Again as in their business careers, the political trajectories of Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu where they both have made much more impact followed similar lines.
Atiku plunged straight into politics into the political stable of late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua following his retirement from being a senior customs officer. Apparently, the two had struck up a relationship since the days the general was Minister of Transport and subsequently as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters in the Olusegun Obasanjo military administration. It was inevitable that the two would meet in the course of their duties; the one as transport minister with contingent supervisory role of the nation’s ports, and the other working with the Customs and Excise covering marine operations especially with the huge construction and concomitant expansion of ports at the time.
Atiku’s political career under General Yar’Adua took off like a jet and flourished to the point where he became the number two man in the Yar’Adua political family, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) which had morphed from the original People’s Democratic Front (PDF).
The indication of Atiku’s rise to political fame came when he stood toe to toe against Chief MKO Abiola at the Jos convention of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) under the political transition programme of the Ibrahim Babangida military administration. He had looked set to upset Chief Abiola at the run-off election between the two when his mentor, Yar’Adua brokered an arrangement whereby Atiku will step down in return for being considered as Abiola’s running mate. Recalling that period Atiku remarked that it was one of the toughest decisions in his life and he cried over it. And were it not for the reverence he held Yar’Adua with he would not have agreed to step down for Abiola.
Since that incident in Jos, having established himself as a political figure to note, it was inevitable that Atiku’s political stock was going to rise and rise and that he may one day, in the not-so-distant future, come to be president of the country.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s political odyssey first started with his coming under the tutelage of Dapo Sarunmi and Prince Ademola Adeniji (AAA) who were the prime movers of the Lagos-based Primrose political group. In the fast flowing but convoluted political events of the Babangida administration, Tinubu who was a constant feature in the ‘progressive’ side of the political transition thus became a senator.
Tinubu’s chance, however, to peel off from relative political obscurity into political limelight came fortuitously with the arrest and detention of Chief Abiola for declaring himself president following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections which he was widely adjudged to have won.
From exile, Tinubu played a pivotal role in mobilising and organising the international and local opposition to the Abacha military regime which had clamped down on the likes of him.
With the advent of the civilian dispensation following the deaths of Chief Abiola and General Abacha, both Atiku and Tinubu found themselves in the political train; Atiku as vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo and Tinubu as governor of Lagos State, the economic capital of Nigeria.
This placed both men at a vantage point to begin to plot their way separately and parallel to the presidency of Nigeria. And within the month, both have finally emerged on the cusp of achieving that having secured the tickets of their respective political parties—PDP and APC—to slug it out in the 2023 general elections.
Like they have done in their business careers, they have both clawed, mugged and elbowed their way to where they are now; a heart-beat away to the Number One seat in the land.
Atiku had had to endure all kinds of political humiliation from his principal, President Obasanjo, for his stated aim to succeed him, and subsequent other political banana peels placed on his way in all the three times that he sought the prize after leaving office as vice president.
Tinubu, on the other hand, while not seeking the position directly, has had it constantly on his political radar and all he had done in his political career spanning decades was to get to be president one day.
It is certainly going to be a gargantuan Nigerian political derby between these two in which there is everything in it for both of them. It is Nigeria’s political equivalent of el classico featuring not just the two greatest political gladiators in the land, but also the two major opposing political tendencies in the country doing political battle against one another. In boxing terms this is fixing to be like the famous thrilla in Manilla boxing confrontation between boxing legends Muhammad “the Louisville lip’’ Ali and Joe “the smokin Joe’’ Frazier.
In philosophical terms, the Atiku-Tinubu political slugfest will be a fulfilment of the dialectical postulations of the ying and yang, thesis and anti-thesis interplay between dominant socio-political tendencies in a society.
Having reached the zenith of their personal political struggles, the victory of one will lead to the inevitable political oblivion of the other.
In comments on the first instalment of this article, some tried to be moralistic dismissing me as trying to lionize both personalities. But then within the context of our contemporary political and socio-economic life, the reality is that we cannot but put up anything but the likes of Atiku and Tinubu. Both are a reflection of the reality of our political and social ethos and values individually and collectively as Nigerians under the current circumstances we find ourselves as a country.
We can only hope that like the robber barons of America who left a legacy of philanthropy that subsists to this day after they were done with their brutal acquisitive activities, our robber barons will also bequeath to us a legacy of positive political, economic and social transformation so badly needed in a Nigeria they had so brutally and wantonly taken advantage of to get to where they are now. (Concluded)