Part of the headline of today’s intervention was inspired by a riveting novel written by British Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie. It was published in 2005 and titled Broken Verses. The novel in a nutshell “weaves intrigue, suspense, politics and a mother-daughter tale into a Karachi-based (a sprawling city in Pakistan,
a country of about 200 million people in population just like Nigeria) narrative, exploring universal themes of love, loss, politics, activism, feminism, hope and trauma.”
In a totally different sense, setting and era, the theme and sub-plots of the issues that Shamsie explored find uncanny similarities to many of the political and quasi-political encounters and utterances we have been contending with in the last 10 days in the lead-up to the February and March 2023 elections in Nigeria. As in the award-winning novel, Broken Verses, it was a woman who interjected herself in the raging though shameful war between Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, presidential candidate of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of who between them was the biggest thief angling to be elected President of Nigeria, a position that guarantees the winner unfettered access to the national treasury.
Tinubu and his campaign council claimed that, on the strength of the ‘revelations’ by one Mike Achimugu, who the APC christened a whistle-blower, Atiku was a treasury looter from his days as Vice President (1999-2007) and so was not eligible to contest for the presidency next month.
They gave agents of the Nigerian state 72 hours to invite or arrest and quiz Atiku, preparatory to arraigning him. The 72 hours came and passed and nothing happened. A senior lawyer in the Tinubu camp, Festus Keyamo, drafted a writ of summons to compel Atiku’s appearance in court to answer to allegations of graft.
Atiku and his team were incensed. They went public. And ballistic. According to them, there are many factors that made Tinubu ineligible to vie for the presidency at this time or at any other time for that matter. They alleged that Tinubu was an accountant to a heroin-trafficking syndicate in the United States of America about three decades ago. They said it was the reason Tinubu forfeited a staggering $460,000 to the American Internal Revenue Service.
Their argument was that, if no crime was involved, why forfeit that huge amount of money? Not done, the Atiku campaign went further to insinuate that the APC candidate could still be involved in the global illicit trade on drugs. They asked him to explain how, as recent as 2015, millions of dollars ($4 million or so), was wired abroad from a company that Tinubu has been associated with, which ultimate destination was a bank account in a country in Latin America notorious for drug trafficking. The Atiku team followed up with further allegations that Tinubu even visited that country soon after the money was wired. They also invited investigation agencies to go after Tinubu or they would head to court.
That was where we were when a self- acclaimed activist, Hajia Naja’atu Bala Mohammed, who is a widow of an activist Bala Mohammed, inserted herself in the national drama of the absurd of who, between Alhaji Atiku and Alhaji Tinubu, was the alleged biggest thief to bestride the Nigerian political space. The curious thing is that none of the ‘accused’ has made a full-throated denial that each had or still has a pipeline running from government coffers to their personal or corporate bank accounts or to the bank accounts of their proxies. But they have succeeded in giving Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), an otherwise legitimate corporate tool and process, a bad name.
In truth, virtually everything that Atiku and Tinubu have accused themselves of have been in the public domain for years and decades. The only thing that is shocking, but not really shocking because this is Nigeria, is that they have the criminal courage to look us in face, damn us and present themselves as presidential candidates of two major parties. They expect us to vote for them. And why not!
They have many supporters from among us. They have people and professionals in their respective campaign councils who, not long ago, called them unprintable names. As it is in the APC, so it is in the PDP. Those charlatans also canvass us to vote as President the very persons they had recently described as criminals, looters of the public treasury, religious bigots, document forgers and tribal warlords. Nollywood actor Kenneth Okonkwo of the Living in Bondage fame, a lawyer, since captured the accusations between Atiku and Tinubu in succinct terms when he said that every unflattering thing Atiku said about Tinubu was correct and that every accusation levied by Tinubu on Atiku was undeniable but that everything that PDP said about themselves were lies and that everything APC said about themselves were fabricated.
Back to Naja’atu inserting herself in the shameful, even if true, accusations of criminality hurled at each other by Atiku and Tinubu. Naja’atu is widely reputed to speak her mind. She is the widow of an activist. She was a student’s union president at the Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna at a time when it was rare for a female to aspire to such a position. She recently reportedly called for the police to arrest and quiz Aisha Buhari, wife of the President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who was said to have caused a university student to be arrested for criticizing her on social media. At the time of her call, Naja’atu was a member of the Nigeria Police Service Commission, a position she holds at the instance of the ruling APC and at the pleasure of Gen. Buhari, husband of Aisha.
Less than two weeks ago, flamethrower Naja’atu stirred the political hornet’s nest. She suddenly resigned her membership of the APC’s Tinubu/Shettima presidential campaign council. She was chair of the civil society group. But she would not go quietly. She alleged that Tinubu was not physically, mentally and clinically fit to be the President of Nigeria. She claimed that, from a personal encounter, Tinubu cannot hold a teacup and cannot engage in meaningful conversations. Naja’atu said her conscience would not allow her to work to make such a man President of a country that is in dire straits. She is also known to have said on public television to a global audience that Buhari, who she claimed to have helped to win the presidency in 2015, had been an unmitigated disaster who has failed to keep any of the promises he made to Nigerians. She branded Buhari an extremely selfish person who only cared about himself.
On Naja’atu, we will interrogate her bonafide as an activist, her allusion to her conscience while resigning from the Tinubu team, her comments about the leading presidential candidates and the choice she had made thereafter. She has
since thrown her lot with Atiku, a fellow northerner, to succeed another northerner as Nigeria’s President next May, if he wins.
She said she would not have problems supporting Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party [NNPP] if his path to the presidency was not extremely narrow.
For Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, she said one major thing she holds against him was that he had failed to condemn and disown the Indigenous People of Biafra [IPOB].
But an activist should be even-handed and a person with conscience, as she claims she has, and so should set a store on equity. Naja’atu fails woefully on the critical scores. She backed Buhari in 2015 as she claimed and helped to bring him to power. There was no record of Buhari’s doubtful value, if you support a candidate for a very high office with such a huge moral burden. It will be futile attempting to hide behind one finger by claiming that he was yet to be convicted by a court of law. In politics, perception is virtually everything. Even more damning is the fact that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is not known to have condemned Boko Haram or its cousin that also operates in Nigeria -the Fulani Militia- one of the top three most vicious terrorist organizations, according to the Global Terrorism Index. To cap it up,
the same Atiku deleted a tweet in his name condemning the gruesome murder of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto last year by
her so-called fellow students who were actually Islamist terrorists. The state has brazenly given the murderers full cover and immunity. That action, among others exposed who Atiku is. And Naja’atu in spite of herself cannot be different from the person she supports. Enough of Naja’atu claiming who she is not