• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Why the North will not vote for PDP, by Atiku

Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, last Wednesday in Abuja, formally declared his candidature for the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s presidential ticket. The event witnessed a massive turnout of youths, an indication of Atiku’s desire for change from the norm. Monitoring events as they have been unfolding, political pundits say Atiku is betting his candidacy on provision of jobs, better education policies and unity of the country. At his declaration, one of his remarks reiterated these points; “I do not promise things I have not done before”, obviously referring to his education, work and entrepreneur experience and skills.

The Saturday before his declaration of intent, through his media team, an interactive session with youths all over the country was organised and hyped on popular social media platforms; twitter and facebook. Indeed, it was a novel experience, a first in Nigeria’s political history as the participants were randomly picked, independent of any organisation or union. Atiku fielded questions from Mercy Abang, the anchor, and other twitter handles during the event which lasted for two hours, at the Eko Hotels and Suites, in Victoria Island, Lagos. MABEL DIMMA was there. Excerpts:

Why the desire to be president?

There is so much fixing to be done in this country. But I think I owe this country payback and I owe this country service. Unlike many of you, or almost all of you, nobody paid for me to go to school. I was freely educated from primary up to the university level; in fact, I was paid to go to school and that is the greatest thing this country has ever done for me and I don’t think I can ever pay back. But if I should serve more and if I should give more, then I can pay back. So, essentially, it is not naked ambition but I am driven by passion.

 On cross-carpeting

I think APC for me is the final bus stop. I have always advocated for a-two party system. We fought the military and democracy was allowed to return, so we all positioned and decided to form a very big party. The intention was to withstand the military in the event that they desire to return because we were not convinced they really wanted to hand over power. That was the main reason for establishing the PDP, but it was a matter of time before our different political inclinations began to divide us. It started becoming apparent in not respecting internal democracy, impunity in regards to rules and regulations, and so on and so forth. That compelled me; I was rather in fact pushed out. Later, the PDP came back and said ‘look, we promise you there will be reform, there will be internal democracy, things will not be the same, come back’. I came back only to find that things were still the same. Of course, then came about the formation of APC. The leadership of APC, they visited me in my house after which I went around the entire country; consulted with my political associates, after I spoke with them, I gave them ballot papers and they voted. The result of the vote was an overwhelming decision to go to the APC and with that decision, I will say, final bus stop.

Security

A lot of reasons have been adduced to insecurity in the North East; that it is the most backward part of the country, wide spread poverty, unemployment and such but these are not the reasons the people should take up arms and start killing one other. There is poverty and unemployment all over the country, so that is not the reason. I will like to recall that when we were in office, a similar situation arose in Yobe. It did not take us more than a month to crush that insurgency. The mistake then was that we did not go back to the people to find out why they did it. We could have listened to them and provided a solution for it; rather after we crushed it, we just moved on. Now, only a few days ago in an interview, I told the Reuters’ correspondent when he asked me question, I said look, you have the civilian JTF, why not train them and hire them in the military. Yesterday (Friday 19th) the government announced that they were prepared to hire them into the military and train them; so you can see the failure of leadership. Another failure of leadership is in terms of capacity. Our soldiers out there are a crop of young men who are prepared and ready to sacrifice their own lives to keep us secure, yet they are poorly trained and not catered for. I come from the region, I see how they work, and they are not even properly equipped. If you attempt to watch a Youtube encounter between our military and the insurgents, you can see that the insurgents are better equipped than our military. There is also the failure of gathering or sharing intelligence amongst the countries that border Nigeria. So, I think we have a number of factors that have contributed to the sustenance of this insurgency that is why we believe that there must be a change.

Diversifying the economy

 First and foremost, I think the largest sector that can employ or provide the largest number of jobs for Nigerians is Agriculture and I think it is one area we have constantly neglected, we need to go back. Every other sector, if you are talking about oil or gold, one day it will finish. The only thing that will not finish is human beings and, of course, agriculture, because it will keep on yielding. Our industrialisation programmes should expand to create more jobs; and then of course encourage small, medium and large scale enterprise to create more jobs. The wealth of a country is its population; Japan has no oil but today they are one of the largest economies of the world. So, I think development of our human capital is one of the best investments on our way forward.

Corruption

First of all, you will have to strengthen the institutions that fight corruption. And then of course you make sure that no case of corruption is left unprosecuted for more than six months. By the time we came into office, we set up the EFCC and they did a good job until political influence started interfering with the job. They tried to take people to court; till today, no case has been disposed; I am not saying everybody who has been charged must be jailed, no, but let the public see that people are being tried for corruption, either being convicted or being released; the EFCC is presently dormant.

Entrepreneurs

We have created not less than 50, 000 jobs in Nigeria and several ones in Angola and recently Mozambique. My first enterprise was transportation business; I was barely two years in public service. In those days, there used to be what is called ‘on hire purchase’.  You just walk into a car garage, pick your choice of vehicle and sign an agreement. I wanted to go into transportation business as a young civil servant serving at Idiroko border and I gave it to somebody to handle, provided he gives me so much to pay off the car company. I gave it to the fellow, I never saw him till date, I ended paying off that money, but that did not stop me from going into another business. So, be prepared to take risk as an entrepreneur because it is part of it. Then of course, you have to persevere. In those days, the conditions were much better than today; government needs to improve the conditions under which the entrepreneurs work and of course make sure they get tax rebate and cheap and accessible funds.

Education

My greatest passion is education and that is why I am in it. The differences between the period I went to school and now are a lot, the capacity of the schools are expanded beyond what they can handle. The educational system should be fashioned in a way to ensure that as many as are of age can attend. When I participated in the Constitutional Conference in 1994, some of us approved things like ministry of Agriculture, education, health should be divulged from federal. Let the federal provide the regulatory framework which monitors the conduct of those sectors. You are the Federal Government, you have ministry of Agriculture, what are you going to do with it because all the land belongs to the state. What you can do is to come up with an architectural plan or framework for Agriculture, so as to access Federal Government support in Agriculture; you must meet the required standard. This was what some of us proposed in 1994, but of course, we voted and we were defeated. But I believe in devolution of more powers to the states, quite a number of these issues, particularly in education, healthcare and Agriculture.

Coming back to the issues in education, I went to Tafawa Balewa University; I had a room to myself. Today, that single room that is meant for a single person has about 10 persons. There was a time I came to University of Lagos to represent the President, and I went into a class, I was scared, really scared because I just couldn’t imagine one teacher standing in front of over a thousand students and teaching them. I run a university; the student-teacher ratio is one to 16. There is no lecturer in that university who does not have a PhD. Now you go to some Nigerian universities and you find that somebody who does not even have Masters is a lecturer. There are many things wrong with our educational system and it has to be put right for us to produce the right graduates.

PDP and the North

 The North will not vote for PDP, because they have really failed Nigerians and this will force the hand of change the country needs. Now we have an opportunity to choose. Before, we never had that because all we had was just one big monster party, with smaller opposition parties. Today, we have two almost equally big and strong parties, so Nigerians have an alternative.

Pending resolutions from the National Conference

In fact, they are over 600 if you put together the previous other resolutions because we have had many national conferences with one constitutional review amendment conference. Basically, I am an advocate of true federalism. All recommendations that border on devolution of power, I would like to see a constitutional amendment on them and also all those decisions that border on true federalism. I believe the Federal Government is taking too much upon themselves which is like prolonged military rule which is more of a centralised structure. The Federal Government should concern itself with foreign affairs, defence, currency and such, let’s have true federalism. Believe me, I only need to seat with the governors, within three months and we would get everything set and running.

 If another candidate wins the APC ticket 

I have reached the final bus stop, so whoever emerges I definitely will support. Whoever emerges has my full support because we need a change.