OWNERS OF NIGERIA: Public Interest or Mischief


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Owners of Nigeria: Public Interest or Mischief?

Rejoinder To Seyi Oduyela




Jamilu Jikamshi,


National Primary Education Commission, Katsina State Office.



February 2, 2005


One of the great boons of the information technology is that it makes the spread of knowledge and ideas instant and incredible. Today, the Internet has made it possible to disseminate knowledge and ideas far beyond the horizon of human imagination. Research and access to instant data are thus, made possible through such medium.


The worry, however, is that some ill-motivated elements have taken advantage of the Internet to spread lies, propaganda and animosity against certain individuals they do not like. Even more disturbing is the free wheeling use of the Internet to wantonly defame and ridicule certain persons by those who are clearly driven by dark motives rather than the pure intention of spreading beneficial knowledge. The irresponsible use of the Internet to spread lies and denigrate particular individuals is a clear abuse of the freedom of speech through whatever medium that is conveniently available as a result of the information technology.


The title of the article, “Owners of Nigeria” – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar: The Face of an opportunist – at once gave itself away as a lazy, preconceived warped analysis of Nigeria’s social and political issues. In fact, the writer was so patently biased that he contradicted himself in so many places in his so called analysis without even realizing it!


He alleged that Atiku Abubakar “deserted” Gen. Yar’adua as soon as his former mentor was thrown into detention in 1995 by the then Gen. Sani Abacha military junta. This is a ridiculous and strange allegation. To say the Vice President distanced himself from Gen. Shehu Yar’adua was the laziest piece of analysis and distortion of facts any credible writer can commit. This is the first time anyone could publicly accuse Atiku of betraying his former mentor.


The writer deceitfully acknowledges that two former Yar’adua allies – Barnabas Gemade and Tony Anenih “did not remember” the late Katsina State born General, but he was harder on Atiku’s alleged betrayal of his former mentor. Let us not forget that both Tony Anenih and Gemade accepted political appointments under late Gen. Sani Abacha, but no record exists of Atiku’s active participation in the military administration that threw his mentor into unjust detention. The late Chief MKO Abiola himself reportedly addressed Chief Anenih and members of his delegation as “traitors” when they visited his residence in Lagos to convince him to give up his mandate so as to legitimize the Abacha junta. Deceitfully the writer made only a passing mention of Anenih and Gemade but devoted extensive paragraphs to attacking Atiku Abubakar, thereby exposing his true motives for such hopelessly weak analysis.


Who is then, an opportunist in these circumstances? Is it a man who never accepted appointment under Abacha or those who actively legitimized that regime by their participation? If there is any politician who stood behind Yar’adua in life and in death, it is Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The construction of the Yar’adua Foundation and the publication of the late General’s biography is a living evidence of Atiku’s steadfast loyalty to the memory of his former mentor.


Mr. Seyi Oduyela argues that, while Yar’adua was in prison, Atiku was busy preparing to contest election as Governor of Adamawa State under Gen. Abacha’s transition programme. The writer must be a complete stranger to Nigeria and its history otherwise how could he have missed the fact that while YarAdua suffered a slow annihilation in the hands of the Abacha goons, it was indeed Atiku who carried on with the PDM political machine as its leader. He sustained the movement. Besides, Oduyela needs an understanding of the strategy of the PDM political movement, which is one of a principled entricism.


 By this, Gen. Yar’adua himself contested and won election as delegate to Abacha’s National Constitutional Conference (1994 – 1995). In fact, his influence at the conference became his undoing, because his initiation of terminal date for the Abacha regime was contrary to the agenda of the military dictator. Gen. Yar’adua’s guts for such motion became his undoing, because Abacha wanted to rule longer than he was publicly ready to acknowledge.


Oduyela goofed where he said that Atiku was’nt a part of the pro-democracy movement because his name didn’t show on a hit list in the newspapers. Did Abacha ever publish his hit list or was this something exclusive to people such as the writer? Where was the writer when Atiku’s Kaduna home came under an all-night armed attack by soldiers and he, the Turaki escaped by the skin of his own teeth? So in spite of the fact that Yar’adua is dead, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did not abandon his legacy. In fact, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) was one of the political organizations that formed the PDP in 1999. How then can Atiku be called an opportunist? What does the writer think of advocates of Abacha self-succession who are today some of the closest allies of Gen. Obasanjo? Didn’t these men make spirited efforts to justify the brutal detention and vicious conviction of Obasanjo and Yar’adua for trumped up coup plot in 1995?


Why did the writer reserve his venom for Atiku, who was even marginalized under the Abacha junta, if not living on his nerves or looking over his shoulders as a known Yar’adua loyalist and therefore a man not to be trusted?


Another aspect to the writer’s vitriolic attack on Atiku’s character also requires examination. He alleged “Atiku is a greedy business man, who wants everything to himself”, and that the Vice President is “ a mean and ruthless money-monger.” Thus, by the puerile logic of Mr. Seyi Oduyela, Atiku ranks among the owners of Nigeria. Yet throughout the article he limited the quality of greed exclusively to Atiku Abubakar.


Recently, THE NEWS magazine did a brilliant cover story of how our President is systematically confiscating large acres of farm lands across the Country, including Cross River State, where many poor farmers had to sell their ancestral lands to our President against their will. Worse still, they operate under the conditions of sweatshop. It is surprising why the writer did not take interest in this matter, especially a magazine story edited by a Yoruba journalist. Gen. Babangida who is also aspiring to become President of Nigeria again is not greedy, according to Seyi’s propaganda rubbish.


If Atiku had such influence to take over lucrative departments, corporations and other seemingly money spinning Government parastatals, he would have made people millionaires out of NEPA and NNPC. The allegation that Atiku removed former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran because he (Adeniran) made Obasanjo Chairman of the technical committee of Universal Basic Education (UBE) instead of Atiku is the most insulting suggestion to the intelligence of Nigerians.  Did the esteemed Professor complain to Oduyela who now feels obliged to carry on the fight or was it just a figment of the writer’s imagination?


Can Atiku exert more influence over a policy, which is Obasanjo’s pet project? In fact, does Atiku have the power to stop the removal of any public office holder once our ever-powerful President determines to do so? If indeed, Atiku had such powers as ascribed to him by Mr. Seyi, he would have resisted the dismissal of his political aides by the President.


Only recently, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode told a startled nation that Obasanjo makes N30million monthly from his Otta farms! This is at a time millions of our poor citizens are living below the poverty line, including those in Ogun State! Why is Atiku’s business interest the only concern of the writer if he is motivated by public welfare? Yet the writer seems more mischievously interested about the fate of Adamawa people as Atiku’s “greed” grows increasingly. Therefore, how can an analysis intended to x-ray the owners of Nigeria, ignore other public office holders involved in business ventures? That is why the motive of the writer is apparent to even a casual observer.


The writer’s superficial and biased analysis is a case of lying with statistics, emphasizing points or facts that suit his arguments, while ignoring those that are not favourable to his argument. At every turn, however, his intention comes out in the wash. He is clearly maliciously opposed to Atiku’s Presidential ambition and the only way to achieve that is to destroy the foundation of his reputation. Let us hear Mr. Seyi in his own words: “In spite of the fact that he has a failing health, the Turakin Adamawa still wants to rule Nigeria to die in office and get a Presidential burial.” As a Muslim, the Vice President cannot wish for a State burial. For his information, Oduyela needs to know that Muslims, high and low, the rich and poor all get the same burial in a shallow grave with a white loincloth wrapped around them. No muslim gets buried with gold coins or any such treasures.


In discussing the Vice President’s politics, the writer saw it fit to bring his family into the picture. He queried the Vice President for his ownership of a home in Maryland, New Washington and a wife who is going to school who, although working to complete a doctoral degree dissertation, was described an undergraduate. Be that as it may, what is the sin in having an education-seeking spouse? As a hardworking businessman and a producer of manufactured goods before becoming Vice President, what law in the land prevents his ownership of property anywhere so long as this was acquired through his hard-earned income?


Again, the writer ventured into the complex terrain of Nigerian politics but without facts and armed himself merely with ignorance. Annenih’s acting chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the PDP was at the instance of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Let anyone deny this. Then I will come out with my facts. How then can such an appointee be an obstacle to Atiku?


But Nigerians cannot forgive him for this outright deceit. If it is not wrong for President who is almost 70 years to be silently contemplating a third term in office by manipulating the constitution, what is wrong for a Vice President to legitimately seek to succeed his boss? If it not wrong for Gen. Babangida, warts and all, to once again seek to return to power, why is it a sin for a sitting Vice President to aspire to succeed the President?


If truly the writer is on genuine mission to tell us the “Owners of Nigeria”, why did his so-called analysis and investigation limit itself to Atiku Abubakar, if his dark motive is not to defame the Vice President while protecting his opponents? Is the Vice President the only fellow or public office holder in this or any past administrations with business interests?  


Indeed, if the writer feels so badly about the qualification of Atiku for the 2007 Presidency, let him go to court to challenge his right to such office with his facts. But willful use of libelous publication on the Internet is neither in the public interest nor to the reputation of Website owners who want to be taken seriously.



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