The stage is set for Nigerians to pick their poison. It is a choice between a notoriously slow, nepotistic, irredentist, sitting president they know and an amoral, shadowy, slippery bandit, whose wealth is considered to have been notoriously derived from graft and economic exploitation of the state.


Campaign for political offices has started in earnest. This time in 2014, the majority of Nigerians wanted anybody other than Jonathan. We pitched our tent with Buhari. He has turned out a bigger disappointment than we thought possible. He became a shepherd of thieves and bribe takers, even if he took none himself. His dalliance with loyal incompetents is as devastating as his lack of vision. Unfortunately, we will select him by default again.

The stage is set for Nigerians to pick their poison. It is a choice between a notoriously slow, nepotistic, irredentist, sitting president they know and an amoral, shadowy, slippery bandit, whose wealth is considered to have been notoriously derived from graft and economic exploitation of the state. Now that the campaign is open, we ought to examine the critical components of Atiku’s famed business empire, put his business practices under rigorous scrutiny, and ask pertinent questions. There are questions in this article that speaks to the kind of character Atiku is, what he stands for, what to expect of him and how he will run Nigeria, if elected.

The Use Of Expatriate Quota

Can Atiku explain the reckless use of expatriates for jobs and positions for which Nigerians are qualified and readily available in his business concerns? In other countries, before an expatriate is employed, it must be shown to the Department or Ministry of Labour or Internal Affairs that the position had been advertised repeatedly and that there was no eligible citizen to take this on. This global practice was deviced as a measure to prevent unfair competition from foreign labour and the unemployment of local talent. The Nigerian Ministry of Internal Affairs has repeatedly failed to monitor the expatriate quota in Atiku’s businesses. This went far back to the time when he was the vice president. The connivance is regarded to have been sustained ever since through his civil service cronies in the Ministry. Today, all the businesses that Atiku boasts of have excessive numbers of expatriates on their payroll. This can easily be verified. Can Atiku be trusted to create jobs?

It is sad that we will re-elect Buhari, not because he is the best, but because Atiku is worse. How can one who has no scruples in sabotaging the economy of Nigeria and Nigerians through the violation of expatriate quota, retention of federal funds and the evasion of taxes be assigned the sensitive duty of running the whole of Nigeria…


Tax Evasion

Until 2017, there are strong allegations that expatriates employed in Atiku’s businesses never paid taxes to the government, contrary to income tax laws. The contracts signed by those expatriates practically regards Nigeria as a tax haven for them. As at today, Atiku’s businesses pays pittance in naira to the federal government on behalf of the expatriates who earn their salaries in US dollars. For instance, it is claimed that an employee on a salary of US$100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars; approx 36 million naira) per annum, pays a parlous N20,000 to the federal government per annum. The collusion between agents of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Atiku’s businesses is certainly horrendous! It did not start today. This system of collusion is considered to have been entrenched long ago, from his time as the vice president and his foothold in government ever since. There are top civil servants known to be assisting Atiku to sabotage the federal government economically and to evade taxes. This applies to Integrated Logistic Services (Intels), American University of Nigeria (AUN), his hotel and Adama Beverages.

Kickbacks

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For the eight years that he was VP, it is claimed that Atiku pooled resources to his businesses through kickbacks in cash and kind. Can he deny that the Boni Haruna administration in Adamawa State that took over in 1999 when he was chosen as the vice president built the first set of properties that constituted his ABTI-American University in Yola? These properties are today known as the “North Campus”. He should tell us what role Julius Berger played in the construction of “Peter Okocha Hall”, presently standing on the permanent site of the renamed American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola. How about Intels’ monopoly, which was regarded as his bargaining chip against successive Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidents, until 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office? The facts on Intels and the shortchanging of taxpayers are already in the public domain.

Why Is Atiku Immune From Prosecution?

People sympathetic to the Atiku project are quick to tell us that he has never been prosecuted by any administration for any crime. That is true. He is a clever man. He plants his cronies where he can, so he can reap the loyalty therefrom someday. From the blast of the whistle when the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were created, Atiku as vice president had rigged his cronies and yes-men into these bodies. None of the two bodies can achieve any action against Atiku without an overhaul!

A quick survey of the names published on the website of his university as “Board of Trustees” would reveal the names of persons who have no business running a university. It looks like a roll call of ex-convicts and indicted officials (Gilbert Bukhenya, Admiral Dele Ezeoba, Akin Kekere-Ekun, etc). It is not surprising that Alhaji Ahmed Joda…jumped ship…


Questionable Business Acumen

Nigeria has had enough of cronyism, mediocrity and nepotism. We cannot afford anyone worse than Buhari. Atiku has an unusual ability to load the governing bodies of his businesses with loafers, cronies and hangers-on. For a man aspiring to govern a complex country, relying on a mono-product economy, it will be suicidal for us to give him a chance. A quick survey of the names published on the website of his university as “Board of Trustees” would reveal the names of persons who have no business running a university. It looks like a roll call of ex-convicts and indicted officials (Gilbert Bukhenya, Admiral Dele Ezeoba, Akin Kekere-Ekun, etc). It is not surprising that Alhaji Ahmed Joda, the first chairperson of the BOT and Atiku’s Fulani kinsman, jumped ship once he realised that the board was made up of strange bedfellows. He did not want to run the risk of catching fleas by sleeping with dogs. The sordid sources of Atiku’s wealth is well known to the expatriates coming in and out of Nigeria to work for his businesses. The high turnover of the top management cadre in his business concerns speaks volumes.

Of late, Atiku has latched on to every issue, often playing to the gallery and offering populist solutions. He said he will sell the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Great idea! But shall we examine privatisation under Atiku as vice president? Many Nigerian jewels were sold off to cronies and asset strippers. What was Jimoh Ibrahim’s antecedents as a business person when National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) was sold to him? He is mouthing off a discredited touch-and-go agenda that ruined Argentina, instead of a well coordinated offer in the mould of that achieved for the Saudi ARAMCO. His rhetoric offers more of the same to the discerning.

It is sad that we will re-elect Buhari, not because he is the best, but because Atiku is worse. How can one who has no scruples in sabotaging the economy of Nigeria and Nigerians through the violation of expatriate quota, retention of federal funds and the evasion of taxes be assigned the sensitive duty of running the whole of Nigeria in the kind of executive presidential system that we have? How? #AtikuIsNotOk

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo