Nigeria: The Atiku Bagudu Matter

Birnin Kebbi — The following is a letter from political activist and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abu Najakku, to Bola Tinubu, the APC nominee and declared winner of Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential election.

I offer you my warm congratulations on the hard fought 2023 presidential election and your honied victory. I believe you’re worthy of this victory and I dare say I never contemplated a different outcome. As you’re aware, all eyes are now on you as you begin the task of selecting a formidable team, including a result-oriented cabinet that will help you steer the ship of state to greatness.

Broadly speaking, you promised to continue from wherever President Muhammadu Buhari stops, by restoring security, reviving the economy, fighting corruption, providing employment (reason why you recently visited Tony Elumelu, I suppose) and renewing our hope in our country.

Which brings me to the very important issue of the presidential transition council established by outgoing President Buhari and your nominations into it.

However, the nomination of Atiku Bagudu, the outgoing governor of Kebbi state is, to put it mildly, troubling and dangerous for our country. The nomination of Atiku Bagudu into the presidential transition council and the presentation of himself as the ‘representative of President-elect’ is a sad development.

We all know the antecedents of Atiku Bagudu, particularly his past role as the bag man of the evil dictator, General Muhammed Sani Abacha, in his infamous desecration and plunder of the national treasury. Till today, Nigeria is fighting hard to recover the insane amount of money that Sani Abacha shipped out of this country illegally with the suspected connivance of Atiku Bagudu.

Now, like a thief in the dead night, Atiku Bagudu is back in his game. He is trying hard to penetrate the president-elect and have a seat on the table of a promising administration we all are helping to bring about. Atiku Bagudu has this creepy ability to infiltrate and waltz his way into the embrace of any administration for what it can afford him – power and wealth, but lately, personal security too. That was how he infiltrated the Abachas.

Haunted by his messy past, Atiku Bagudu is now trying hard to get a foothold in the incoming administration and gain power and wealth and immunity. I shudder at the reputational injury that the presence of Atiku Bagudu will cause the new administration, not to talk of the mismanagement of whatever assignment that may be given to him.

Having served as the arrowhead in the fight against the political rapacity, economic strangulation and social corruption of our country by Sani Abacha, it would be catastrophic of you to hand Atiku Bagudu, Abacha’s errand boy, a frontline seat in the top echelons of a Tinubu administration. That would send a dreadful signal to patriots.

If Asiwaju Tinubu would not appoint Sani Abacha as his Army Chief or Defence Minister, he should also not contemplate trusting Atiku Bagudu with an important role in his administration. Not in the Finance or Trade Ministry, not in Petroleum Ministry, not at Central Bank of Nigeria, not in any strategic sector where money or loans are negotiated or repaid!

That will tantamount to handing these places to Sani Abacha and rewinding Nigeria to 1993. I am sorry, Mr. President-elect, but handing Atiku Bagudu an important role cannot renew our hope in Nigeria, it will kill it. If you give Atiku Bagudu any important role in your administration, people will laugh at us. How can a General Abacha acolyte return to the centre of our national government just thirty years after Abacha’s grand larceny? What happens to honour? What happens to decency?

Now, take a look at the appalling 8-year record of Atiku Bagudu as the governor of the unlucky state of Kebbi. First, Atiku Bagudu made a solemn promise to build a sugar factory somewhere in Argungu. He has delivered zero on that.

Next, Atiku Bagudu vowed to establish a solar power plant at Fakon Sarki to provide electricity to our folks. Few weeks to his exit from Kebbi government house, his effort in that direction is zilch and this is despite the alleged N300 million compensation he was said to have paid for the land earmarked for the plant.

Thirdly, Lake Rice. I should have begun with this. So, where is Lake Rice? Atiku Bagudu’s dubious scheme to produce and distribute Lake Rice ended up in fiasco. Recall that Bagudu had signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the former Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, with fanfare, to supply Lagos consumers with endless amount of Lake Rice. Alas, Lake Rice disappeared under the weight of Bagudu’s duplicity. What happened to the cultivators of Lake Rice and who are they now selling to? Please note that nobody had been able to buy Lake Rice in Kebbi while the stunt lasted.

Enter Atiku Bagudu again with another grand scheme: and so, it was announced that Kebbi state government was going to establish an ethanol plant in partnership with NNPC, that immobile octapus! Large portions of land were acquired. Plenty cassava and sugarcane were planted. All had since wilted and up till today, not a drop of ethanol has been produced. Only Allah knows how much of Kebbi’s financial resources have gone down the drain in this shadowy exercise.

At another time, it was also claimed that Aliko Dangote was going to build a rice mill around Yauri. There were reports that Dangote could not even find iron benders in Kebbi because there were none. He had to go to Kano and Lagos to hire the iron benders needed to twist the iron rods into the foundation structure of the mill. Suffice it to say that whatever work that has been done in that regard, has been abandoned and all is now quiet on that front.

There is also the much-trumpeted tomato paste factory at Gafara village in Yauri area said to have been built by Erisco in partnership with Kebbi state. It was supposed to be another showpiece of Bagudu’s capacity to attract ‘private investment’ for Kebbi. The last thing we heard about this project is that bandits had attacked the premises, and everyone had run away. Again, we never saw the product of this factory on the shelves of our shops or in our pots of soup. The extent of the commitments of Kebbi state, financial or otherwise, to this Erisco tomato factory is also unknown.

Equally, sometimes last year, the foundation stone for an ‘aviation academy’ was laid at Sir Ahmadu Bello Airport, Birnin Kebbi, which it was said would produce all manner of aviation experts – aircraft engineers, pilots, air hostesses/stewards and what not. That also has not materialized, and the place is now desolate.

Similarly, on the outskirts of Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, there is a neighbourhood called Malala. The inhabitants of Malala have for many years suffered from erosion and their profuse complaint had attracted the attention of politicians, including the outgoing governor since his stint as Senator. The story had been told of how the then Senator Atiku Bagudu had turned up at the place shedding tears on account of the destructive effects he had observed erosion inflict on the people. To cut the story short, the governor whose tenure ends next month is yet to fulfill his many promises to address the erosion issue of Malala. Where are all the ecological funds Bagudu has received all these years?

Unlike the President-elect who laid the foundation for modern Lagos, the Atiku Bagudu administration did not initiate any sustainable development plan or roadmap for Kebbi state, not in agricultural sector, or education or health or science and technology. Bagudu’s administration operated and still operates as the spirit directs with neither vision nor mission. In 2019 following his re-election, it took him six months to reconstitute his cabinet. You’d think that a governor that had just served his first time had gained the necessary experience to quickly form a cabinet and switch over to the second term mode. But no, and when he reconstituted the cabinet, there was no surprise, no outstanding member. As you would imagine, Bagudu used the interregnum to approve and expend millions, including N600 million allegedly for the ‘renovation of six schools’.

In his eight years of shambolic administration, Atiku Bagudu has not built a university or teaching hospital or water treatment plant or stadium or even a school. The people of Yauri, an important urban centre in Kebbi, still drink yellow water.

In terms of completion of inherited projects, the Atiku Bagudu administration scores zero. The state secretariat started by his predecessor, Alhaji Sa’idu Dakingari has remained as it is, abandoned. Although Atiku Bagudu prides himself as Fulani, he has not seen wisdom in completing the veterinary clinics begun by governor Dakingari. It should be borne in mind that Kebbi is a rural state and its economy depended so much on agriculture, including animal husbandry. Kebbi is one of the most backward states in Nigeria in all ramifications because privileged and rapacious persons like Atiku Bagudu would rather take advantage of the people and live in opulence, instead of using power to improve the material conditions of their compatriots.

Mr. President-elect, it would be a serious misjudgment to give Atiku Bagudu any role in our financial or economic realm. Atiku Bagudu will be a terrible choice for finance minister, or trade minister or petroleum minister or governor of the central bank of Nigeria, for example. It’s a reflection of the terrifying times we live in that Atiku Bagudu will resurface in the corridors of power and position himself for an ‘important role’ in the new administration.

Mr. President-elect, in the final analysis, even those opposed to you would hope that you assemble a truly competent team of patriots to help you deal with the Nigeria’s numerous political, economic and social problems. Certainly, Nigerians don’t expect the Jagaban Borgu to assign prominent role in his administration to cabinet to notorious personalities staring at arrest and detention as soon as they step outside this country.

We couldn’t – and I’m a card carrying member of APC – have fought for this democracy and this electoral victory only to surrender a prominent role to a well-known Abacha crony. You can’t fight Abacha that bloody and then give Atiku Bagudu that lift! Ah ah, Kilode? Kilon sele? Not at all. God forbid.

Unlike Asiwaju Tinubu who is a successful politician, a dogged democrat, a financial expert and a veteran fighter for the well-being of the people of Lagos and Nigeria in general, who toiled to bring financial independence to Lagos during difficult times; Atiku Bagudu, from his Abacha days to now, has not brought any tangible benefit to the people of kebbi or anywhere. If the federal government were to deny Kebbi its share of federal allocations, Kebbi state would collapse in three months.

Unlike Asiwaju Tinubu’s cabinet that was a rallying ground for talented men and women and productive technocrats, Atiku Bagudu is surrounded by clowns, charlatans and cowards. Unlike the president-elect who has identified and nurtured leaders, Atiku Bagudu has not developed anyone beside himself. It’s a known fact that Bagudu’s handpicked successor, the APC gubernatorial candidate, lacks capacity and cannot even speak English. It was Bagudu’s penchant for the manipulation of the APC in Kebbi that made the party to hemorrhage. His decision to hand himself the APC senatorial ticket and determined effort to hoist a charlatan as the next governor of the state was the direct cause of the crash of the party in the presidential election.

As I write, Kebbi has had no chief of staff since the resignation of the previous holder last year ago and his job has since been cannibalized and shared among ghosts.

Don’t get me wrong: Atiku Bagudu has built a number of sub-standard roads in and outside Birnin Kebbi and ‘renovated’ some schools and dashed money to Hisbah, some fishermen and okada riders. But, definitely, he has not tackled the rot in education, water supply and health sectors of the state.

Mr. President-elect, I know Atiku Bagudu very well. He’s a smooth talking, endlessly smiling dude with an army of social media hirelings. But Bagudu is an astonishingly incompetent, notoriously unreliable and fearfully unsafe hand that must not be given any ‘important role’ in this administration. Any mistake made in placing Bagudu in our financial, economic, trade or oil industry will accelerate the destruction of what remains of this beleaguered economy. Few people recall that Atiku Bagudu is the chairman of the Niger Delta Company, the chairman of the taskforce on the accelerated production of rice and wheat, the vice chairman of the so-called National Food Security Council, in addition to being the so called chairman of the progressive governors’ forum. Regrettably, Bagudu has made no impact in any of these bodies. Certainly, Nigeria lacks food security and all you need to do to confirm this is to go to Kebbi where you will find an army of hungry people. Right now Kebbi state has the highest number of out-of-school children, 67.6% as at the last count. In other words, in our state, there are more children outside school than inside it. You may verify all of the above sir.

I’m telling you Mr President-elect that your self-declared commitment to emplace a cabinet of competent people requires that you bypass Atiku Bagudu. This is because Kebbi has a good supply of excellent people by far better than Atiku Bagudu and tapping any of them will garner for you an incredible national goodwill.

Imagine appointing Professor Muhammed Attahiru Jega as Nigeria’s Minister of Education, or the cerebral Professor Bello Bala Shehu, the Kebbi-born top African neuro-surgeon as Minister of Health or the formidable Barrister Bukhari Bello as Minister of Interior, or the hotcake of a young man and Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Sharjah, UAE, Dr.Yazid Abubakar Abdullahi!

Mr. President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, you’re no longer the property of APC alone. Please uphold honour, walk the talk, recruit the best and shut out garbage from your administration.

This is a public advisory issued in furtherance of duty to myself, the president-elect, the people of Kebbi, the North West and Nigerians wherever they are.

HazbunalLah wa ni’imal wakil.