After all the hullabaloo about former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, not being allowed into the United States of America because he is facing charges of corruption, Atiku proved his detractors wrong by flying to “God’s own country.”
The All Progressives Congress, (APC) had all this while made a meal of this spectre of corruption charges that hung on Atiku like the sword of Damocles and perhaps a thing that has troubled some puritanists who were potential Atiku voters, even though there has been no proof of the allegations.
A vote for Atiku will not trouble their conscience anymore. That Atiku went to America and was not arrested is enough for them. But for some ardent Atiku followers it does not matter to them what has been said about Atiku. To them whoever is free of corruption in Nigeria should cast the first stone. And the incumbent government has not helped the matter in anyway. But in an election that is too close to call, indeed every vote counts. A U.S. trip might just do the trick.
At first the ruling party had cautioned the U.S. about issuing a visa to Atiku, as that might seem an endorsement of his candidature over his opponents. But America is a free world. It believes in the rule of law. Until anyone is found guilty that person is presumed innocent.
Atiku landed in America to the waiting arms of Nigerians living in America and American investors. At their Chamber of Commerce Atiku said he has met with and still meeting the U.S. administration officials and business leaders.
To American investors and to the world Atiku said he has a mission to “create the right economic atmosphere for American investments to return to Nigeria”.
Atiku as an astute politician and businessman stressed that there has been a reduction in the inflow of foreign direct investment to Nigeria.
He said his running for the top job is because he believes that Nigeria has all it takes to be the “beacon of hope for the black race and a leading nation of reckoning in the international community.”
However this has not happened over the course of the last four years because, as Chinua Achebe’s “prophetic” book said, “the trouble with Nigeria is the failure of leadership.”
He added that the present government has allowed Nigeria’s relationship with its long-standing friends and partners to deteriorate and thereby worsening its economy.
Atiku said this current administration dwelt on short-term goals and quick fixes because of their own “personal interests”
He continued that “new friendships should not be made at the cost of old friendships. It is not an either-or situation. Right from Independence, Nigeria has nurtured a policy of non-alignment. We borrowed from the Lincoln policy of malice toward none and charity for all. Sadly, that policy has suffered major setbacks in the last four years.”
He made it clear that Nigeria has much to offer America through her creative industry (Nollywood is the world’s third largest movie industry) and rich mining sectors (Nigeria’s Kaduna State is rich in gold ore). He also wants market in the U.S. for some of the five hundred thousand shoes made in Nigeria’s cities of Aba and Kano daily.
He recalls that in 2014, the whole of the African continent earned $2.4 billion from coffee grown in Africa and shipped mainly to Europe. But that Germany alone, made $3.8 billion from re-exporting Africa’s coffee in 2014.
As a businessman he cannot allow it to continue. “It is unconscionable, but situations like these will not stop unless Nigeria and Africa have leadership that thinks business, instead of aid, and capital instead of loans.”
Atiku wants to transform Nigeria from a consumer nation to a prosumer nation (a nation that consumes what it produces). To achieve this, he said we need U.S. firms who have divested from Nigeria, to come back. He said we need Procter and Gamble to reopen its $300 million Nigerian plant, which it shut down last year. We need General Electric to reverse its $2.7 billion pull out of Nigeria.
As Vice President, Atiku reminds one of Al Gore the then United States Vice President under Bill Clinton. Atiku and Gore were never overshadowed by their bosses. They made themselves felt, in words and in deeds.
Even former president Olusegun Obasanjo said this about Atiku: “he handled our privatization that gave birth to revolution in Telecom Industry and Banking Sector. He did excellently well. Atiku, indeed, will make Nigeria work again.”
There are people who just stumble into leadership and not prepared. But some have prepared themselves. They already have a vision driven by experience, learning, and sagacity. When you wake them up in the morning they can reel out their vision and plan.
In a speech he gave last year at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chathan House), the former V.P said there “is agreement that Nigeria has the potential to make that leap from third world to first that Singapore, under Lee Kuan Yew, made. We have the human and material resources required to make the leap and in fact, many of our nationals have helped other nations make that transition.”
Atiku wants Nigerians and the world to know he came to America because he believes in “JOBS – Jobs, Opportunity, Being United and Security and it is time Nigeria and all Nigerians finally have the opportunity to realise their true potentials.”
Dr. Odoemena writes from Lagos