2023: Atiku v Obi: Interrogating the Endorsements by Dogara and Lawal

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By Tony Icheku

Words may be powerful, but only to the extent of hinting at the make up of one’s mind. Words maybe be misinterpreted or taken out of context, only actions reveal the ultimate sum of man. Unlike most actions inclined towards permanency, most words, flippantly thrown up, provoked by unfolding events, ultimately suffer reversal. In Yakubu Dogara and Babachir Lawal endorsements, respectively of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, we see these scenario playing out.

Dogara, Speaker of the 8th session of the House of Representatives freaked
out when Ahmed Bola Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress, APC picked Kashim Shettima, former Borno State governor as APC’s vice presidential candidate, creating a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Alongside Lawal, leading other Christian groups in the North, they waxed critical against it

“The adoption Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC for the 2023 presidential election is a fruitless political effort that has been doomed to end in spectacular failure”, Dogara said. He talked about shared identity, vision and values – now considered mere flippant words in the light of his endorsement of Atiku.

As a lawyer and a legislator who rose to the peak of the lower legislative house, there was higher expectations that Dogara would have emerged as the bulwark of opposition against the Muslim-Muslim ticket as it flouted the federal character principle of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or according to him: “Same faith ticket does not align with the vision of a united Nigeria because it does not promote a collective sense of belongingness”

The Atiku PDP presidential ticket and Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket represents essential threats to the Nigerian enterprise as they are inimical to the essence of the federal character principle, whose thrust is to build a stronger, united and prosperous Nigeria by accommodating the linguistic, ethnic, religious and geographical diversity of Nigeria.

While Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket flagrantly thumbs it’s nose at the Federal Character principle, Atiku cunningly attempts to creep into the consciousness of Nigerians as ‘Mr Nice guy’, a Pan-Nigerian, which he is not

For the records, Dogara’s wily attempt to play ‘defender of the Christian faith’, just collapsed on it’s face, unless, he can in good faith justify the succession of one Northern Muslim to another Northern Muslim. Where is the justice, fairness and equity in the succession of a Muslim Fulani to another Muslim Fulani – That is Atiku succeeding Buhari? If indeed justice and equity were the principles he was fighting for, he would have looked the way of the Integrity Governors and perhaps joined forces with them

Indeed, this is one fight Dogara may have done well to stay clear of. Taking liberties, one may infer that Dogara was all along praying to be picked as Tinubu’s Vice Presidential candidate, as is now being alleged. But how can that be when he does not belong to the Asiwaju’s inner Kitchen Cabinet?

Let the truth be told, members of the Dogara group were really fighting for self interest and political survival, rather than altruistic objectives. Their posture as being more Northerners than others seems to be mere wishingful thinking. If they were not trapped by their egotistical aspirations, they would have borrowed a leaf from Northern APC governors who before APC’s Presidential primary insisted on zoning the Presidency to the South.

Indeed, by their stance, Dogara and his bedfellows present an imminent danger to the Nigerian enterprise. Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket by being open cards on the table fares better in this regard than Dogara’s sly motions.

One may reasonably empathize with Dogara being a politician who benefits from the system by playing up his relevance, but he played it wrong here

Babachir Lawal whose endorsement of Peter Obi of the Labour Party was earlier criticised by Dogara has fared better in this fight for the political rights of Northern Christians.

Lawal, former Secretary to the Government if the Federation, SGF came unburdened to the fight. And his objectives were clear: He stood for the unwritten principle of power rotation between North and South; And all things being equal may have supported Tinubu but could not do so as Tinubu’s ticket contradicted the genuine aspirations of transition from a Muslim/Christian ticket to a Christian/Muslim ticket and regional power shift of NW/SW to SE/NW.

Additionally, Dogara group’s assessment of the four leading presidential candidates and their chances in the 2023 presidential election merely begged the question.
On a scale of preference, both Atiku’s PDP and Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket present a dilemma of between the devil and the deep, blue sea to Nigerians, while Obidatti’s Labour Party offers the real alternative, a position Lawal ably amplified and long held by Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Nigerians who live for Nigeria.

Icheku is a journalist and public affairs analyst