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Opinion: Atiku as an endangered species

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BY PAUL IBE

Sam Omatseye’s article, brimming with vitriol and sanctimonious posturing, demands a rebuttal rooted in truth and literary eloquence. Omatseye, in his misguided zeal to malign Atiku Abubakar, reveals more about his own biases and mercenary penmanship than about the man he seeks to discredit. It is time to set the record straight and highlight the strengths of Atiku Abubakar, a statesman and an endangered species whose vision and dedication to Nigeria’s unity and progress far surpass the myopic self-interest Omatseye attributes to him.

The Chess Player and the Strategist

Omatseye derides Atiku for seeing himself as a chess player, implying a lack of humility. Yet, in the intricate game of politics, the ability to strategize and anticipate moves is paramount. Atiku’s approach is not one of vanity, but of calculated foresight and a deep understanding of Nigeria’s complex socio-political landscape. Unlike the unnamed politician, presumably Bola Tinubu, who flaunted his power with a self-deprecating quip, Atiku’s humility lies in his persistent efforts to build bridges across Nigeria’s diverse ethnic and religious divides.

Visits and Symbolism: A Misguided Allegory

Omatseye’s allegorical comparisons of Atiku’s visits to historical betrayals and sinister handshakes are a testament to his propensity for hyperbole. The handshake between Atiku and Buhari is not a clandestine plot but a public display of his commitment to national unity. Atiku’s visits are not sneaky or deceitful, like Odysseus returning in disguise, but open gestures of reconciliation and dialogue.

Misplaced Criticism of Political Alliances

Omatseye’s insinuation that Atiku’s alliances are opportunistic ignores the political realities of Nigeria. Politics, by its very nature, involves the forging of alliances (and Omatseye needs to be reminded of alliances of his paymaster that led to the formation of the APC). Atiku’s partnership with figures like Nasir el-Rufai is not a sign of duplicity, but a pragmatic effort to unite various factions for the greater good. The allegation that Atiku exploits ethnic sentiments is ironic coming from a Tinubu apologist, considering Tinubu’s notorious manipulation of ethnic and regional loyalties to consolidate power.

The North and Atiku’s Legacy

The critique that Atiku only remembers the north when seeking votes is baseless. Atiku’s investments in manufacturing, agriculture, banking, education, healthcare, and infrastructure, particularly in the north, are well-documented. The American University of Nigeria, founded by Atiku, stands as a testament to his philantrophy and commitment to providing quality education and fostering development in the region. In contrast, Tinubu’s legacy in Lagos, marred by allegations of corruption and cronyism, offers little to commend.

Poverty and Development: A Flawed Narrative

Omatseye’s selective presentation of poverty statistics in the north is a disingenuous attempt to lay the blame at Atiku’s feet. Poverty in the region is a multifaceted issue exacerbated by years of neglect by successive governments. Atiku’s efforts, though significant, cannot single-handedly rectify decades of systemic challenges. Moreover, Omatseye conveniently overlooks the socio-economic disparities that persist in Lagos, Tinubu’s stronghold, despite his years of governance.

Intellectual Posturing and Misappropriation

Omatseye’s invocation of intellectual heavyweights like Michel Foucault and Zadie Smith to critique Atiku’s appeal to northern sentiments is misplaced. Foucault’s exploration of power dynamics and Smith’s discourse on identity could equally be applied to critique Tinubu’s divisive politics. Atiku’s vision, in contrast, seeks to transcend prefabricated identities and foster a cohesive national identity.

A Dangerous Politician or a Visionary Leader?

Labeling Atiku as the most dangerous politician, second only to Peter Obi, is a gross mischaracterization. Atiku’s political career is marked by his advocacy for restructuring Nigeria, promoting decentralization, and empowering local governments. His vision for Nigeria is one of inclusive growth and sustainable development, a stark contrast to the status quo of political patronage and centralization championed by Tinubu.

In conclusion, Sam Omatseye’s article is a tapestry of half-truths and unfounded allegations woven together with the thread of bias. Atiku Abubakar’s strengths lie in his strategic acumen, his commitment to national unity, and his tangible contributions to Nigeria’s development. Omatseye’s diatribe, far from discrediting Atiku, exposes the hollowness of his own arguments and the mercenary nature of his pen. It is time for Nigerians to see through the smokescreen of political propaganda and recognize the genuine leadership and vision that Atiku Abubakar offers. As Ralph Waldo Emerson aptly said, “A great man is always willing to be little,” and it is in this spirit of humble service that Atiku seeks to lead Nigeria to a brighter future.

Ibe is a Media Adviser to Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and Presidential candidate of the PDP (2023).

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