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#Project 2023: Can Southern Leaders stop Atiku’s Presidency?

By Martins Oloja

‘…What I am seeing in the crystal ball before me is making me to ask these questions: despite all our strong editorials nurtured by robust investigative reports on political corruption and what the ruling party, the APC has made of Nigeria they took majestically from the PDP in 2015, can we get purpose driven and dynamic Movements like the #EndSARS -2020 that can prevent either the PDP or APC from forming the next Government in Nigeria? In other words, can we ever find men and women who would have bigger chests than Atiku and Tinubu for #Project-2023? I mean, the next President of Nigeria is quite likely to emerge from either the APC or the PDP. Is there any likelihood that the APC will not field Tinubu? And if the CPC wing of the APC dribbles Tinubu out of the race, will anyone else be strong enough to stop power from remaining in the North in 2023? All told, who is strong enough in PDP to stop the artful politician from Jada, Atiku who was the father to the president’s son when he took a wife from Kano the other day? Where is the robust coalition from the South that can stop power from being retained in the North in 2023?’ (Last paragraph, #Project-2023: Who Can Stop Atiku or Tinubu?
Inside Stuff with Martins Oloja, The Guardian, Sunday, April 10, 2022 https://guardian.ng/opinion/project-2023-who-can-stop-atiku-or-tinubu/).

‘…In the next few days, the original meaning of cluelessness will be clear to the very educated ones from the South the when the candidates of the two major political parties will emerge from the same North that has produced my ‘Man of The Century’.
‘…It seems to me here that most of all educated people, especially in the southern parts of the country assume they are very educated as professors and members of the power and business elite. We are orators. We are wealthy and loquacious professionals. We are senior advocates, veteran journalists, erudite analysts, world-class scholars and diplomats. But it now seems to me that we actually lack understanding of the times and seasons. It appears to me that despite our scholarship, we lack wisdom to frame winning strategy (I didn’t say development strategy). You have to win first to do that…’ (Fifth paragraph, Why Buhari Is ‘Man of The Century’, Inside Stuff With Martins Oloja, The Guardian, Sunday May 15, 2022)

Let’s debate the difference between knowledge and understanding. Let’s debate why I think Buhari has been grossly underrated and should be ‘Man of the Century’, notably as never in the history of mankind has a leader, sorry a king been so successful in sending a whole kingdom into a deep slumber while affliction is rising up against it even a third time’.(Last paragraph Why Buhari Is ‘Man of The Century’, Inside Stuff With Martins Oloja, The Guardian, Sunday May 15, 2022 https://guardian.ng/opinion/why-buhari-is-man-of-the-century/)

As I was saying, since no one was strong enough to stop the artful politician from Jada, Atiku Abubakar from clinching the PDP presidential ticket the other day, can there be any robust coalition from the APC (South) that can stop power from being retained in the North in 2023 through the same old soldier, Atiku?

All I can see from my crystal ball is that there is already a strong coalition of southwest presidential aspirants on APC platform that has set the tone for an Atiku presidency. Before the coalition comprising Governor John Kayode Fayemi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Dimeji Bankole came in to mix to diffuse the momentum for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he (BAT) was the only one who could muster some war chest and capacity to give Atiku some sleepless nights. But if one may ask now before the primary begins tomorrow, what do the coalition of contestants against either Asiwaju or Osinbajo hope to get from either the presidency or the core north, in this contest?

What will they get from the Eagle Square tomorrow if all of them from South West do not meet to step down for one of them that the Party would like to back? And from the writing that the powers that be in Abuja have boldly written on the wall, are there any last ditch efforts that the coalition can put in place to rally any political machinery to defeat Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s most experienced political strategist?

Here is the thing, the writing is clear: the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate has made victory difficult for any APC candidate that will emerge this week in Abuja.

What is worse, the mistranslated ‘Abeokuta Declaration’ of the strong man of South West politics is quite likely to produce a negative bandwagon effect the ‘Epetedo Declaration’ had on the Hope ’93 campaign in the North when the ‘militricians’ struck and annuled June-12 election result in 1993.

It is remarkable that a damage control measure has been implemented, I hope that a powerful cabal that turned even Nasir el-Rufai’s secret memo for President Buhari’s legacy projects into a toxic document against the Governor of Kaduna State in March 2017 would not use Lawal Babachir’s purported response to the ‘Abeokuta Declaration’ as a weapon to demonise the southwest aspirants in this week’s APC Primary in Abuja.

Let’s look at this scenario: a very experienced and artful politician, Atiku is already renovating his old bridges he built before 1992 when he began this tricky presidential race. The 1992-3 race culminated in his stepping down for MKO Abiola through the intervention of the organic bridge builder, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in Jos (1993). I hope this bid by a motley crowd from Yoruba-land would not produce just a plaque of honour for one of them as an ‘Hero of Democracy’, which iconic Abiola got not too long ago.
I hope this noisy bid for President by a powerful fighter for democracy would not result somehow in just an enrolment in a ‘Hall of Fame #2023’ as a ‘Fighter for Democracy’ who made many Governors from the South West, President from the North West and a Vice President from the South West but could not make himself president, after all! This appears imminent as the House of Oduduwa is remarkably divided against itself in this #Project 2023 and it isn’t likely to stand.

As I was saying, this error of a tragedy can only be averted, if the curious crowd can swallow their pride and vanity in the next few hours and rally round a consensus candidate who can confront the stronghold the North has already erected in this politician called Atiku. That too can only happen if the presidency isn’t interested in the strong man from Jada, Adamawa State who actually swept the South in the last 2019 presidential election. Will Asiwaju step down for Osinbajo if the vice president Osinbajo is the party and presidency’s choice? Will Osinbajo too step down and support Asiwaju if he is the choice of the party and presidency? If any of the two emerges APC candidate, will Fayemi, et al congratulate him?

Meanwhile, is there any strategy from our leaders from the South East geopolitical zone to make the point louder that it is indeed expedient for all stakeholders in #Nigeria-Project 2023 to understand that it is their turn to lead the country this time? Indeed, it is crystal clear to most people who want progress for Nigeria that Citizen Peter Obi is a formidable candidate who should lead this country at this challenging time. But how will this be achieved through the new platform he has defected to? The social media may be quite active and the hit for him may be overwhelming at this time but the social media platforms where the support has been tremendous may not produce polling boots where votes will count, after all.

And so, lamentation over treatment within the PDP he just left cannot be a strategy. Obi’s knowledge of the digital economy and global management systems alone cannot deliver power to him. There is a need for political engagement within the political party system. Presidential election campaign in this complex federation requires some strategic plans beyond populism and prominence. It is a huge country and most of the people who would like Peter Obi to be a Nigerian leader don’t have voter cards. It is sad. People who have the cards to vote may not know him in the social media. Most of the votes he needs are in the North, another sad reality. And those who want him in the North may not be allowed to vote for him by the powers that control them during elections. This is another reality. That may make him to be enrolled too in another ‘Hall of Fame’ just as we did to the iconic Obafemi Awolowo as ‘the Best President Nigeria never had’. Undoubtedly, if we had deepened democracy since 1993 as “Hope 93” threatened to do, a Citizen Peter Obi would have been a natural choice for Nigeria at this time. Oh, not as president of Igbo extraction. I mean he would have been headhunted to be ‘President of Nigeria’ (not a Nigerian president to fill quota and heal some old wounds). He is eminently qualified as a leader who can handle the economy to make Nigeria a world power and undisputed leader of the black race. But sadly, even most of his own people are not enthusiastic about the sterling qualities I am talking about. That prophet too may not be honoured at this time in his own country.

So, as long as the falcons in the South West cannot hear the falconers in the South East, as far as 2023 presidential race is concerned, things may fall part and the centre may not be able to hold for them this week in the South.

Sadly, if the political battle is fought lost and won by Atiku in February next year, the lamentation refrain will be: Yes, we said so, this our clueless president has manipulated the political system to elect Atiku just to retain power in the North. That writing will appear in Atiku’s wall. But some of us will ask our political leaders in the South if the ‘underrated and clueless leader’ was the demon that didn’t allow the political leaders in the South to present a common front that could defeat the ‘feudal system’ they will also blame for our collective greed and failure of strategy for leadership recruitment.

Inside Stuff With MARTINS OLOJA
‘The Guardian’, Sunday June 05, 2022, Back Page

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