The Container And Its Content: Atiku Abubakar As A Metaphor

By Bright Emenena

Atiku Abubakar is no small name, needing no introduction. In addition to his being the longest serving democratically elected vice president ever in Nigeria’s history, his outspokenness has constantly put him in the polity.

It is safe to say he is the most vocal individual asking for a change in the country’s present system of governance. As expected, his position has attracted different reactions from people from all walks of life especially other politicians, some for and others against.

As a response to some of the reactions to Atiku’s stance, I wrote an article published in some national dailies including the Tribune of 11th August, 2017 under the headline “Pondering Over what Atiku Abubakar is Saying” and there was a barrage of responses. They all could be broadly divided into three categories: those who do not agree with him, those who agreed with him and those who agreed with him but thought he is not good enough to say it or act what he is saying. In the last group, one of the responses that caught my attention the most and has inspired this follow up article, is one from a female responder with the comparison of the “container and the content”. She specifically mentioned that the content (ideas) was wonderful but doubted the container (person).

If what Atiku Abubakar is saying is the content as elaborated in my earlier article and agreed to by readers, then what is the container? The idea of the container will mean the personality of the person and, once again, as it has been with some other responses to Atiku’s position, some persons were calling his person to question.

Here, she buys the content but doubts the container. I have therefore decided that we take some look at the relationship between the container and its content in a figurative way.

A container as defined by the Learners Cambridge Dictionary is a hollow object such as a box or a bottle that can be used for holding something especially to carry or store it. On the other hand, the “content” has one of its definitions by same dictionary as everything that is contained within something. Simply put, the content is the contained.

The relationship between the two from the above definition is quite clear and there is no gainsaying that a container should be suited for its content. Containers are made and tailored for their content.

It emphasizes the idea of round pegs in round holes. For a content that is malleable as is with an idea, it is important to note that the content can be reorganized in accordance with the container. If the content eventually takes the shape of an inappropriate container, it will invariably become a different content.

If Atiku Abubakar’s ideas are the content Nigeria needs to chart a new progressive path, can he also be the container? If he has the contained, can’t he be the container?

A workman they say is as good as his tools. The best of the workmen will be most ineffective in the absence of appropriate tools, so also is an idea as good as its bearer. A good idea left to the wrong person for implementation most likely will come out adulterated. If truly an idea is the purveyor’s creation, then the one to best implement such idea is the purveyor, bearing in mind that an idea is as good as how it is implemented.

In deciding in what container content should be contained, a number of factors would be considered. For example, we will be thinking about the shape, the size, the form and maybe the state i.e. gas, fluid or solid. The type of container required for a liquid content will not be same with the container requirement for gas content.

Now in real time application, the problems we face today as a nation must determine the solutions we seek for. Consequently the solution we seek for will again determine whom we choose to lead us. No matter how broad base a government is, even in democracy, the leader of the government who also is the country’s leader will invariably determine the policy direction.

So, we must identify the problems before we seek for solutions. Let us find the hole, before we look for what peg fits it. In my earlier article, I mentioned the foundation of our problems as a people and chief amongst them was bigotry especially ethnic bigotry. As a matter of fact, I agree entirely in favour of the argument that bigotry fuels corruption. Bigotry fuels divisions. Truth is we have remained just a geographical demarcation as a result of bigotry. We are far from being a nation. No nation truly grows or develops in pieces. We are all in one boat paddling in different directions with no consensual goal.

Only a few days ago, my friend and senior on his Facebook page, had suggested that the syndrome of winner takes all in forming government should be jettisoned for a more inclusive system where government is formed by both the winning party and the opposition. In his suggestion, he hoped this would further unite us as a people. He talked about the idea of the opposition party always wishing government fails and by so doing our country is actually subconsciously wished failure by many of her citizens. Don’t you agree with him? I agree with him at least that opposition wishes government fails, that citizens actually subconsciously wished failure on their country. And that further emphasizes the point that what we need most at this time of our national life is to build nationhood.

Bigotry is not specific to any tribe or person. In my opinion, we are all ethnic bigots and this is supported and made worse by our present structure. It is the extent of bigotry and the ability to exercise restraints that differ. The man who has the least attributes of a bigot and the greatest ability to exercise such restraints is the one with the ability to unify us. He is the one to heal the wounds of divisions that presently exist and seem to be deepening. Considering our country’s peculiarity the most important responsibility of a leader is to unite her citizens. Who shall step out? Atiku Abubakar?: Maybe not. But we must dish the sentiments of “why is he just saying it”, “why didn’t he do it when he was vice president for eight years?”

Let the emphasis be on whether the man has the qualities we need right now for a leader. Over 100 million people may be eligible to be Nigeria’s president in the next round of elections, but we must keep in mind that sometimes, we could find the content we are looking for in the wrong container and at other times, the container you find may have the wrong content or no content at all. When you find the right content in an appropriate container, it’s an opportunity we must seize.

Having been in public glare for more than 30 years in a system that is grossly seen to have failed to live up to expectation and in a time when populism is on the rise, it is understandable why the man Atiku Abubakar despite his intelligent ideas has continued to be disparaged by a section of the public.

However, like Bishop Mathew Kukah puts it, the kind of person you need to be a priest is not the kind of person you need to be a governor. Like I also stated in my just published book “The Man Atiku Abubakar: Contemplating A New Nigeria”, we are talking of a President of a country and not a pastor of a church or an Imam of a mosque. Forms determine function. At a time when our country’s bond of unity is abysmally weak, there are specific qualities needed in a leader so Nigeria could get a chance to be truly a Nation and not just some geographic demarcation.

If we must change the status quo it will take someone who knows the system and understands the status quo. Unfortunately there are no many people who understand the status quo that think or believe that it should be changed. In my opinion, our options are not a lot.


Dr. Bright Emenena, a medical practitioner, wrote from Warri Delta State and can be reached on 08033806017