Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s press conference of Monday, 30 October 2023, following the Supreme Court affirmation of the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, raises a number of questions. The most critical is, “What are the press conference’s specific objectives?” This question arises because the content of the press conference is rather discursive and ambivalent.
Among the issues he raised was that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not the real winner of the 25 February 2023 Presidential election and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) simply manipulated the results or votes when another candidate had won or was about to win; and thereby “declared as winner someone who clearly did not win the Presidential election.”
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is insinuating here that he won the election. However, he did not present any evidence in court to prove his claim. All the same, he continues to insinuate that he is the winner, even when the Supreme Court had affirmed the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is therefore like the character Lucetta in William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Asked why she thought Proteus, one of the suitors of Julia, was the most preferred, Lucetta replied, “I think him so, because I think him so.” This is similar to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s claim, without evidence, that he won the election. In other words, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar thinks he won, because he thinks he won. This is patently what it means to be “frivolous” and “vexatious”.
In the absence of any justification for the claim to have won the Presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar lapsed into demagoguery. He demonized President Tinubu, INEC, and the judiciary and generously self-adulated, while dog-whistling to segments of the society he probably thought could do significant damage to the polity. This is not what any patriotic Nigerian should be doing at this juncture, especially when that person is a former Vice-President. Now is the time for all hands to be on deck.
At the press conference, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar romanticised “rotational presidency”. As attractive as the proposal seems to be, Nigeria’s problems are not caused by lack of laws, but by the perverse refusal to abide by the laws. For example, Section 7(2)(c) of the constitution of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) provides as follows: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of the party and public elective offices.”
Strangely, the irony seems lost on this Northern elder statesman who is enamoured of rotational presidency and zoning, but willfully defied the equitable principle in his own party, the PDP, and decided to contest in the 2023 Presidential election in disregard of the fact that a Northerner was the incumbent President at the time and was close to completing an eight-year tenure. He therefore appeared to subscribe to the hypocritical principle of “do as I say, not as I do”. Surely, as the English proverb says, “Example is better than precept”. The former Vice-President has certainly not shown a good example and has consequently undermined his own credibility.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s ill-advised, self-centred, unpatriotic defiance of the PDP equitable zoning principle was a key factor in his loss in the Presidential election. Rather than engage in introspection, he has continued to pillory President Tinubu, INEC, and the Judiciary, while persistently insinuating that he won the election.
Signaling how deep this delusion of victory is, the compere in the surreal world of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s press conference declared him as “The People’s President”. And that’s a remarkable consolation prize for all of the Waziri’s pains. It is hoped that the erstwhile, serial PDP presidential candidate is familiar with the English proverb, “Flattery, like perfume, should be sniffed but not swallowed”? Indeed, was “The People’s Demagogue” not really the expression the compere was looking for?
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is electorally and litigation-speaking battle-tested. Unfortunately, in his demagogic press conference, he did not avail the public of the benefits of that vast experience.
Prof Yusuf Kehinde, PhD
Chair, Program Committee