Atiku’s Court Case: A Litmus Test For Nigerian Democracy, By Dan Arewa

Atiku Abubakar

“Anywhere you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” (Master DJ)

In a nation fast taking semblance of a sanctuary for political horse traders, pressure group alarmists and religious conformists, it seems damn natural for injustices to take root – as virtually nobody wants to stand up to the bayonet of elements in power, who brazenly assault and insult the majority will of the people. It is so bad and sad a trend, unlike the rest of the world where the mass of the people protest against any form of oppression and intimidation.

In fact, Nigeria of today harbours men who are literarily without balls; just male in name walking the streets with their tails curled between their legs. Little wonder the amazons are publicly bellowing from the rooftops: “Where are the men” once shouted Hajia Aisha Buhari, wife of the sitting President, while registering disaffection with the two-man cabal she alleged had taken over her husband’s political throne. Since that feat, other females, especially topnotch screen queens of the movie industry have  taken a bold cue from the First Lady. A case of what men won’t do right, women will perfect.

“Nigerians are suffering under your government and nothing is being done to correct the anomaly”,  cautioned a concerned multi-talented ace actress and homemaker, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, aka Omo Sexy; while her counterpart the richly endowed Rita Edochie, a household Nollywood Star, also recently refused to celebrate her nature-given birth anniversary; blaming barefaced electoral fraud at the last presidential polls held 23 February 2019, which robbed the flag bearer of the opposition party (Peoples Democratic Party) Atiku Abubakar, from having the rightful keys to the seat of power in Aso Villa Abuja.

Meanwhile, it is no longer news that our dear country has been harvesting firsts in the most worrisome fields globally;  such as headquarters of poverty and squalor, most terrorized nation, incessant nationwide brigandage and kidnappings, one of the worst countries in the world to raise a family, centre-point for illiteracy and out of school children, compass-less economy, stinking corruption, electoral malpractices, extra judicial killing of taxpayers by security agents and a host of oddities. But in the face of these menace, our cowardly men seem to have taken shelter in unholy silence, or if you can’t beat them, eat from their table syndrome!

Thus, it was highly inconceivable and even considered an unpatriotic act in some quarters, when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, an old political Trojan warhorse, rose like the braveheart Spartan man that he truly is, to challenge in court the controversial and “undocumented” results declared by INEC, the supposed electoral umpire, which freely offered victory to the incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, contrary to popular wish of the people.

Almost at the risk of his mercurial business conglomerate and family safety, Atiku, a self-made  industrialist and education investor cum consummate politician and grand philanthropist, is standing tall like a Knight in Shining Armour, to defend democracy once again; in a country that courts dictatorship with the attraction of light metals to a magnet. For the 72-year-old most liberal political juggernaut from north of the Niger/Benue Rivers, fighting a just cause is never an anathema. But a task that must be done by a qualified statesman. Righting wrongs, in national interest, is always Atiku’s pastime. And he knows how to win, legally.

Let’s rewind the tape of history. In the hellish days of military dictatorship and gestapo brutality of the nineties, Atiku was a leading figure in the trenches against anti democratic forces. He lost his own mentor and founder of the Peoples Democratic Movement and former number two man in Obasanjo’s military era, late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the Tafilda of Katsina, who was allegedly injected with poison in his jail room. Atiku too nearly faced equal fatality when assassins raided his Kaduna residence in the middle of the night, and killed half a dozen of his security aides. A son of his that was with him was tortured and traumatized by the assailants. Luckily, Atiku lived to tell the gory story in his biography.

Even a decade before the Kaduna macabre drama, Atiku it was as a senior customs officer, who intercepted the infamous 53 suitcases loaded with Naira from Saudi Arabia, meant for exchange into new Naira notes, which the then military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari had decreed into law.  That money belonged to a powerful Emir, who’s son was said to be a military aide to GMB! That seizure, in national interest, nearly cost the then Turaki Adamawa his job and career.  Arguably, it was partly the reason why he could not attain the highest career position as Director General of the Customs and Excise. He quit public service as a deputy head at age 43.

Let’s fast forward the tape to the second coming of former President Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, aka Baba Iyabo. No sooner had OBJ persuaded Atiku to relinquish the governorship seat he won in Adamawa to becoming a co-tenant of Aso Villa with him, than the imperial tendencies of the Otta Farmer emerged, fangs and warts. Atiku managed a first term with less rancor, but the second tenure was no doubt  being in bed with an enemy. Suspicious of Obasanjo’s intent to acquire for himself a third term in office, against constitutional provisions, Atiku, leading the rest of other compatriots, depressed the pedal of political agitation which later saw OBJ out of office at the expiration of his two term. Atiku did not leave that battle unscathed. So much dirt was through his way, even in writing till date. But he keeps soaring high as a man of the people.

 Aside that, several efforts were made to practically throw him out of the Villa without recourse to the constitution. But Atiku, renowned for surrounding himself with the best intellectual arsenal, travelled the long road of judicial arbitration, up to the Supreme Court, where he won 14 Landmark Judgments, which today are fundamental to the development and consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. A case in reference, is the tie-ticket pronouncement that prevents a President or Governor from sacking their Vice or Deputy, except through death or impeachment by legislators.

Politically speaking, Atiku as a liberal democrat stepped down for the late MKO Abiola to emerge the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party in 1992, contrary to the viewpoint of conservatives in the North. For Atiku, Nigeria comes first. His first marriage was to a Yoruba woman from Ilesa in Osun State; second is the daughter of his emir in Adamawa and yet another to a Princess from Igboland, a Barrister at Law. Some of these moves present Atiku to many of his ethno-religious peers as a daring maverick or unrepentant iconoclast. Hence, their fear of seeing him have power at the very top. Atiku’s worst enemies are his former code friends and beneficiaries. Sad but true.

Candidly, the stale tale of Nigeria is that leaders who are supposed to genuinely set the pace for its development and raise her ante into a super sovereignty within the comity of nations, are never allowed to ride the saddle.  So much obstacles were thrown the way of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a sage who introduced free education to western region in the fifties, set up a university, established a radio/TV station, built cocoa house skyscraper, a regional newspaper and a host of others. Of note, was how Awo’s Vice Presidential Candidate for the Unity Party of Nigeria, Honourable Shugaba Darman, a bonafide Nigerian, was deported to Chad by the immigration service in a kangarooic manner. By the time the innocent man could be returned, valuable political space had been lost in the ensuing 1979 election won by the National Party of Nigeria, led by the now late Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

The succeeding election of 1983 was massively rigged and brazenly flaunted as a “landslide victory” with the connivance of a corrupt judiciary led by the then Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, who  disingenuously invented the Twelve Two Third judgement, that made Awo lose the election not via the ballots but through he needle of legal technicalities. That aberration led to military incursion, the first coming to power of Buhari on 31 December 1983. 

Buhari’s junta claimed to have come to rescue the country from glaring corruption, sleaze and all manners of decadence. Three young men were  even tied to the stake and shot dead for drug related offenses. An attempt by the Buhari/Idiagbon regime to cargo Alhaji Umaru Dikko, one of the most powerful ministers under Shagari, failed. No thanks to eagle-eyed British police who intercepted the victim in a crate where he was housed awaiting airlift to Nigeria from at Stansted airport, near Cambridge, United Kingdom.

At this juncture, let mention be made of the annulled June 12 election won by Bashorun MKO Abiola in 1993. Abiola the hunter was suddenly turned into the hunted. The popular politician was jailed by General Sani Abacha, who later led a rapacious and kleptomaniac regime which sent many illustrious Nigerians to untimely death and the nation’s economy into the abyss. Nigeria, under Abacha, was a pariah state with hardly any foreign friends of note. The annulment of Abiola’s Mandate by the General Badamasi Babangida junta had been carried out on the pretext of candle light judgement by one lady judge, late Bassey Ikpeme, who ruled unjustly in favour of a frivolous suit filed by Senator Arthur Nzeribe’s now defunct Associations for Better Nigeria, which sought total annulment of the free and fair 1993 presidential polls. What a land of paradox, of wealth and waste.

Now let’s take the horse on a home run.  Atiku, just like Awo before him, is a true democrat and believer in constitutionalism, rule of law and the sacred doctrines of separation of powers, which allots the responsibility of interpreting the law and apportioning judgement equitably without bias to the Judiciary. This third arm of government is known as the beacon of hope and last point of justice to the common man. But the Judiciary, like every facet of the society, has embedded bad eggs who often sell the collective hope of the majority for less than the proverbial pot of porridge. Indeed, pecuniary interest or ethno-religious bias have now taken the front seat against the ideals of national interest. 

However, though one cannot rule out the presence of hatchet jobbers in the hallowed chambers of justice; yet it will tantamount to throwing away the baby and the dirty bath water, if we are to swiftly write off our entire bar and bench as a league of never- do-wells. In all honesty, Nigerian judges are still some of the best in the world, despite their cumbersome and inclement work environment coupled with pervasive executive interference and outright harassment or sheer intimidation. 

 Basically,  on the weight of substantial evidence in the petition of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, which the Independent National Electoral Commission, the All Progressives Congress and even incumbent President Buhari are yet to convincingly disprove or puncture, our Judiciary must therefore stand firm and tall to be counted on the side of the mass of Nigerians whose right to vote and ballots to be counted should be sustained judicially.

In truth, INEC must be docked and questioned as to the whereabouts of the N27b tax payers money it budgeted for hi-tech support for the conduct of the elections, more-so as the commission is claiming not to have a backend server nor stored or transmitted results through its acclaimed advance cum upgraded card readers. Let’s avoid institutional corruption and gross violation of trust.

Hence, those still swimming in the murky pool of political foolery, by pushing up the ridiculous and most insane doubt on the Nigerianness of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, are just modern day replica of the infamous Akinjide, Arthur Nzeribe and Bassey Ikpeme, past men and a woman who upturned People’s Mandate and are battling for a good mention in history. Same way, the political dunderheads of today and their judicial acolytes should be careful of the tiger they are riding on, lest they become the victims of their own wrong choice. 

Without an iota of doubt, Atiku’s path to  judicial recourse is the road to victory not just for him and his political party alone, but the route to liberation and emancipation of 200 million Nigerians from the shackles of a few oppressive cabal, who are turning the poisoned apparatus of government to hurt and cow law abiding citizens.

Finally Atiku, a true defender of democracy and a political oasis in the desert, remains one of the last freedom fighters left in our country that all compatriots must support and follow. His pain is for our collective gain. Let’s all stick together and pursue equity, fairness and justice to the letter in the courts. After all, like the lyrics of a popular song, “anywhere we go, let’s always remember the best road that will lead us home.”

 Atiku’s Mandate 2019 is the real litmus test for the totality of democracy in Nigeria. Let those who have ears hear. We are in a season of classical self determination for the Nigerian Judiciary, as former CJN Onnoghen appeals his conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and Atiku is challenging Buhari and INEC at presidential elections tribunal.  This is no child’s play. Neither is it a ludo game. Posterity is waiting with its verdict on all concerned. Long live a reformed and just Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The writer, Dan Arewa, is a public affairs commentator based in Keffi, Nasarawa State.

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