Former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and the Governor of Kaduna State Nasir el-Rufai have been engaged in a war of words in what sources believe are early shots in the battle for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket in 2019.
Atiku, the perennial presidential candidate, is gambling that President Muhammadu Buhari will not run again, perhaps due to old age or illness, or both. So the former VP has been positioning himself recently as a statesman in preparation for a presidential bid. He fired the first salvo against perceived opponent el-Rufai in a recent newspaper interview claiming, in response to corruption allegations in el-Rufai’s book: “This is the same el-Rufai and others who incorporated Transcorp during my time as Vice President and offered me shares and I declined. I wrote them officially to say it was unethical of me to have accepted those offers. So, where is the corruption toga coming from?”
El-Rufai didn’t take this lightly:”Alhaji Atiku is already running for 2019, and he thinks that he can make people like us collateral damage in his attempt to rejuvenate his image”. The governor continued: “Can Alhaji Atiku explain the findings in the report of the United States Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations which detailed a pattern of wire transfers of more than $40 million from offshore companies like Siemens into bank accounts controlled by him and one of his wives.
“The report detailing the US Senate findings is online, as one of four case histories of foreign corruption in the USA. Alhaji Atiku should tell a better tale of why he is avoiding the United States of America.
“Someone as obsessed with Nigeria’s presidency as he is, should clear up such matters conclusively. We wait to see how well he does with that.”
The ferocity of the counterattack is because el-Rufai believes he is Buhari’s anointed replacement – if and when the president doesn’t go for a second term – as Naijiant.com reported in September last year.
However, el-Rufai’s cockiness about replacing Buhari is on shaky ground. It is still not clear whether the president will not run again. Additionally, sources close to the “cabal” that surrounds the president (his wife Aisha complained about them in a recent BBC interview) claim that they can’t stand el-Rufai. Led by Buhari’s nephew Mamman Daura and supported by Abba Kyari, the president’s Chief of Staff and Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Federal Government, the Buhari inner circle is expected to frustrate el-Rufai’s ambitions to replace the president. The Kaduna State governor’s only chance of succeeding rests on Buhari imposing him on the “cabal”. This is highly unlikely, considering the grip they have on the president.
But despite the war of words, Atiku and el-Rufai have worked together to loot Nigeria in the past. They may yet work together again when one prevails over the other – as the picture above shows. El-Rufai and Buhari, that he currently swears loyalty to, also had a history of mutual disrespect. So most informed Nigerians should know that the current spat between Atiku and el-Rufai has little to do with principle and a lot to do with greed. There is clearly no honour among thieves, no common friends, no common enemies, just common interests – looting public funds, in this case.