Atiku’s Phobia And Tinubu’s Poisoned Holy Communion

By Casmir Igbokwe

In September 2016, a Libertarian presidential candidate in the United States, Gary Johnson, was asked in an interview what he would do about Aleppo, the epicentre of the Syrian refugee crisis. Johnson ignorantly asked, “What is Aleppo?” Americans were shocked that a presidential candidate didn’t know anything about a crisis-ridden city that was constantly in the news. In another interaction later, Johnson worsened matters when he couldn’t name any world leader, dead or alive. He explained it away by saying he was having an “Aleppo moment.”

Campaigns for Nigeria’s general election in 2023 have not yet entered the speed gear. But, our two major presidential candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, already appear to be having their Aleppo moment. True, campaigns for major elections usually come with some gaffes by politicians. Some are fatal; some are easily forgiven and forgotten. Atiku and Tinubu’s recent gaffes, to say the least, are fatal.

Or, how does one describe the faux pas Atiku, who is the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), committed on Saturday, October 15, 2022? In a moment of desperation, he told his audience at an interactive session organized by the Arewa Joint Committee in Kaduna, that what the average Northerner needs “is somebody who is from the North, and who also understands the other parts of Nigeria and who has been able to build bridges across the rest of the country. This is what the northerner needs. He doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate or an Igbo candidate.”

The backlash this statement generated prompted Atiku’s spin doctors to go on damage cruise control. They claimed their principal’s statement was twisted and blamed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the twist. In anger, Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, added that Tinubu’s aspiration was a rude attack on the integrity of every Black Country and an act of disgrace to all Nigerians. Unfortunately, the PDP standard-bearer’s statement was captured on video and it is undeniable.

I have respect for Atiku. I voted for him in the 2019 presidential election because I believed then that he was better than President Muhammadu Buhari. His message of unity and restructuring resonated with the majority of Nigerians. He appeared to be a moderate and cosmopolitan northerner who would galvanise Nigerians from all walks of life and from different tribes and tongues for a common purpose. But with the recent outburst in Kaduna, it appears his claim to be a ‘unifier’ is only a smokescreen to get to power and unleash his divisive tendencies on Nigeria.

Besides, Atiku’s emergence as the candidate of the PDP is enough insult already on the sensibilities of fair-minded Nigerians. When he contested in 2019, it was still the turn of the North then to give us a president. By next year, it will be eight years the North has been in power. By the rotation arrangement of the PDP, power is supposed to return to the South.

Atiku himself was a strong believer in this power rotation. In 2010, he warned the leadership of the PDP to respect the zoning arrangement of the party at its National Stakeholders Conference. Also, he, together with some northern PDP leaders, staged a public walkout at the party’s National Convention in 2015 when the then President Goodluck Jonathan indicated that he would go for a second term.

Ironically, he is now opposed to the rotation principle which is in the PDP Constitution and has been in practice since 1999. He has suddenly realized that zoning is not in the 1999 Nigerian constitution. Does this not project him as a man of unstable character who should not be trusted with a high office like the president of Nigeria? Little wonder, his boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, sees him as an untrustworthy character and has continued to oppose his ambition to be president. Now I know that his claim to be a ‘unifier’ is mainly because of the wives he procured from different regions of Nigeria.

Tinubu, who is the APC candidate, can also claim to be a ‘unifier’. After all, his wife is a Christian while he is a Muslim. Ironically, and against the grain of justice, Tinubu claimed it was his turn (Emi lokan) to be president of Nigeria. In his deliberate amnesia, he failed to reckon with the fact that South-West where he comes from occupied the presidency for eight years and currently occupies the vice-presidential position. It means nothing to him that the South-East has never occupied any of these positions since the advent of this republic in 1999.

It also means nothing to Tinubu that his running mate is a fellow Muslim. He defied every warning and advice against appointing Alhaji Kashim Shettima. His claim that he appointed Shettima on the grounds of competence further insults the sensibilities of northern Christians. The implication is that there is no competent hand among northern Christians to be vice-president of Nigeria.

To add insult to injury, Tinubu, while fielding questions on climate change at the same Arewa Joint Committee interactive session on October 17, 2022, committed what could be regarded as a sacrilege. He described climate change as “a question of how do you prevent a church rat from eating a poisoned Holy Communion…” His supporters and spin doctors have been trying hard to explain this away as a figurative statement. Good. But will anybody try this figure of speech with any Islamic sacred object? To Christians, Holy Communion, as the name suggests, is holy and should never be toyed with. In the Catholic Church, for instance, it is the most revered item. In the Blessed Sacrament where it is kept, people go to pray and pour their worries and intentions to God believing that God is present there. To even mention that it could be poisoned is most insensitive for anybody to say.

If the Holy Communion blasphemy is a joke, what about turning rotten things to bad which Tinubu said of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna recently? “Rufai, we will not let you run away. Your vision, creativity, and resiliency in turning a rotten situation into a bad one is necessary at this critical time,” Tinubu told an assemblage of eminent northerners in a business summit in Kaduna. Okay, this one was a slip of tongue, not poetic language. But why didn’t he correct himself and apologise immediately? What this means is that he didn’t even have the presence of mind or mental alertness to recognize that he made the mistake. Is this not a sign of what to expect if he mistakenly finds himself in Aso Rock?

Recall that the same Tinubu had proposed recruiting 50 million Nigerians into security agencies as a way of combating insecurity. He later clarified that it was “accidental verbal mistake” and that he meant to say 50,000. He was also reported to have once said that the permanent voter cards (PVCs) have expiry dates. Another verbal mistake, perhaps!

President Muhammadu Buhari exhibited this type of flaws before and shortly after his election, but we ignored it. We are suffering it today. He once called his vice-president, Osinbade instead of Osinbajo. And soon after his election in 2015, he reportedly told Nigerians in Washington DC, US, that he would not treat those who gave him five per cent (referring to the Igbo) the same way he would treat those who gave him 97 per cent, an obvious mix-up with 95 per cent.

It is pertinent to note at this point that mistakes are inevitable in a speech. It is worse when one speaks off the cuff. In his book, “O.O.P.S: Observing Our Politicians Stumble: The Worst Candidate Gaffes and Recoveries in Presidential Campaigns”, a Professor of Political Science at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, Stephen Frantzich, presented some gaffes committed by US presidential candidates from 1968 to 2008 to show that almost every politician has the penchant to occasionally misspeak.

For instance, former President Jimmy Carter, in a presidential debate with Ronald Reagan in 1980, said he asked his 13-year-old daughter, Amy, what the most important issue was. Her daughter told him the control of nuclear weaponry. Carter was mocked for taking policy advice from her little daughter. Of course, Reagan won the election. In 1988, Michael Dukakis tried to show his aversion to death penalty when he said he would still oppose it even if the killer raped and murdered his wife, Kitty. This didn’t go down well with Americans. Dukakis lost the election. With the Aleppo moment trailing Atiku and Tinubu’s early campaigns, the days ahead look very interesting. Nigerians are watching.                                                               

Re: Alarm bells over 2023 elections

An election result that throws up the people’s choice and which result is generally acceptable is what builds the people’s confidence in the system. All hands must be on deck to ensure that our democratic process is protected, respected and much more important trusted. Going against or obstructing the safeguards employed by INEC including the proper use and functioning of BVAS is the nearest way to throwing away the corporate existence of Nigeria. In law, matters of technicalities have since been overtaken by the eyes of substantial justice.

Technicality is an easy or lazy route to the death of justice. Hence, technicality is a ‘euphemism’ for ‘fraud’. The Judiciary’s role in the protection of Nigeria’s democracy is central and indispensable! The people’s wish and votes are paramount, and are what actually count in a true democratic process: not a Court’s Ruling that goes out of its way to appoint, select or even bake and or garland a ‘governor’ or ‘president’ from the oven of technicality for Nigerians.

-Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, 0803 795 2470

 

Casmir, the true independence of INEC and its propensity for fairness/fair play in organising credible and laudable elections will be put to test once again in 2023. INEC must not fall short of expectations; our votes must count! The integrity of INEC and the judiciary are important in navigating a successful 2023 presidential election in particular. Landmines along the route must be uprooted; taking into cognisance our past experience! To politicians, BVAS is a ‘pencil’ of which the ‘eraser’ – ways of manipulating or compromising it – must be manufactured. Double standards must be avoided by INEC in dealing with candidates and the parties. The end must not justify the means. The country shall be ruled by an ideal and right person with the right qualities. Tinubu should be re-invited to personally sign the peace accord as a sign of respect to Nigerians and the other candidates who were present when he was absent!

-Mike, Mushin Lagos, +234 816 111 4572

 

Dear Casmir, electoral violence over the years has been due to the offer of sham franchise to the electorate. In 2023 we are in need of genuine franchise which is right to vote, right to be voted for, right for our votes to be regarded and right to abstention if one has no faith in any candidate.

– Cletus Frenchman Enugu, +234 909 538 5215

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 24, 2022

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