The saying by the Igbo that thieves disagree at the point of sharing their loot does not strictly suggest that the characters involved are criminals in the real sense of the word. It could rather refer to a conspiracy gone awry or two smart alecks colliding at a particular point of interest.

The desperation between the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, and his counterpart in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for the presidency in the forthcoming election, despite their years of ad hoc alliances, says it all.

The two have broken loose and are throwing in everything to undo one another. Tinubu is seeking the arrest and prosecution of Atiku for an allegation that he conspired to fleece the country of public funds using what he termed “Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs)” during his days as Vice President.

The action follows a disclosure by a former close aide of Atiku’s, Michael Achimugu, who, in a viral video, alleged that the PDP candidate operated a certain bank account belonging to a company named Marine Float and other accounts of two undisclosed companies, which were used as SPVs to secretly divert and misappropriate public funds between 1999 and 2007 when he was in office. Minister of State, Labour and Employment, and spokesperson of the APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, has even proceeded to court asking for Atiku to be prosecuted over the allegation and stopped from contesting the February 25 presidential election.

But the PDP, in a manner of ‘hit me, I hit you,’ has announced its intention of heading to court to ensure that Tinubu is disqualified from the race following his alleged forfeiture of $460,000 to the United States government over a narcotics case.

According to the spokesperson of Atiku’s campaign organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, the United States court, in sentencing Tinubu, ordered that the funds in the amount of $460,000 be forfeited to the United States pursuant to 21 U.S.C. S881(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C S981.

“From the declaration of the court and the sentencing, it is clear that Asiwaju Tinubu was summarily convicted by the court, he took no step to challenge the judgment but acceded to the forfeiture of the $460,000,” he stressed. 

The PDP added that, under the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Tinubu cannot contest election at any level in Nigeria.

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Now, these are serious and weighty issues that should bother Nigerians, if the February poll is to serve as a starting point in the search for a new nation. The jabs coming from and to the standard-bearers of two of the leading political parties in the land give cause for concern. You would also notice that none of the two is making serious efforts at denying the charges. They are rather engaging in theatrics, apparently buying time to distract Nigerians from the enormity of the offences they are accused of.

The desperation to cling on even against the weight of the moral baggage on them is disturbing. The two have come quite a long way in angling for the presidency to the point that their desire has turned a lifetime ambition. Atiku began the race earlier in 1993 when he came third in the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) convention in Jos, Plateau State, after Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe.

As deputy to President Olusegun Obasanjo, between 1999 and 2007, his lust for the office was palpable. In fact, in 2007, he teamed up with Tinubu to form the Action Congress (AC), on which he contested and lost to President Umaru Yar’Adua. In the build-up to the 2011 election, he contested the PDP primary and lost to President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2015, he crossed over to the then fledgling APC but was beaten at the primary by President Muhammadu Buhari. His serial losses made him weep openly on television. The year 2019, again, saw him losing to Buhari, this time round back on the ticket of the PDP. For him, therefore, 2023 could be the last outing.

Atiku was born on November 25, 1946. At 76, age is no longer on his side. Like a retiring Ijele masquerade in Igbo cosmogony, he is making his last appearance, hence he is drawing every effort to run the race. However, his perception in the court of public opinion is not encouraging. Since Obasanjo, his principal, wrote him off as one low on principle and high on greed, he has not really had it smooth in the estimation of Nigerians. That is a major issue for him.

But the APC candidate does not fare better. There are very strong suspicions that “Bola Ahmed Tinubu” is not even his real name. Allegations are also alive that the primary school he claimed to have attended never existed. The secondary school he mentioned as his alma mater does not hold records of his admission nor his studentship. An accounting firm he posted as his former employer, Deloitte in the United States, has also disowned him. His year of birth, which he put at 1952, is a subject of controversy. It is not certain if he truly believes that that was when he was born. In 2015, he schemed to be Buhari’s running mate but lost to Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President. Before emerging the APC standard-bearer, he made a show of his entitlement mindset for the office in his “Emi lokan” (it’s my turn) public display.

Tinubu and Atiku are members of the old order that has kept Nigeria wobbling all the way. They do not have much to offer in transforming the country from its present piteous state. The other day, when a certain clergyman wished his members to have children that would behave like the presidential candidates they were rooting for, supporters of Tinubu and Atiku did not find the prayers funny. They could not marry their support for either of the two with having children behaving like them. The message is clear: Nigerians, in their minds, do not want any of the two.

The joke is on Tinubu and Atiku in the wake of their rat race. But allowing any of them have his way will have dire consequences for Nigeria. With the last eight-year period of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that has seen the country brought to ground zero in virtually all indices of development, a Tinubu or Atiku presidency will be more calamitous. They represent nothing other than the fault lines and divisive tendencies that have further pushed the country to the brink.