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Slips: Tinubu’s Tongue, Atiku’s Thought

“Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention.” – Douglas Horton

A man who tried to retell the Jonah story from the Bible got things mixed up. Did the shark swallow Jonah or vice versa. Storyteller could not remember but was sure of “swallow” in the narrative. At least they did not blame slip of tongue or thought.

It’s near impossible to be desperate and remain rational and focused in seeking it. Desperation is not recommended as a good attitude in the pursuit of anything at any time except, perhaps, you are struggling to make heaven or to avoid the purgatory.

The thing about desperation is that there is a language needed to escape from it and if you don’t have it you find yourself always packing the consequences of despair which often leads to extreme behaviour. Politics is one area where desperation is easily deployed by politicians while striving to realize their ambition.

The coming presidential election in February 2023 has a lot of several unique features that stand it out. It would be the first time the top presidential contestants, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, will be in such a tight race that none of them can win outright. The entry into the presidential race of the former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has jolted the entire system.

Those who had thought it was going to be business as usual–two-horse race–between the incumbent APC and the main opposition PDP have miscalculated to their chagrin.

Not surprisingly, the North has become the beautiful bride of politics today. What happened in Kaduna last Saturday at the meeting of some presidential candidates and various interest groups from the North shows clearly the hotness in the political space, four months to the polling day.

Desperation by the candidates is beginning to manifest as witnessed in the utterances of two candidates. Slip of tongue and or slip of thought and their misapplication were too glaring to be overlooked.

Both Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Bola Ahmad Tinubu of APC and their image spinners have taken days after the event trying to clarify what they meant to say from what the public perceived them to have said.

In the days before today’s audiovisual and broadcast technology, what happened in Kaduna State on Saturday with two of the most talked about presidential candidates would have ended up as journalists’ misquotations. Alas, they spoke on camera; there was no hiding place for the blunder.

For Tinubu whose health challenges have been over-flogged, his utterances about“changing rotten situations to bad ones” can easily be attributed to and understood as a consequence of health instability. The brain is like the computer, what you feed in is what it get, a case of garbage-in garbage-out. 

If Tinubu had fed its brain of the error immediately he would have corrected it but he thought that his audience’s laughter was in admiration for what he said, not his blunder. It took some hours before social media soldiers sent him and his handlers into the image laundry shop for a slip-of-tongue excuse. But all these could have been averted if some measure of desperation is not being brought into the political scene ahead of 2023.

Perhaps, even more sign of desperation from another Kaduna event came from the PDP standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who has been selling himself as Mr. Unifier who should be given the presidential mandate in 2023 to weld a broken and unwholesome nation. When the huge opportunity came for him to say exactly how he intended to do it, he became even more divisive. 

“I am a pan-Nigerian [who] the North needs; the North does not need Igbo or Yoruba candidate,” he said to the consternation of a cross-section of Nigerians.

Ostensibly, out of obvious desperation to win the heart of northerners, Mr. Unifier forgot his mantra and started the ethnic game. That innocuous journalistic needling, “Tell the North why they should vote for you,” would have been a gracious platform to showcase his versatility and statesmanship. Instead, it turned into ethnic irredentism to the distaste of not a few Nigerians.

This is notwithstanding the fact that Atiku’s candidacy in his party has been causing a lot of disquiet over the zoning arrangement that many believe should have favoured the South rather than the North.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has been leading a relentless and harsh rebellion against the party over the presidential ticket going North instead of South. Atiku’s vexed statement in playing ethnic cards is like pouring sand into an open wound.

Even if his sentiments succeed in getting the North on his side, a lot of Southern votes that would have ordinarily gone to him on a party basis may not because of ill-conceived and unguarded utterances.

Political watchers try to see the Atiku political misstep last Saturday from the point of a political animal who has never really won any election in his region. Instead, most of his votes in all his previous elections had come from the South but with Obi of South East and Tinubu of South West and recalcitrant Governor Wike of the South-South, running riot, the only available option is the hitherto unavailable North hence the desperation to appeal to their nepotistic feelings.

But in trying to appeal to his people’s kinship sentiments, Atiku failed to take into consideration the people of the South who indeed have sustained his political career. What political analysts see in Atiku’s ethnic card game is like a man who forgets where he is coming from and believes such a disposition will help him reach his destination.
Atiku’s reasoning can be likened to a janitor at the gate who is being discarded because the beneficiary of his services is not likely to pass through the gate again. At 76 years, Atiku is on his last take for the Presidency of this country and perhaps any elective positions which he started pursuing 30 years ago in 1992.

What the PDP Presidential ticket holder did to his winding down political career by that unfortunate request for his people to reject Igbo or Yoruba, the people who helped to sustain him to date politically, voting for him when his people were rejecting him, sets him out as an ingrate who can sacrifice relationship for selfish gains.

The reason why Atiku had enjoyed some measure of support from Southern Nigeria all this while, can be traced to the perception that he is not a bigot of either tribe or religion and rather seen as a liberal mind needed for a plural society like ours. This factor that patriots consider a plus might have been a minus for him in the North.

But on the evening of his political journey on earth when Atiku should be saying farewell, appreciating the people, he showed his true colour as an ethnic chauvinist. Atiku’s display of unguarded and excessive prejudiced support for the North in condemnation of the South will hurt him for the rest of his remaining political career. It is unfortunate and amazing what desperation can do.

God help us.

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