Atiku: The Burden of Statesmanship

In a recent interview Atiku Abubakar the PDP presidential hopeful said among other things, “If I am elected as the President in 2019, I give an undertaking that I would only do one term…I am prepared to sign an undertaking to do only one term.” Most were quick to doubt this promise of his given that such a promise was made by President Buhari in 2015 and that the same Buhari is today seeking second term in 2019. But Atiku has been swift in insisting that he’s ready to sign any undertaking to prove his seriousness.

This same statement credited to Atiku Abubakar truly attracted my attention too especially when one considers his reasons for wanting to do only one term. By announcing his readiness to do one term, Atiku has demonstrated to Nigerians that he is not eagerly interested in occupying the highest office of the land for the purpose of occupying it because should that have been his reason for seeking the presidency, of course he should be looking at doing two terms as the constitution allows.

That is why for me, Atiku’s insistence that his decision is truly based on ensuring that equity and fairness prevail. It reminds me Rufus J Fears’ extensive work on why citizens should always elect statesmen because their moral compass is rooted in a sense of absolute right and absolute wrong.” Whereas electing politicians is to elect tyrants, relativists, and liars who are only governed by public opinion polls.

With this singular decision, Atiku has proved to the world that he is not another African leader who once he gets to office, occupying as long as he can technical prolong his stay, and possibly die in office becomes the most important agenda of being in power. Atiku knows that this announcement of wanting to do one term in office puts him in the same category with Nelson Mandela Africa’s foremost statesman.

But now that Atiku has raised the bar, let us also hear from other PDP contestants in order to know whether they too have agreed on a single term should they win the PDP ticket and become president in 2019. Of course, this should become one of the bases for winning votes in the south, particularly southeast, where Buhari has been telling southeasterners that after his second term which ends in 2023, he is going to hand over power to a south-easterner. It is an important decision made by Atiku because with this, Buhari will no longer take the advantage of telling southeasterners that if they vote for him definitely he will hand over to one of their politicians come 2023.

I believe Atiku because as a good businessman he knows keeping promises is a must or else one loses one’s most important ingredient of succeeding in business — trust. For such statesmen, political rhetoric is always tailored to reflect realities. It also tells why while facts are the best friends of business, fictions and propaganda seem to earn politicians the mileage needed in winning elections.
I believe Atiku will keep this promise of his after all without having to focusing on any form of reelection planning he will have all his attention focused on setting in motion the policies that will leading to the transformation of the economy. Right policy steps will make four years enough for accomplishing good legacy for oneself.
What differentiates great statesmen from politicians is their selflessness which has always been driven by the eagerness to serve the people. It is this rare gift that makes statesmen focus on solving the people’s problem. Whereas instead of serving the people with all their abilities, the politicians spend more of their time strategizing on how to win next elections. For this reason, efforts are made to divert public funds for the execution of the next election.

That is why nations that always elected statesmen as the leaders rather than politicians have always elected leaders who spend most their time in office solving economic and social problem confronting such nations. Above all, such statesmen pay more attention on making their nations prosperous and equalitarian.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, US President (1933-1945) was a America’s foremost statesman. And because he was more preoccupied with solving America’s intractable economy that resulted from the Great Depression he succeeded in in transforming America into the world’s biggest and best run economy.

The same was true about Deng Xiaoping (1978-1992) whose statesmanship made him to succeed in turning his provincial Chinese economy to the world’s fastest growing economy to the extent of becoming the world’s second largest and its most socially inclusive economy with 600 million record job creation and an unbelievable one billion Chinese permanently lifted out of poverty in less than four decades.

But more amazing is the case of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai whose statesmanship continues to transform his desert emirate into one of the world’s best run service economies.

That is why if Nigerians are determined to get their country out of its present economic and social hopelessness, unanimous electing Atiku Abubakar should be the right decision. Known for his visionary leadership Atiku possesses that rare gift that made him excel in business judgments and above all ingeniously finding best unconventional solutions to difficult to solve problems.

There is no great business leader who does not possess excellent experience in negotiation and consensus building. These are unique skills Atiku is going to bring to bear as the president of Nigeria when he has to confront world leaders to discuss trade and economic diplomacy. More important are these skills when it comes to formulating economic policies that are designed to challenge powerful status quo. These are the skills Buhari hardly has and as a result he has always confronted the legislative arm of government. It is the same reason why his government continues not to its way in the judiciary.

Unlike Atiku, Buhari has never worked his way the leadership ladder given that his entire life has depended on benefiting from the status quo. Little wonder his presidency has been the presidency of protecting and promoting the status quo. After all, it is difficult to bite the finger that feed.

Understandably competition driven by dealing with intelligent challenges is alien to President Buhari and will always remain so.

Without dropping chauvinism we will not recognise these Atiku’s rare qualities in Atiku and without recognizing and embracing them we will lose the unique opportunities this country stands to gain with Atiku becoming the country next president. I wish I could find a better way to reveal to fellow Nigerians how it is in Atiku Abubakar’s hands that the much awaited lifting up our country lies.

Unfortunately, that will require everyone having the same trained eyes needed in seeing beyond our emotions and our biases. It is okay after all we are all emotional beings. After all, nearly Americans wouldn’t have voted Roosevelt their president as his political opponents continued to tell the electorate that he had was caught by the paralysing polio; and Deng nearly lost out in the power game in China when Chairman Moa Zedong refused to anoint him his chosen successor, or Al Maktoum who had to patiently wait for his father to leave the scene before exploding and exposing the rare leadership gifts, which are in some cases against the status quo.

Mohammed Abba Gana, the former FCT Minister, in a recent interview argued that for PDP not to repeat the mistakes of 2015, the party must nominate a political “field marshal,” someone whose “solid capacity and message must mobilize and galvanize” voters for PDP in 2019. Luckily, these are the rare qualities that are in abundance in Atiku Abubakar because not only that he has such an exceptional intellectual capacity with his real world experience remaining the envy of his political opponents.

These are the reasons why he has such exceptional popularity in southern and middle belt states. It is the same reasons he is highly favored by majority of the youths. Besides, being religious moderate, Atiku is also the favorite of Christians across the country.

Of course, these are some of unbelievable advantages he has that force his opponents to bear grudges. But at the end of the day there is no one politician in the present Nigerian political space that has what it takes to successfully defeat Buhari in the forthcoming presidential election, let alone to successfully clean up the present economic and social messes caused by the present administration. That is not to mention uniting the highly traumatized fellow citizens who as a result have to flee for safety to their respective ethnic and religious enclaves.

Further making Atiku to stand out of his present political peers are his doggedness, his big hearted, and his strong-will waiting to take our economic problems head-on. This is unlike President Buhari whose only achievements since being forced out of power in 1985 are few hundreds of cattle, not even furthering his education beyond his controversial secondary certificate, and who gained everything in life not out of sheer hard work and merit, but rather out of outright favors.

There is no way handing an untrained doctor the surgery knives to conduct a brain surgery shouldn’t have caused more complication to the patient. The same way handing Buhari our economy to fix has ended up causing more damage to economy than fixing it. This explains why we from an exchange rate of N197 naira to a dollar in early 2015 to N350 today, from the fuel pump price of N97 per liter before he was sworn in to N145 today. It is the same reason we have such an unfavourable business environment, with investors fleeing Nigeria or else to join the thousands of local businesses that have since gone bankrupt.

Little wonder over 8 million jobs have been lost under Buhari’s watch and as if not enough recently Nigeria surpassed India to become the country with the world’s largest concentration of poor people. What about now being rated as the country with the largest number of civilians killed without being a civil war country? Of course, with these the painful figures in our minds, coupled with his failing health as a result of old age, we — the clueless 200 million citizens of Nigeria, lacking the boldness to say enough of this mess — are still eager to reelect Buhari president come 2019 and willingly would hand him our economic destiny till 2023.

While as an astute businessman Atiku will quickly stop the bleeding economy by putting to an end the current policy somersaults inherent in Buhari administration which forced most foreign and domestic investors to stay away from Nigeria, definitely Atiku’s nightmares will be reconciling all diverse ethnic, religious and cultural groups. Truly the Atiku presidency is going to work hard on building a new national unity where all citizens recognize themselves as equal and as a result believe that hard work and intellect excellence pay.

With anti-graft war today being focused on intimidating political opponents, President Atiku has got a lot of reorganizing and refocusing of the country’s anti-graft war.

This would require the complete overhauling of our current judicial system along with our criminal investigation and prosecutorial processes. Without promoting a just and fair society, where the rule of law is always supreme, there is no way we can win the anti-graft war.

Crippling kidnapping, banditry and other violent crimes in the country will take front roll in an Atiku presidency. Otherwise there is no way we should expect meaningful economic growth in a country rated as among the five most dangerous countries in the world to live. Atiku is already planning how to urgently modernize Nigeria’s outdated policing system in a way that federal police, state police and community police have to work together.

Recognizing that why most of these problems have defied solutions is because of over centralization of the country, Atiku has since been championing the restructuring even when it was unpopular.

He knows that without restructuring insecurity and communal conflicts are unavoidable, and with such volatile environment there is way any meaningful economic development could take place and without meaningful economic activities taking place, there no way internally generated revenue could grow, without which salaries are hardly paid without government going to borrow.

Atiku knows that allowing the status quo to continue would amount to allowing the nation to degenerate to the level of economic comatose state. That is why not to allow us get to this sorry state, he is advocating for restructuring. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Buhari knows why restructuring remains the only out of our present economic mess because had he known definitely there is no way he should be opposing it; and did he know that restructuring will favor the north more than it will favor south, I doubt if he would continue to insist that it is not necessary.

But one thing I am certain about is that unlike Buhari who seems not to be in the know the workings of restructuring, certainly Atiku is fully aware why restructuring remains our best way to begin to develop and grow the country’s economy with northern economy becoming a trillion dollar economy within a decade. And this will be possible simply because as a result of restructuring northern leaders will see how some aggressive focus on agriculture, food processing, solid mineral mining and processing, and tourism and hospitality is the shortest way of achieving mass prosperity with millions of job.

Another great policy pronouncement Atiku made is his proposed matching grants to states based on their IGR. What this means is that states with more IGR will get exactly the same amount from federal government. That will force state governors to put on their thinking cap and stop coming to the center with cap in hand begging for bailouts.

Also thrilling is federal government’s readiness to hand all the federal universities along with federal secondary schools to the states where they are located. This an excellent proposal because it show full understanding that federal government has no business whatsoever investing in any form of education after all, why do we have states and local governments?

With this triggering incredible competition among states, attracting best and brightest students, faculty and researchers will henceforth depend on which state is investing more in quality education, world-class campus facilities and research centers. By attracting these best, definitely leading high-tech and knowledge corporations too will be attracted.

With all these Atiku’s beautiful policies which are increasingly brightening Atiku’s chances of defeating Buhari at the polls, one still wonders why Obasanjo continues to run around looking for someone else to support against Atiku! Is Obasanjo actually afraid of Buhari jailing him and confiscated his assets should he win a reelection? Who is Obasanjo more afraid of Buhari or Atiku presidency? The early Obasanjo realizes that Atiku will definitely win the 2019 election the better Obasanjo starts living in the real world.

––Enwegbara, an Abuja based development economist

News Reporter