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What if Atiku had settled for Wike?

What is alternate history? “A sub-genre of speculative fiction in which one or more historical events have occurred but are resolved differently than in actual history.” The outcome of the 2023 Presidential Election would have been different. It could have been President Atiku Abubakar and Vice President Nyesom Wike. What a combination.

What happened? Atiku Abubakar polled 371 votes, while his closest rival, Nyesom Wike, polled 237. Atiku was declared the winner, and the challenge was who was to be his running mate. The pressure was intense. This was aside from the issues that sprang up when the the People Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Iyorcha Ayu said Aminu Tambuwal was the hero of the convention for pulling the levers that gave Atiku Abubakar victory. But to the detriment of Nyesom Wike.

The Wike camp felt betrayed and made demands. Even after the vice presidential slot evaded him. Ifeanyi Okowa was the beneficiary. Atiku Abubakar made a statement that slighted Nyesom Wike and the G5 was born. With the benefit of hindsight, that was the beginning of the end for Atiku Abubakar.

The PDP chairman was complicit. He didn’t create a level playing ground. Nyesom Wike was primed to get the ticket. And he worked assiduously, only for some magic that was prepared with the knowledge of Iyorcha Ayu to happen. This remains history.

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But Atiku Abubakar picked Nyesom Wike as his running mate to compensate him for the loss. Nyesom Wike graciously accepted the position of vice presidential candidate. That meant Oyo, Benue, Rivers, Abia, and Enugu were in the bag.

Peter Obi didn’t decamp to the Labour Party. He pledged his loyalty to the party to wrestle power from the All Progressive Congress. He was assured of a prominent role. And he accepted. The South East was also in the bag. The Obidient Movement was never formed.

The 2023 presidential election was a two-horse race. Bola Ahmed Tinibu and Atiku Abubakar. Atiku Abubakar polled 13,080,000 votes (inclusive of Peter Obi’s 6.1 m votes), while Bola Tinubu polled 8,790,000. Atiku Abubakar was declared the winner.

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They were sworn in, and Bola Tinubu headed to court. And he lost up to the Supreme Court. And the country moved on. That is alternate history. An event that was resolved differently. But Bola Tinubu is the president.

Atiku Abubakar must have reflected on his decision. It is only normal for him to play out the scenario in his head. Maybe he had regrets. Perhaps he confided in close associates. Maybe he is licking his wound. But we are products of our decisions.

It would have been a different song. It would have been a PDP government, and we could have Peter Obi as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The swan song would continue about Muhammadu Buhari’s report card. I don’t think Muhammadu Buhari would be relaxing the way he is now. It would have been one press statement or the other. Garba Shehu would have been a constant feature in most newspapers.

I struggle to imagine Atiku Abubakar as the President of Nigeria and Nyesom Wike as Vice President. It would have been a tumultuous experience. It would never work. It would have been an era of mutual suspicion. Governance would have suffered. There would have been a Peter Obi and a Nyesom Wike and trying to outwith each other for 2027.

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Atiku Abubakar would be at a crossroads. An ambitious vice president and an entitled Central Bank governor. Both were from the South because agitations for a power shift would have been rife. Atiku Abubakar might fear karma from his experience with Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 and watch his guards closely.

Nyesom Wike would have been defiant. And the implication would have been a repeat of the Obasanjo-Atiku era in 2007. The difference would have been that Nyesom Wike wouldn’t have acted like Atiku Abubakar. He would have warmed his way instead of ridiculing the president.

All of these never happened. But there are lessons for posterity. The place of strategy must be balanced in our daily lives. Emotions must be kept in check. I am sure Nyesom Wike is thanking his stars today. He is better off. As a super minister, he has unfettered access to the president. He has the respect of the president and can negotiate in a friendly manner.

Peter Obi would not have benefited. Imagine a Nigeria without the Obidient Movement. The drama and intrigues that shaped the 2023 presidential election. It would go down in history as an election to remember.

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He would have remained Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra state and a PDP stalwart. And not what he is today. Twitter (X) and Facebook would have been boring. The stronghold of the Obidients.

If Atiku Abubakar had picked Nyesom Wike, it would have altered Nigeria’s political direction for good or bad. But Nigeria would remain. “Alternate history serves as a window into worlds that have never been but which are conceivable offshoots of our own, and often it is also a glimpse of nightmares from which we have been mercifully spared.”

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Ocheja, a military historian and doctoral researcher, can be reached via [email protected]

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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