By; Babayola Toungo
Atiku Abubakar, the former Vice President of Nigeria has a new song. It is called “Restructuring”. Even if it is remix of the original, the former Vice President is singing it with gusto wherever and whenever he got the opportunity of being given a microphone.
I called Atiku’s new found song as a ‘remix’ of an old wine because the song have been around since after the annulment of the June 12th, 1993 presidential elections in which the late MKO Abiola was coasting to victory. Some people believed Babangida annulled the elections to favour the North – and this was farthest from the truth. The likes of Atiku Abubakar benefitted immensely from the cacophony of noise generated by the miscarriage of justice done to the whole country by Babangida. The media-induced power shift was what made it possible for Atiku to be catapulted from a seeker of the office of a Governor to that of a Vice President. From then hence, Atiku has been battling to become the President of the country. His doggedness is commendable.
In the recent past, Atiku has been going round the country trumpeting the restructuring song like a child with a new toy. I find it strange that while he was the Vice President their government convoked a national conference (whatever its shortcomings) to among other things, look at the political and economic structure of the country. I can’t remember Atiku taking a position on the issues then raised one way or the other. May be because at that point in their relationship with Obasanjo, he still thought the old fox from Abeokuta will still hand over the country to him at the end of their constitutionally guaranteed tenure. I am also very much interested in this restructuring song only if the lyrics will be made clear to me.
Atiku Abubakar has never hidden his ambition of ruling the country and has always believed that he is the best prepared for the job. But he has constantly mismanaged his chances of being numero uno.
When the Muhammadu Buhari campaign organisation was set up, Atiku was made the campaign co-ordinator for the North – this was after receiving a bloody nose from Buhari during the primaries in Lagos. Bola Ahmed Tinubu was also appointed as the co-ordinator South. Atiku in his wisdom decided to stay put in the comforts of his Asokoro residence while Tinubu was a permanent fixture in Buhari’s political hustling, be it in the North or Southern part of the country. At a point in time during the campaigns when a BBC reporter sought to know why he was not participating in the campaign, his answer seemed strange to me. He claimed not to be invited for a campaign that I believed he was supposed to do the invitation. This was after Goodluck Jonathan, the then President and presidential candidate of the PDP, visited him at home.
With a government in place in Abuja and Atiku realising he has lost any influence or relevance in the new government, he withdrew to Yola and practically took over the state government from those who believed they are the kingmakers and therefore should call the shots. With his coterie of provincial advisers and close aides, he then cut his new album – restructuring. By all means let’s restructure our polity. What I am yet to get from him is the “how”. I have been an advocate of restructuring Nigeria for a long time and my own view was to break up the country along the amalgamation lines. But this was before the atmosphere was poisoned by ethnic bigots. Most of those advocating for restructuring may not comprehend the enormity of what they are calling for. Nobody has come out with a template of how the country should be restructured beyond the mere lip-service they pay the concept. I hope Atiku is not just trying to “belong”.
I have come to the conclusion that those calling for restructuring are mostly made up of people who lost relevance in a wider political pond and chose to become ethnic champions with the hope of being relevant in a fractionalised Nigeria. With the heightened ethnic and religious assertiveness among and between our diverse groups, we may be unwittingly setting ourselves to an ethnic and religious conflagration that may ultimately consume us. South Sudan is a good example. This is a country made up of almost 99% Christians but failed to find common ground in their religion. Ethnicists are holding the country hostage, not caring about the death and destruction ravaging the country.
When I think of Atiku and his lack of policy consistency, I cringe to think of him as the President of Nigeria, in spite of the fact that Goodluck Jonathan has lowered the bar of leadership. Atiku thinks of himself as a great leader. Greatness in my opinion is an exaggeration and like all exaggerations of dimensions, it connotes a corollary of emptiness. Greatness makes me think of an inflated balloon when I try to associate it with Atiku.
I don’t think Atiku or his advisers care about the sufferings or feelings of the solid bulk of our working classes which support society; or the souls of the common people, of the countless anonymous ones in the uniformity of brotherhood. If you believe Atiku’s call for restructuring is for them, then you need to think again. It is only a felony against their aspirations.
Those calling for restructuring of the country have been conditioned to think a particular region or groups are favoured by the present structure. Yes, the present structure favours the fat cats amongst us who feed fat off the government and most of those calling for restructuring, Atiku inclusive. Let them be crusaders in the cause of the underprivileged. Not by the decibels of their noise making shall be judged, but by their impact on the society and by those they serve. Let us stand united in this spirit and crush the felony of the privileged against the underprivileged.