By Babajide Balogun
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Nigeria’s former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is, understandably, giving many pretenders, especially those pushing the same faith ticket sleepless nights. He has, to the consternation of his rivals and enemies of Nigeria, continued to run a campaign based on issues and his track records, which Nigerians appreciate to the extent that they see him as the best man to lead the country and return it to the path of peace, progress and development.
When so many candidates are distancing themselves from their previous outings in governance, Atiku is never afraid to point to his days as vice president for eight years (1999-2007). He remains the best vice president Nigeria has had so far since the return to democracy more than two decades ago. As head of the National Economic Council (NEC), he had a very good working relationship with state governors based on mutual respect.
With no dent on his past to point to, the opponents of Wazirin Adamawa have continued to concoct all sorts of lies to tarnish his reputation.
They repeat all manner of allegations against him without any evidence, believing that a lie oft-repeated may begin to appear like the truth. But Nigerians are no fools. They can always tell the difference between fact and fiction.
For instance, Atiku’s political enemies always talk about the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), one of the agencies reporting to him when he held sway as Vice President. They claimed that money got missing on his watch.
Even the current Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed made this claim as part of the desperation to stain the former vice president. But this has been established to be very far from the truth, because not a single kobo was missing.
Records show that what actually happened was that the PTDF got approval from the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to be investing monies that were due to it in commercial banks. PTDF even sought the interventions of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor on the financial institutions the money should be invested in.
Recommendations were made by the AGF and the CBN for PTDF to invest in some banks, and the now defunct ETB happened to be one of the banks. A fixed deposit account was opened in ETB and PTDF even got over a billion Naira returns from the investment.
Not long after, Mike Adenuga, who owned the bank, was purported to have paid for his Globacom licence. This led some uninformed people to wrongly claim that it was PTDF money that was used to pay for the licence.
Still, investigation showed that no money was missing but rather, the investment yielded a lot of interest, and Atiku was neither a shareholder in the bank nor had any interest in it.
Despite this well-established clarification, some dimwits continue to bring the allegation up. But it is to be expected. It is nothing new.
Stretch a sword to a drowning man and he will waste no time in grabbing it.
In any case, Atiku has on several occasions challenged anyone with any shred of evidence linking him to any corrupt practices to come forward and present it. Nobody has been able to do that because the claims are false and a figment of the imagination of those making them.
Not even Obasanjo, who was Atiku’s boss for eight years, was able to find anything incriminating against him even with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at his beck and call.
The reality today is that Atiku’s rivals and political enemies have failed to identify anything negative with regards to his competence and pedigree and are therefore clinging to baseless allegations of corruption. They see how the Wazirin Adamawa was able to successfully run businesses and establish wide-ranging contacts within and beyond the shores of Nigeria.
They know their political dynasties are – built on lies and blackmail – will soon come crumbling before their eyes. All their efforts to distract him ahead of the 2023 presidential election have come to naught. And subject them to the same scrutiny; all of them may end in jail.
Atiku is a realist, a dogged fighter. He is in the race for the presidency with the sole aim of uplifting Nigeria and Nigerians to their strongest potentials, not to help cronies and friends as some of his rivals seem determined to do.
They are afraid because when Atiku made fighting corruption one of the issues on his agenda, they knew he meant business. It is not like what the present administration is doing – shielding associates and friends, while going after opponents – in the name of fighting the menace of corruption.
The former vice president believes “Corruption not only diverts resources from legitimate causes beneﬁcial to the society at large, but denies millions of people their fundamental freedoms and human rights. The challenges posed by systemic corruption contribute to the perpetuation of poverty and the hindering of economic opportunities.”
He is concerned that the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of serious nepotism, partisanship and lack of political will and the impartiality to deal decisively with corruption in a transparent manner.
Atiku has assured Nigerians that, when elected as president, he will strengthen the anti-corruption agencies to be totally independent of government interference and control, and delineate the functions of the ICPC, the EFCC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal and other law enforcement agencies to be able to deliver on their mandates without any form of outside interference.
He also pledged to launch a comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Strategy based on the rule of law, separation of powers, neutrality and non-partisanship within the ﬁrst 100 days in ofﬁce.
The former vice president is also determined to set up a Major Corruption Case Monitoring and Review Committee for all major corruption cases under the Ofﬁce of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The committee would include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media as observers to ensure that selective investigation and prosecution of major corruption cases by all anti-corruption agencies is permanently eliminated.
This is the way to fight corruption.
Sadly, Atiku’s opponents have a different agenda, one that can certainly not be good for Nigeria and Nigerians.
This is why, rather than focus on the issues like the Waziri is doing in his campaign, they will continue to throw mud at him because they have nothing else to face him (they couldn’t even face him in a town hall!) But in his continuous march to Aso Rock, Atiku keeps using the same mud in building a structure large enough to accommodate them as he consigns them to the dustbin of history.
Balogun wrote from Ibadan.