By Femi Aribisala
THERE are indications today’s APC government is not averse to using the Shugaba playbook on Atiku.
These are very interesting times in Nigeria. The APC government has reportedly won a major election, but it is finding it difficult, if not impossible, to celebrate and enjoy its victory. Before the champagne could be uncorked, Atiku Abubakar filed a case in court challenging the result, claiming it was fraudulent from start to finish.
But this was a challenge unlike any other that Nigeria has seen before. Out of the blue, Atiku produced another set of results different from the one declared by INEC showing that he had actually won the election. Except that this other result also came from INEC. As a matter of fact, it was retrieved from the INEC server and it was authenticated by serial numbers unique to INEC.
Since Atiku delivered this bombshell, both the APC government and INEC have been at a loss for words. With every excuse they tried to give, Atiku had an answer. With all the facts apparently at Atiku’s disposal, I daresay if he cannot overturn this presidential election at the courts, then no presidential election can be overturned in Nigeria.
In very short order, Atiku has become the worst nightmare of this government. The new government is supposed to be sworn in on May 29. But what is the point of swearing in a new government when it is not clear if it will survive the next few weeks. How can you invite a foreign president to your highfalutin inauguration in May when his ambassador in Abuja tells him you might be kicked out by August?
The question then before the APC is: “How do you get Atiku to go away?” How can you get him to disappear? You cannot write him a big fat cheque in the usual Nigerian way because Atiku is a man of means whose silence cannot be bought. One approach then is to attack his business interests in Nigeria.
In May 2019, the government decided to terminate the contract between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Atiku’s Intel’s Company in the handling of oil and gas cargoes in the country. The government suddenly discovered that the contract, which had been in operation for 17 years, was “illegal.”
Treasonable felony and conspiracy
How do you get rid of Atiku Abubakar? One APC playbook says: “Accuse him of treasonable felony and conspiracy.” Try him in a kangaroo court; lock him up and throw away the key.
Lai Mohammed accused Atiku of hiring a U.S. lobby firm to persuade the United States not to recognize Buhari’s re-election. Said Mohammed: “The hiring of US lobbyists has triggered questions about what Alhaji Abubakar is up to.”
What else could Atiku be up to beside trying to retrieve his stolen mandate? Although Atiku vigorously denied hiring such lobbyists, one wonders what law their hiring would have contravened. If the APC government is afraid that the U.S. government can be persuaded that Atiku’s challenge has merit, it must be because APC knows Atiku’s case is persuasive.
Mohammed continued: “There is no doubt that the PDP presidential candidate, out of desperation, is thinking of replicating the Venezuelan model right here in Nigeria.”
This is an unfortunate slip of tongue by the honorable minister. The Venezuelan model is one of a rigged election by the government followed by widespread international recognition of the opposition as the legitimate government. If the APC is afraid this can be replicated in Nigeria, it can only be because it knows the president’s re-election is invalid.
Mohammed then came up with the bogus claim that Atiku and the PDP are planning to foment trouble in Nigeria. He said: “Our interventions are based on credible evidence, and no government with the kind of evidence that we have, of plans to subvert the power of the state, attack the nation’s economic life wire, and generally unleash mayhem on the polity, will keep quiet.”
If this were true, then the government should simply arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. But instead, Mohammed merely cried wolf. He offered not a single shred of evidence to back up his fabricated allegations.
Fire and brimstone
How quickly they forget. The same Lai Mohammed falsely accusing Atiku of treason in 2019 is the same Lai Mohammed that threatened treasonable felony in 2014. As the then official spokesman for the APC, he said: “Let us remind the presidency, in case it has forgotten, that election fraud triggered a civil war in Algeria in the early 1990s, led to the killing of over 1,000 people in post-election riots in Kenya in 2007/2008 and fired a near revolution in Iran in 2009/2010.”
What then, we should ask the honourable minister, should election fraud in Nigeria in 2019 trigger? This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Atiku’s mandate was blatantly stolen, nevertheless, he has not even mobilized any demonstrations. Compare that with Buhari’s stance in 2011. As the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari told his supporters in Hausa: “First, you must register, come out and vote. You guard, protect, escort to the collation center and you wait until the result is counted. Anyone who stops you, kill them.”
When he lost that election, some one million people were killed in demonstrations in the North. In 2015, Buhari repeated the same threats of violence and mayhem. He said: “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’
How do you get rid of Atiku Abubakar? Another playbook says: “Accuse him of trying to instigate a coup d’etat by the military.
Going by the coup playbook, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), dissociated itself from a bogus document claimed to have been written by a faceless group calling for the overthrow of the Buhari government and the setting up of an interim government. The Department of State Services (DSS) also came out severely warning those it claimed are determined to truncate Nigerian democracy.