Recently, some bloggers and online platforms went to town with an obviously orchestrated story that former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was broke. The linchpin of the story was that the front line politician was so broke that he cannot fund his presidential ambition for the 2019 race.
More laughable is the insinuation that Atiku, Turakin Adamawa had gone cap in hand begging the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Nwike to help finance the said presidential ambition. How ridiculous can people go in the bid to satisfy their paymasters?
Interestingly, the authors of the said story, which is akin to the Onitsha market literature and the ‘Eze Goes To School series’ , contend that the recent face-off between Intels, a company said to be owned by Atiku and the Federal Government was the reason for being flat broke.
And to prove that the Wazirin Adamawa was actually bankrupt, the said tale bearers claimed that the American University of Nigeria (AUN), another entity in which he owns was unable to pay salaries. They further insinuated that there was likely to be a mass exodus of staff at the university.
Plausible as these claims may seem, commonsense dictates that anyone intending to go to town with such piece of information ought to have conducted a basic test as to if there was any truth to the claim. In this instance, they were so much in a hurry to ‘damage’ the reputation of the former Vice President that truth was easily sacrificed.
Perhaps, if they had bothered to cross check, they would have found out that Intels’ so called face-off with the Federal Government lasted only for a while. And that Intels paid the fine imposed by the government despite the obvious fact that it was trumped up.
Unknown to these hired puppets, Intels has since resumed operations and it’s profit line fully restored. Besides, the impression given that the company is Atiku’s cash cow is entirely wrong as the Wazirin’s businesses span several sectors of the economy.
As for the so called non-payment or delay of salaries at the university, a few points need to be elucidated. First, there’s no truth in the claim that the former VP is unable to pay salaries. Neither is there any planned exit by the staff as most of them know that the American University of Nigeria pay living wages and therefore would not want to leave.
Perhaps those indicted or afraid that their malfeasance may be exposed are thinking of leaving the university. And this is to be expected considering that the ongoing probe instituted by the new management is rather very comprehensive and likely to expose those who have fed fat from the Visitor’s generosity without any fear of God.
As it turned out, the management of the university allowed some unwholesome practices to take place. Local staff collected expatriate salaries, staff population more than that of the students and a lot of people went on vacation abroad with the school footing the bill.
The so called delay in salaries is therefore the outcome of an ongoing probe and not that of bankruptcy. Because, the authorities of the school want to ascertain those involved in the sharp practices and the extent of the rot.
For an institution without a backlog of unpaid salaries, which pays salaries promptly and takes staff welfare as top priority, to be ‘owing’ all of a sudden does not indicate that it is broke. Something more fundamental must be the problem, which, if our tale bearers had bothered to check, they would have quickly uncovered.
But more ludicrous is the assertion that Atiku was lobbying Wike for money to fund his ambition to contest the 2019 presidential election. How weird can people’s imagination be? To think that the wazirin Adamawa was so broke that he had to depend on slush funds from Rivers State?
Perhaps, it is necessary to explain to these naysayers that this is not the first time the Adamawa politician would be contesting for public office. He contested and won the governorship of Adamawa before becoming the running mate to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. And, he was Vice President twice.
The former customs boss has also ran once as the presidential candidate of a major political party apart from other attempts at clinching the presidency. He is no stranger to presidential politics and very well knows what it takes to run for such a high office.
To assert that Atiku is broke and begging for money is rather cheap. And leaves a sour taste in the mouth. With an expansive thriving business empire, international contact and exposure as well as a massive political structure, it is clear, even to the blind, that the man does not need to enter into unholy financial alliances, mortgage his conscience and the fate of millions of Nigerians to achieve his objective. More so, since he has openly declared that the presidential race was not a do or die affair.
But it is clear that the puppet master and his cohorts in the All Progressives Congress (APC) are behind the Wike fable having traversed a similar path to get to power. So, they imagine that no serious opposition contender can win an election in Nigeria without the heist from Rivers State.
Nigerians would recall the alleged inglorious role played by former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi to get APC into power. Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari, whose election was heavily funded by Amaechi, at least four APC governors have openly thanked the Transport Minister for having a deep pocket and supporting their campaigns.
But, Nigeria cannot be said to be better for it as the APC government is run more as a cabal, bugged down by conspiracies and unholy compromises, a scenario that any experienced politician, albeit a patriotic statesman like Atiku, would not want to contemplate.
By and large, it is clear that there’s no truth in the claim that Atiku is broke. Neither is there any plan by him to subordinate his ambition to a cabal from anywhere.
It is also obvious that the ruling party is jittery and therefore hired some urchins to engage in a tale by moonlight. In the end, what we have is smoke without fire; a rather belligerent exercise to nowhere!
By Phrank Shaibu
*Shaibu, a Public Communications expert, writes from Abuja