As his boss for eight years, he has a working knowledge of him; he was President and Atiku was his vice from 1999 to 2007. In that period, Obasanjo gave Atiku a lot of assignments and made him handle huge responsibilities in line with the shared commitment of the presidency. Unfortunately, before their tenure ended, their relationship became frosty; something of a cat and dog one. Today, the testimonial of Atiku from his boss is a damning verdict of historical incongruity. It is a testimonial of heist and financial malfeasance. A testimonial of hate, incandescence, subterfuge, political horse-trading and a struggle for control. It is indeed a testimonial that speaks volumes of huge allegations of profligacy and desperation for relevance.
Atiku started fighting his boss two years into the administration; wanting to surreptitiously capture the structure of the party that brought the two of them to power. As hard as Atiku tried to undermine the political grip of Chief Obasanjo, a retired General, the game within the party was differently nuanced to wrestle the structure from him. Unknown to Atiku Abubakar, he had become a pawn in their midst; as the military oligarchs had a different purpose in democratic governance. He walked into the trap that was set for him like a blind traveller. By the time Obasanjo secured his second term, having pleaded with his ambitious Vice, the die was cast. Atiku was to know no peace from thence, until the administration bowed out. Within that period dear friends, it was all accusation of corruption, corruption and profligacy.
In 1999, I was a witness to some of the intrigues that threw up Obasanjo and Atiku as President and Vice President. Chief Obasanjo who was just emerging from the inner sanctuary of solitary confinement which he suffered under late Sani Abacha, had almost lost touch with society. He was largely unkempt, and had no updated knowledge about happenings in the political circle. His friends and associates provided the atmosphere that promoted him. Having emerged from the intrigue-ladden Jos convention, where a plethora of factors were at play, his choice of Atiku Abubakar was informed largely and almost absolutely by factors of succession, and nothing else. Chief of the factors was the propensity for Atiku to soil his hands which would make him damned in the event that he might want to seek election in the future. The Military oligarchs reasoned that they needed a Vice that loved money, who might fall into the trap of financial profligacy, and would for that reason bury his own ambition. So, in line with that plot, President Obasanjo gave Atiku the privatisation portfolio, the PTDF and a host of other briefs that made him interface with the State Governors. Atiku Abubakar held sway in those businesses and became a very powerful Vice President, who combined the politics of PDP with his assigned portfolios. When the records were to be unveiled, The Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC which had investigated him produced a report of financial profligacy against Atiku Abubakar, concerning the PTDF funds. He was to be prosecuted. Till date, that report is still gathering dust on the EFCC shelves and no action has been taken against the former Vice President. The report is still valid and the EFCC should develop the chutzpah to do the needful.
The Special Purpose Vehicle that was established during the years of the Obasanjo-Atiku presidency had all the nomenclature of corruption, abuse of process, subterfuge and subterranean apparatchik that shortchanged an already dysfunctional system. The audio leak of Atiku’s explicit narration seemed to me just a tip of the iceberg. The privatisation exercise, and several other revelations, presented a veritable platform to cultivate corruption and irrigate them with greed and avarice. Both Atiku and his boss, were culpable
In 2002, when President Obasanjo declared that he was waiting on God to direct his second term aspiration, he was actually waiting on the G4 that midwifed his initial presidential project. The arrangement from the Military end was for Chief Obasanjo to spend four years, hand over to IBB for four years too, before they would allow a proper civilian to take over power. All this was to ensure that all adventurous and ambitious military officers were fully checked, and also, to entrench the Democratic Rule in the system by themselves. In order to keep the boys in the barracks, it was reasoned that some former military leaders be allowed to prepare the way. Later, albeit, former President Obasanjo prevailed on IBB, Gusau, and T.Y Danjuma to allow him a second term. How to checkmate Atiku Abubakar then became the issue. Atiku on the other hand was ambitious but didn’t know how to wriggle himself out of the grip of the military oligarchs. At some point albeit, his interest declined; but later, he yielded to the prompting of some of the Governors led by James Ibori of Delta. He collected a nomination form, and so did Alex Ekwueme. It was going to be an uphill task for Obasanjo who had grown stubborn and dismissive of the assistance that brought him to power. When he was confronted by Obasanjo about his rumoured ambition, he denied that he was interested; without knowing that Obasanjo already had a photocopy of his filled and signed nomination form. Later, he tried to blackmail IBB and Gusau as the masterminds of the plot to railroad him into contesting, still unknown to him that he was a pawn in military chessboard. After all the entreaties, OBJ got a second term ticket, and that was the end of discussion between OBJ and Atiku. The relationship nosedived; and remains poor till date.
The recent revelations by Michael Achimugu exposes only a part of the modus operandi of the OBJ-Atiku era; where Special Purpose Vehicles were created as conduits to siphon money and also, to fund the party. A certain percentage from the sale of every barrel of crude oil from this country, was set aside to fund the PDP activities. The suggestion by Atiku as explained in that audio leak, was a dubious way to corrupt the process without any trace. Waziri Mohammed, Fasawe and Andy Uba, were those who according to Atiku were recommended to manage the funds. So many other underhand dealings transpired and got exposed when Atiku stubbornly went ahead to contest in the 2007 elections, using the Action Congress of Asiwaju Tinubu as a platform. The project crumbled, and Atiku’s gimcrack ego got brutally bruised again; and since then, he’s been trying hard to pick up his pieces. Recall that Atiku had served in the Customs Services at the same time when he was trading and doing smuggling businesses in Idi-Iroko and Imeko borders. That much he acknowledged during his media outing on Arise TV exclusive interview, an act that runs contrary to the rules and regulations of Civil Service procedure. From the Customs also, he was showed the exit door after a panel of inquiry found him culpable of allegations of impropriety, involving the Nigeria Intels services, which was originally a wholly owned Nigeria company before Atiku was accused to have balkanised it. In his preparation to join partisan politics, story has it that his mentor, General Shehu Musa Yar’dua took him to IBB in Dodan Barracks, and after discussions and appeals, what was initially a dismissal from The Customs Service, was converted to voluntary retirement in 1989.
Revelations such as Achimugu’s are enough to make Atiku Abubakar face grueling investigation that would unveil the internal rot of a system they presided over between 1999 and 2007. Such damning revelations are the reasons why Atiku has shown such glaring desperation to occupy the exalted office of Mr. President. He is seeking a way to clean up his chequered history and rewrite his name in the annals of history. But the God we serve will certainly shame him
The Special Purpose Vehicle that was established during the years of the Obasanjo-Atiku presidency had all the nomenclature of corruption, abuse of process, subterfuge and subterranean apparatchik that shortchanged an already dysfunctional system. The audio leak of Atiku’s explicit narration seemed to me just a tip of the iceberg. The privatisation exercise, and several other revelations, presented a veritable platform to cultivate corruption and irrigate them with greed and avarice. Both Atiku and his boss, were culpable. The Jefferson case in the US that knotted Atiku into the fray of profligacy and money laundering coupled with the findings of the EFCC on the probe of PTDF under Atiku Abubakar, are a cesspool of corruption which in a saner society would have caused Atiku Abubakar to be brought face to face with justice. If South Africans could set a remarkable example of subjecting former President Jacob Zuma to the crucible, what stops the Nigerian government from bringing Atiku Abubakar to justice? I have repeatedly said that Nigeria is a country of sins without sinners, and the reality staring us in the face is indicative of why our anti-corruption crusade will continue to remain an uncharitable witch-hunt. The law says only a court of competent jurisdiction has the power to pronounce a verdict of conviction on anyone, but the courts are often in cahoot with slumbering in dispensing with corruption cases. Four, five and six years down the line, corruption cases are still unending. Slow administration of justice, many times, deliberate adjournments for many years, cannot support a proper anti-corruption crusade. How can a man with such copious allegations of corruption spanning almost his entire adult life be asking us to vote him into power, to preside over our collective patrimony? How does that sound?
For a country that truly desires to make a headway in a new world order, where accountability is assured, a man like Atiku Abubakar should have been cooling off in jail following the revelations of his former aide, Michael Achimugu. But this is a country of contradictions. It is a country where impossibilities occupy the seat of possibility, where saints are crucified and punished, and the guilty ones are “voted” into office without qualms. It is a country where the blind leads those with clear sight, where injustices are cultivated with perfunctory relish, and ingratitude runs the system. It is a country that pushes the best to the back, while elevating the worst minds in our national life. Despite all the mouthing and sermonizing, corruption still walks the streets with gusto, accepting plea bargaining to return only part of a whole. When you attempt to unearth the unthinkable, you are easily cautioned and warned to be careful of untoward consequences. Revelations such as Achimugu’s are enough to make Atiku Abubakar face grueling investigation that would unveil the internal rot of a system they presided over between 1999 and 2007. Such damning revelations are the reasons why Atiku has shown such glaring desperation to occupy the exalted office of Mr. President. He is seeking a way to clean up his chequered history and rewrite his name in the annals of history. But the God we serve will certainly shame him.
……to be continued!!.
. Afegbua is a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State