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Atiku, Kasparov And The Making Of A Grandmaster 

By Babajide Balogun 




Sam Omatseye’s latest piece on Atiku Abubakar offers a delightful mix of hyperbole and selective amnesia. Let’s embark on a satirical journey to unearth the so-called flaws in Atiku’s political prowess, shall we?

Omatseye opens with the image of Atiku gazing into a mirror, seeing himself as a chess player. How quaint! Atiku’s political chessboard is indeed intricate, masterfully navigating alliances and strategies. Unlike those who sing self-praises for being the “most powerful man in the state,” Atiku’s power play is rooted in tactful diplomacy and strategic acumen. Clearly, humility is overrated when you can be an artful political strategist.

David Hume’s quote, “The corruption of the best produces the worst,” is invoked to question Atiku’s visits. Let’s flip that on its head. Isn’t it ironic that Omatseye, a staunch defender of Tinubu, forgets the numerous controversies surrounding Tinubu’s political ascent? Atiku’s visits, unlike coup plotters or grudging handshakes, aim to foster unity and dialogue. But who needs context when you can paint a dramatic picture?

The comparison of Atiku’s visit to historical handshakes— Hitler and Chamberlain, Arafat and Barak — how dramatic! Atiku’s engagement with Buhari, unlike these grim historical events, is a beacon of his commitment to national cohesion. Perhaps Omatseye should brush up on his history: dialogue and reconciliation have been the cornerstone of many successful political leaders. Atiku’s willingness to engage across party lines is a testament to his dedication to Nigeria’s unity, not a sign of desperation.

Omatseye’s claim that Atiku only remembers the north when he needs votes is an amusing fairy tale. Atiku’s significant investments in education, such as the American University of Nigeria in Yola, are conveniently overlooked. This institution has provided quality education to thousands of young Nigerians. Atiku’s philanthropic endeavors and investments in northern Nigeria demonstrate a long-term commitment to regional development. But why let facts ruin a good narrative?

Shehu Sani’s prophecy of Atiku’s project “kissing the dust” is another delightful piece of wishful thinking. Atiku’s political resilience is remarkable. His persistent advocacy for restructuring Nigeria to ensure more equitable resource distribution underpins his commitment to national progress. Unlike those who rely on sectionalism, Atiku’s vision encompasses all Nigerians. His so-called ethno-regional chicaneries are nothing more than a smear campaign by those threatened by his inclusive policies.

Omatseye criticizes Atiku’s alliance with Nasir el-Rufai, calling it cynical. In reality, political alliances are an integral part of democracy. Atiku’s ability to build coalitions speaks volumes about his political acumen. It’s a skill that eludes many, but Atiku excels in bringing diverse groups together. This is not cynicism; it’s effective political strategy.

The critique of Atiku’s impact on the north’s development is another exercise in selective blindness. Atiku has never held executive power in the northern states. His influence is through advocacy and investment, which, while significant, cannot single-handedly transform the region. Development is a shared responsibility, and state governments play a crucial role. Blaming Atiku for regional underdevelopment ignores the broader systemic issues.

Omatseye’s reference to thinkers like Michel Foucault, Zadie Smith, and Charles Taylor to criticize Atiku’s appeal to northern sentiments is a delightful academic diversion. Atiku’s political narrative is not about creating “prefabricated identities” but about addressing real socio-economic challenges. His advocacy for restructuring is aimed at creating a more equitable society, not perpetuating divisions a la “awa lokan.”

Finally, comparing Atiku’s visit to Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s “The Visit” is a charming piece of literary flair. Atiku, unlike Dürrenmatt’s protagonist, is not returning to wreak havoc but to advocate unity and progress. His political journey is not about turning communities upside down but about fostering development and national cohesion.

In conclusion, Omatseye’s article is a masterclass in political deflection and sensationalism. By focusing on hyperbolic criticisms and ignoring Atiku’s substantive contributions, he misses the larger picture. Atiku Abubakar’s political journey is marked by resilience, strategic brilliance, and a genuine commitment to Nigeria’s progress. It’s time to move beyond the theatrics and engage in a constructive dialogue about the future of our nation.

Balogun is a political analyst and wrote from Ibadan

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