If, indeed, Jos, Plateau State, does make presidents of candidates who hold their presidential primaries or flag off their presidential campaigns there, then Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, has a story to tell, as he heads to Jos this Tuesday for a campaign rally in which the Plateau State PDP gubernatorial campaign flag off is also embedded.
Although myths hardly become reality, the Atiku Abubakar experience goes beyond the fluidity of folklore. Twenty-three years ago and 23 years younger, Atiku Abubakar arrived in Jos, venue of the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential convention ahead of the 1999 general election, which was to preface the restoration of democratic governance in Nigeria on May 29, of the same year. He was the head or leader of the PDP delegates from Adamawa State, having emerged earlier from the party’s governorship primary as its candidate for the governorship election.
Unknown to Atiku Abubakar, there was a message in the horoscope: he would not be governor – for the superior and worthwhile reason that he emerged as presidential running mate to the winner of the presidential primary, Olusegun Obasanjo, right there at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium venue of the convention. That was also the preface or foreword to election victory and inauguration into the seat of power at Aso Rock as Nigeria’s executive vice president.
Could the horoscope be speaking again or it is history that is beckoning? Since 1999, Plateau State itself has submitted to a definite and predictable electoral pattern as the PDP has always won the presidential election in the state ahead of other contending parties.
According to the State chairman of the PDP, Chris Hassan, the party was conceived and hatched with the peculiar aspirations and needs of the Plateau people as fulcrum, and, ever since, it is the PDP that has provided the type of governance that meets and assuages the needs and desires of the people.
After an APC-modulated interregnum of eight years, Hassan said ahead of the campaign visit that the state and the people have activated for the PDP, and what Atiku Abubakar and the Plateau State gubernatorial candidate, Caleb Mutfwang, will be experiencing next Tuesday in Jos is unity of purpose, commonality, a dyadic coalition, a hand shake with history, and sharing a cause to revamp the hopes of the people by reconstructing their heritage and reconciling same with a destiny that has almost been aborted or miscarried by bad governance.
Decrying the “downward slide that has become the order of the day in the state in the last seven and a half years,” Hassan emphasised the determination of the PDP to “genuinely rescue and rebuild Plateau state.” Having assured of renewed harmony and cohesion within and along the rungs of the Party, Hassan announced: “we are by the special grace of God flagging off our presidential campaign in the State on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, when our incoming president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar will be in Jos to meet and interact with Plateau people”.
While the momentum is positive for the visit of the presidential candidate, the expectations are also high.
Of all other governorship candidates of the party across the country, many PDP stakeholders and bookmakers in and outside Plateau view a possible Atiku presidency and a Caleb Mutfwang governorship as sharing common elements, problems, and challenges which call for a work understanding and working interface and mutuality between the two leaders as they look good going into the polls.
Under the subsisting APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, popular opinion is that the country is worse than it was when the PDP yielded national leadership to it in 2015: there is runaway inflation and rising cost of living, growing unemployment, worsening crime rates and historic insecurity threatening national unity, infrastructural decay, poor motivation of the national work force, daily collapse of the national currency in the international monetary system, and general gloom in the investment and economic atmosphere of the country, and citizen motivation and national ethos being at the lowest ebb.
Never a time since independence have economic indicators and growth rates been so sluggish and negative as they have been under the current regime with macro determinants such as petroleum and manufacturing in steady crisis that leaves the business climate unattractive and forcing investment and capital flight in a lot of cases. With banditry, insurgency, and kidnapping on the ascendancy, the country is on the brink of collapse, and heading for the league of failed states, with citizens despairing and agonizing over misbegotten opportunities and misplaced priorities.
Those who believe in the Atiku Abubakar’s blueprint – they prefer to brand themselves as Atikulated – believe an Atiku presidency should be able to retard, and then reverse the negatives, and return the economy to the path of growth and make prosperity the lot of doing business in the country. Not even after the civil war in 1970 was this agitation so loud and sustained as exasperating Nigerians feel it currently.
Apart from the social ill of corruption that has benumbed the system leading to fiscal leakages and improper implementation of appropriation bills, systemic injustices bordering on nepotism and taking a toll on issues such as recruitment into the federal civil service, postings or deployment, promotion, discipline, and headship of the country’s security services, are threatening the continuity of the Nigeria project and aggravating agitations for fiscal federalism or restructuring. With Atiku Abubakar using every national public space and moment to restate his averment to restructuring as a paradigm shift to secure national unity and development, a lot of his followers and sympathizers hope a possible Atiku presidency will eliminate or abate parochial considerations in the quest to build a virile nation.
Similar enormous responsibilities await a possible Caleb Mutfwang governorship in Plateau State. Many who critique the years of the Buhari Presidency as actually an interlude of socio-political and economic backwardness also lament that Plateau State had double potion of bad governance during the same period because, as president Muhammadu Buhari was failing at the national level, Governor Simon Lalong was in a free fall in Plateau State, crashing most of the gains garnered over the years by past administrations in terms of orchestrating the Plateau Spirit and warding off their traditional enemies and aggressors. Under Simon Lalong, there has been a steady encroachment of incendiary forces, and this has ensured heightened wave of killings and sectarian violence, displacement of farmers and sacking of farmlands and farm produce, land grabbing and a surging army of displaced persons robbed of their ancestral homes and turned to refugees in their homestead.
The southern part of Plateau State has also come under intense criminal occupation and bombardment in recent times. Banditry is becoming a dominant pastime threatening agriculture and other economic activities in Kanam and Wase; while kidnapping and abductions are reigning in Qua’an Pan and grating on the business corridor that stretches into the north eastern fringes of its southerly neighbour, Nasarawa State.
In Kampani Zurach, in Wase Local Government Area of the State, the State is suffering economic sabotage as a result of illegal mining activities carried out there in connivance with some mercenary forces that have been holding the State hostage.
Thus, Atiku Abubakar and Caleb Mutfwang are actually into uphill tasks as they seek to provide and show the way. As they flag off their campaigns together, they could fetch and draw from the bounties of history and providence; especially, as the State Chairman of the PDP, Chris Hassan has said, “the people are ready.”