What Atiku’s place in history is, By Teinye Akobo

By Teinye Akobo November 25, 2015 16:22

What Atiku’s place in history is, By Teinye Akobo

The education system in Nigeria has been a wretched failure; and the quality of graduates is an indictment of the standard, which is a domestic disgrace. Stakeholders and experts in the field, who have called for reforms, including the President recently in Tehran, allude to this fact.

However, for us to effectively address this issue, we have to harness all resources, making them coalesce for reform; drawing from the gains of private players, especially Atiku Abubakar.

Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria, is warm, conversational, knowledgeable, and decent. He is easily excited about promising ideas with dogma in its gains. The most impressive characteristic of his is his obsession with quality and standard: he never compromises on quality to a point of stubbornness.

However, he arguably, has been the most vilified Nigerian politician since the advent of Democracy in 1999 with the possible exception of Goodluck Jonathan. Despite his immense contribution to the advancement of democracy and the rule of law, he has suffered bruises in the court of public opinion, being labeled a criminal even before any convictions.

This is largely due to the fact that he has relied perhaps on time being a faithful vindicator of victims; but also due to the inability of his team to reinvent his image, coupled with an unrelenting former boss who feels constantly bashing him is a sure route to cementing his own place in history.

During the second term of Obasanjo, an improper Administrative Panel of Inquiry was set up to indict and prevent Atiku from running in the 2007 elections. Following his opposition to the 3rd term agenda, Obasanjo declared his office of Vice President vacant. Atiku had to board a commercial flight to London to avoid an illegal arrest.

He was painted to be the poster child of corruption in an administration largely bereft of any morality– all an exercise in revenge. Atiku is by no means a saint: he has his faults. But as Churchill once said, there are two types of success, “initial and ultimate”. Atiku got the former and lost the latter. He won all his legal battles, but the impression created in the minds of the people remains prevalent.

This is largely responsible for his many electoral shortcomings. Despite his qualities, persistent withering criticism from his former boss has prevented Atiku from properly telling his truly impressive personal story. Being a child of tough circumstance, Atiku rose through the ranks- serving his country in uniform and for unity. Like former US president, Herbert Hoover, he gathered means, power, and celebrity until political carnage started.

Hoover was a world-renowned engineer who coordinated the construction of a dam on the California-Arizona border to supply energy to Southwest United States. He revolutionized commerce during his time as Commerce Secretary; headed food distribution during World War I; managed emergency relief efforts following the Mississippi Flood devastation of 1927; he clinched the Republican ticket and became President. However, he lost his influence after the recession began during the beginning of his presidency. Franklin Roosevelt would eventually defeat him.

After Roosevelt became President, he engaged in many acts to further tarnish Hoover. The dam by Hoover was renamed Boulder Dam; Hoover’s name was dropped from the White House birthday message list; and Mrs. Hoover’s portrait was removed and placed in storage for almost 12 years. After Roosevelt died, Harry Truman became President in the heat of World War II.

Following the devastation of Europe and resulting food shortage, Truman wrote to Hoover requesting help. Based on his experience in food distribution and rationing, Hoover was placed in charge of ensuring food supply to Europe. Hoover handled this job exceptionally and was further appointed to a Presidential Commission to restructure the executive arm of the US Government to reduce logjam.

In the course of the Commission’s work, Truman ran for re-election and went back to the ways of Roosevelt- bashing Hoover. However, Hoover declined all overtures from Republicans to use his newfound clout against Truman. Following retirement, Hoover who was a millionaire even before public service, decided to accept pensions for past presidents so as not to embarrass Truman who wasn’t as rich and needed the pension. Hoover donated his to charity, to continue his tradition of returning his government salaries back to the treasury.

The significance of the relationship between Truman and Hoover was that it benefited both men: Truman got a working government; Hoover got his credibility restored; Truman got legacy; Hoover Dam was restored. Both men got friendship, honor and history.

This episode of history holds many lessons for Atiku. One sector he has focused significant attention on is education. Investing resources into the public debate on ways to advance the sector.  Herein, lies the niche he could carve for himself. Since the sector is in dire need of a revolution of sorts- forging public-private partnership- there seems to be no other Nigerian capable of marshaling this but Atiku. He has the private sector credibility and public sector clout to propel reform in our education sector.

Like Hoover, Atiku can take upon himself the responsibility of reforming our education system, bringing together government and private sector to start the much-needed overhaul of the sector.

As a former Vice President, he will bring presidential credentials to bear, and with his mature disposition to interests, ideas and ideologies, he can work with all stakeholders in the industry.

With the President bent on addressing the rot in this sector, I can’t think of a stronger message than deploying someone of this stature to handle this task. At this time, we need such a Statesman to help the nation salvage our educational sector.

Interestingly, he will find a willing partner in President Muhammadu Buhari, who like Truman, can make do with a well-defined legacy. Ultimately, after years of being maligned and castigated, Atiku will find a genuine path to history far greater than many, if he actualizes this. The good part is: it is not yet too late.