By Kurtis Adigba Years ago, I stumbled on a prayer…
By Odoh Michael
In the year 2001, my mum came back home with a Nollywood movie, though I have forgotten the name of the movie but in one of the scenes, a poor girl was seen telling a rich arrogant prince that, “ you can have all the money in this world but your money can never help build a strong relationship with people because you do not understand what love is”. I truly came to understand the impact of this statement only recently when I carried out a post-election analysis of why Atiku had it so bad in the north despite being their son. During an epistemic dialogue with a few friends and strong supporters of President Buhari in Kaduna recently, I asked to know the reason why majority of Northerners especially the poor ones are so much in love with the person of Buhari and why Atiku, a man who has created a lot of jobs has never had his way in the North. One of my friends turned to me and told if I have ever wondered why an Atiku that has been contesting for the office of President since 1992, became a vice president in 1999 does not enjoy a strong followership like that of Buhari, Kwankwaso and Sule Lamido. As I was thinking of an answer, my friend opened up and said, prior to 2015, people could go Buhari’s house and where always free to see him, most times he(Buhari) would even sit on the floor with you, discuss about national issues and eat with you. Buhari was assessible to people especially the poor masses and that is why he is loved in the North. And when I further inquired about Atiku, I was told that even in his home state, he is not known as he(Atiku) is never around, doesn’t associate with the people, surrounds himself with elites that creates a big gulf between him and the people and that has resulted in why the poor northern masses have never been in support of him. In his conclusion, my friend told me that, Atiku is not assessable to his supporters, he doesn’t interact with them, he creates a gulf between him and his supporters, he surrounds himself with advisers who tell him what he wants to hear, he never associates with the poor masses and this has been the main reason for his non acceptance by the Northerners.
Another of my friend at the dialogue also added that since after the elections, we stopped hearing the, “Atikulated” slogans and that was because he was very sure that Atiku had abandoned his supporters and travelled abroad. As we continued our discussion, my friend noted that Atiku only calls people when he needs them during elections and that is what played out during the elections. He doesn’t maintain his support base and that’s what sets him apart from Buhari and Kwankwaso, win or lose , their supporters are the main priority. How can such a man win a presidential election in a country where the poor is ten times the number of the rich, my friend asked. We then did a little historical review of the last two elections. In 2011, Nigerians supporting Goodluck Jonathan because he came as the son of nobody and in 2015, Buhari was supported because he came as a friend of the masses. As a supporter of Atiku who have contributed so much to the Atiku’s campaign activities, I wanted to defend my principal but deep down my heart, I knew they were all saying the truth as I have also become a victim. Before we departed, we all came to the conclusion that as young politicians, money alone cannot help us achieve our aim but the relationship we build with people is paramount as it lasts a life time and the latter is what Atiku has always lacked.
A fortnight ago, I visited one of the Atiku support groups leader in Abuja to find out how he was coping with life as we had not seen since after the elections. When we got talking, he asked me a question, in his exact words, “ Michael, in all honesty, can you tell me if you are still convinced that Atiku will make a good president or be better than President Buhari with all what he(Atiku) did to his support groups and with the way the campaign was managed?.. I told him that I have also been asking my self that question and my answer was no. The support group leader told me how volunteers for the Buhari’s campaign have been hosted 3 times at the villa as an act of appreciation but Atiku has never for once meet with his support groups to either thank them for their support or even have an interactive section with them. Even after primaries, Atiku did not call his support groups to appreciate them for their support, he headed straight to Dubai and only those with the financial well-being and could go to Dubai had assess to him, the poor man on the street who was supporting Atiku out of pure love was cut out and the same scenario repeated after the main elections.
We discussed how for just a campaign, Atiku had already shut himself out of reach and was assessable by those we called his own cabal. I know that when this writeup is published, a lot of close Atiku’s aides and supporters will call me to question my decision to speak out at this point, the best thing we can do for those we love is to tell them the truth always. A lot of people who supported Atiku spent millions of their money for his campaign and today many are regretting their decision simply because the man they supported neither appreciated them nor did he agree to meet with them as a group to even show that he is aware of what they are doing. A lot of people who started the latest struggle with Atiku especially his support groups social media team who went through hell to repackage the former Vice President were kicked out by the PDP after the primaries but Atiku did nothing, instead the PDP brought in people who were supporting other candidates and these people came to take the glory of where they did not sow. Even despite the fact that the support groups bought the nomination form for Atiku, he never for once met with them as a body to interact or to thank them, his supporters where always hearing of his love for them in the media. Buhari may not have all the money, but his relationship with his people has always kept him going. Some people may say, Atiku’s close advisers deceived him but as the saying goes, a good leader must see beyond the walls of their advisers before taking any decision. Whether Atiku wins in court or not, he must rethink his stand with his core supporters, apologize to them and make them feel appreciated, a lot of people lost their lives, means of survival and other things just because of their support of the former Vice President. The relationship we build with people, the bond we form with them is worth more than money can buy.
For me, the former Vice President failed me, if in his campaign we could experience such nonchalant attitude towards the important issues affecting your supporters, how would he react on bigger National issues. You can have the best policy document but it takes more than write-ups to fix a country. Atiku failed his supporters and no matter the backlash that this writeup might receive from those who will not want to say the truth, nobody in their right senses who participated actively in Atiku’s campaign activities will deny the above truth that Atiku failed his supporters with the way he handled the campaign.
Odoh Michael is a public affairs analyst, the National Coordinator for the Progressive Youths Initiative of Nigeria (An Atiku support group) and head of the Atiku Support groups social media team writes from Abuja and can be reached on Odohmike2@gmail.com.