Democracy provides avenues for citizens to choose their leaders and for those who rise to leadership status to present themselves for election into political offices at various levels. The judicial arm of the government seamlessly creates opportunities for the review and adjudication of disputed election results to conclude the electioneering process. Thereafter, the spirit and ethics of democracy, with a fixation for good governance and the overriding interest of the polity, requires leaders and the led, elected and unelected, to revert to common ground of good citizenship, where all and sundry rally round the government of the day, in service to the majority, irrespective of parochial affiliations.
With the successful conduct of the 2019 general elections and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the choice of the electorate, the main loser and PDP candidate, former VP Atiku Abubakar, who sought fulfillment of his truncated ambition by judicial process, where a panel of judges replaces the electorate, abandoned the democratic process. The justices unanimously found no basis in his petition to confer on him by judicial fiat what the electorate denied him through the ballot box.
Though the judicial process leaves the petitioner with the option of seeking the Supreme Court’s final intervention, political wisdom counsels sober acceptance of the unanimity of the justices’ decision that the validity of President Buhari’s election outweighs the gravity of the petition by the defeated contestant, Atiku Abubakar. It calls for a conscientious refocusing of attention and resources towards consolidating the people’s expressed desire for common resolve to strengthen the capacity of the elected government of the day to deliver more dividends of democracy by endorsing its entitlement to a second term.
While it lasted, the protracted legal tussle over the declared outcome of the presidential elections witnessed declining interest of the generality of Nigerians, especially the majority pre-occupied with daily struggle for livelihood, even as the detached constituency of urban elite, mainly politicians, lawyers and media managers busied themselves prospecting proceedings for isolated group interests. Several months after the Buhari Administration was firmly on ground and forging ahead, the whole election petition saga paled into insignificance as reflected in the widespread public indifference to the verdict of the election petition tribunal. Public interest and concern had definitely shifted to the unfolding highlights of the much-anticipated “next level” of the re-elected administration, away from what had become another misstep in the ambitious strides of Atiku Abubakar.
As a veteran politician and presidential contestant with a widely acknowledged keen interest in the unity, peace, progress and development of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar’s political astuteness ought to preclude falling prey to ambitious opportunism or the ingratiating overtures of “loyalists”. He has done the needful to the extent of putting up a robust effort to exercise his right to seek lawful redress of perceived election “injustice”. This is a mark of mature political leadership that sets the right example in an arena frequently infested with warlords instead of statesmen, pushing the frontiers of political ambition to the realm of empire building.
The logical next level in the former VP’s legitimate quest for political fulfillment as an elder statesman eager to provide leadership should be in the re-evaluation of the way forward. His compass should be pointing rigidly ahead to 2023, but his mind must be fixed on today and now because his future prospects are critically rooted in current political dynamics. It must be obvious that the pursuit of legal entitlement to seek post-election presidential anointment was a wild-goose chase and a frittering away of precious strategic avenues to a softer 2023 landing. Approaching the Supreme Court is still the same post-election desperation to become a president by court declaration that the petition tribunal judges wisely found to be unmerited.
The question is : what is Atiku Abubakar’s political status today ? For this question to arise at all amounts to a candid indication of how the mighty have fallen! A presidential candidate is on a higher pedestal than a defeated presidential candidate who is still a caliber higher than a defeated presidential candidate who also lost his election petition. Merely looking around his environs depicts the certainty of diminishing turn out of all but the most tenacious of hangers on, out for more to hang onto. That Atiku Abubakar had to hang out in Dubai while the fate of his supposedly embattled presidential “victory” was being decimated in Abuja was itself a demeaning departure from his VP days of “gallantry” in face-to-face exchange of hostilities with his famous boss who, incidentally, elevated him from a governorship candidate to presidential running mate!
The former VP is clearly in no shape to contemplate 2023 except perhaps as a keen onlooker. What is best for him is to devote what remains of his physical energy and political reputation to redeem his hitherto tenable claim to political astuteness and elder statesmanship, so that he might rewrite what is already in the domain of political tragedy. That will entail shaking off his ill-fated 2019 presidential bid and all its figments of political futility. He should henceforth instead be devoted to the noble intent of the ethics and spirit of democracy, whereby failed political leaders revert to the common ground of exemplary statesmanship and rally round the popularly re-elected President Muhammadu Buhari and his Administration in service to the people of Nigeria.
The former vice-president now has a rare opportunity to earn the redeeming reconsideration of the people of Nigeria that his entire political career was not motivated by an inordinate ambition to be President of Nigeria by ballot or gavel! Continuing to distance himself from constructive contribution to the continuing task of moving the nation forward to overcome prevailing challenges impeding peace, progress and development, as mature political leaders and patriotic elder citizens have always done, can only earn him permanent ignominy.
Warru, a political analyst, writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state.