desperado.
This is no forgiveness. It is opportunism. The presence of clerics did not even give it the air of a divine blessing. All three were not there on behalf of the Ancient of Days but to settle ancient scores. Gumi comes from an old, even atavistic warfare with the Buhari clan. So, cancel the love of the people from his so-called reconciliation. Bishop Kukah has not hidden his regret over the sacking of his beloved Jonathan and his abhorrence of the probe of that era. He once asked the government to “move on.” Bishop Oyedepo loved Jonathan and he hardly accused his regime even on the pulpit of corruption while drumming up support for him and welcoming him to Canaanland. He loved his time as the president’s pastor.
There is a wistfulness to these holy presences. Holy men in scripture have never been known to be perfect, and they have made mistakes from Abraham to Jonah, even Peter and self-confessed Paul. Hence Paul warned us not to heed even if they or an angel teaches what was not written. “Brethren, pray for us,” he once pleaded. So, in that gathering, we had the cleric, the money bag, and the politician. Where is the hope? I don’t know how they want to manage the optics if they say to their faithful that they are not partisan.
Hence Bertolt Brecht, in his play Mother Courage, wrote, “Here they sit, one with his faith and the other with his cash box. Dunno which is more dangerous.”
Obj also highlighted the virtue of Atiku as a business man. Some are saying that he will do well there because he is one of the great men of business today in the land. I like more elaboration on this. I want those who make this claim to explain to us if he made his money the same way business men like Gates, Fajemirokun, Dangote, Odutola, Ojukwu (the rebel’s father) or Dantata made their money. We want to know if he doubled money with a cutting-edge imagination or by taking advantage of the footloose rules in corporate Nigeria. Is he a racketeer as the Buhari crowd calls him, or a manager? Or are they just tarring him as the candidate of corruption fighting back? It will be instructive to hear Atiku speak on how he will curb corruption. Waiting!
Again, Atiku will have to free himself from all the scandals: Siemens, PTDF, Haliburton, et al. Not just the scandal but the perception, which is even more potent. He might be innocent, but the public has its arbitrary court where judges and jury are on the street. If he does not want to brandish his mercantile credentials as his virtues, we can drop those and look elsewhere for his strength in 2019. Is there a correlation between those scandals and his wealth? This is election season and we need to scrutinise and let no one bamboozle us. Many Nigerian wealthy men are not classic geniuses of commerce but carpet baggers and opportunists. It is no qualification for turning a poor country into a commercial behemoth.
Few business men have done well as presidents anywhere. Trump is riding on the steam of Obama economy. Even Trump has just been exposed as a carpet bagger who defrauded his way into his billions by tax subterfuges. He is being investigated. The other businessman as US president, Herbert Hoover, presided over The Great Depression leaking jobs and joy. Roosevelt, a soldier, succeeded him and brought back the boom. Clearly Buhari has not shown himself to be a Roosevelt in turning the economy around. But being a businessman is no sure-fire ticket to success. The US founding fathers ignored the wealthy man John Jay, who thought his wealth would win over his peers and make him the country’s pioneer president. They picked George Washington, the soldier-statesman.
Atiku has also defined himself, probably partly in response to my column last week, by saying he is a living candidate while Buhari is dull. Buhari is anaemic for sure, especially on camera. But in camera, those who know him say he turns the ribs with his jokes. But Atiku is no better. His face is like what Americans called their Soviet counterparts in the Cold War era: doll within doll. His face, even his gait, is like an ignited mannequin. Like the character in Jerzy Kosinsky’s novel, Being There.
Peter Obi, for all his feminine voice, gives character to the pair. The choice is curious though. Obi brings nothing to the ticket in a geopolitical sense. If Atiku picked an anonymous Obi from the street of Aba, he was going to sweep the southeast anyway. Again, this is Obi, who could not deliver his governor candidate in the last poll in Anambra State. Hence, I called him a statesman without a state. Atiku has ceded the Southwest. With Northwest and Southwest off his plate, he may not have a prayer for victory. Unless, that is, an earthquake event tilts it for him. Nigeria does not have earthquakes though. Just tremors. And tremors do not bring down the house.