BusinessDay

Atiku, Tinubu unveil economic agenda

...search for running mate, economic advisers tops priority

Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidates of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress respectively, have released their economic agendas ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

Atiku, who unveiled on Thursday what he called ‘The three guiding principles of my economic agenda’, promised to give the private sector a greater role in the economy.

The former vice president said his administration would break government monopoly in all sectors of the economy including infrastructure.

He vowed to allow the market a greater leverage in determining the prices, which would aid in eliminating the frequent price distortions in the country.

He added that his administration would reposition the public sector to focus on its core responsibilities.

Atiku stressed that to achieve the economic agenda, he would be guided by the three principles.

He said he would “reaffirm the critical sector of private leadership and greater private sector participation in development, while repositioning the public sector to focus on its core responsibilities of facilitation and enabling appropriate legal framework for rapid economy and social development.

He said he would break government monopoly in all infrastructural sectors including the refineries rail transportation and power submission and give private investors a larger role in funding and managing the sectors, thus emulating the benefits accrued in the oil and gas and telecom sector.

Atiku said he would “allow the market greater leverage in determining the prices; this way we shall eliminate the persistent price distortions occasioned by current interventionist exchange rate management policy.”

“Government interventions, where absolutely necessary, will be done responsibly and judiciously,” he said.

Atiku, who was also PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, again won the party’s presidential ticket during a special national convention held in Abuja on May 28 and 29.

The primary, which was held at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, saw him defeat 11 other aspirants after scoring 371 votes.

Tinubu, who emerged the flag-bearer of APC on Wednesday, said his team would lead Nigeria to a new era of economic prosperity, peace, security and political stability.

The former governor of Lagos State, in what he titled ‘My Vision for Nigeria’, promised that Nigeria would be transformed into greatness, the pride of Africa, a role model for all black people worldwide, and respected among all other countries.

He promised to build an economy that will make the nation’s Gross Development Product grow quicker annually for the next four years while also providing jobs for millions of youths in the country.

He also promised to launch a new national industrial policy focused on special intervention to reinvigorate specific strategic industries.

He said: “I will focus on stimulating jobs, which will be my top priority as President. I will get Nigeria to work by launching a major public works program, a significant and heavy investment in infrastructure, and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture.

“My administration will build an efficient, fast-growing, and well-diversified emerging economy with a real GDP growth averaging 12 percent annually for the next four years, translating into millions of new jobs during this period.”

Tinubu also promised to create six new regional economic development agencies, which will establish sub-regional industrial hubs to exploit each zone’s competitive advantage and optimise their potential for industrial growth.

The APC presidential candidate vowed to formulate a new national policy on agriculture to boost food production.

He promised to promote the establishment of new commodity exchange boards, while also strengthening the one in Lagos in order to guarantee minimum pricing for agricultural products such as cotton, cocoa, rice, soya beans, corn, palm kernel, and groundnuts.

On his ‘Build A New Nigeria (BANN)’ initiative, he said he would develop a national infrastructure plan, which would cover strategic roads, bridges, rail, water, power, seaports, and airports spanning the length and breadth of the country.

He said his administration would combine government funding, borrowing, public-private partnership, private sector financing and concession to initiate a medium and long-term financial model for the BANN initiative.

“On electricity, I will embark on a renewed action-oriented focus and take immediate and urgent action on resolving existing challenges of power generation plants, gas purchasing, pricing, transmission, and distribution. My administration’s critical goal is to have 15,000 megawatts distributable to all categories of consumers nationwide to ensure 24/7 sustainable supply within the next four years,” he added.

Search for running mate begins

With the completion of the presidential primary elections of political parties in the country, permutations have continued to intensify on who would be the running mates of Atiku and Tinubu.

The PDP conducted its primary on May 28 and 29 in which Atiku defeated 11 other aspirants after scoring 371 votes. Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, placed second, scoring 237 votes.

Tinubu emerged the APC presidential candidate on Wednesday, after garnering over half of the total votes. He polled 1,271 votes to defeat 13 other presidential hopefuls in the election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had given political parties up to June 9 to conclude their primaries, while parties have also been given up till June 17 to submit the names of their candidates for national elections, including the names of federal lawmakers, presidential and their running mates.

In the PDP, different names have been bandied as possible running mate to Atiku.

In the last few weeks, Wike; Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy Senate President; Ben Bruce, a former senator; Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State governor; and Emeka Ihedioha, former Imo State governor have been tipped to be among the likely candidates.

There are reports that PDP stakeholders are also considering Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, as a possible option as Atiku’s running mate.

Similarly, some stakeholders have also suggested Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State governor, and Anyim Pius Anyim, a former secretary to the government of the federation.

But several leaders of the PDP have spoken on the need for the party to choose Atiku’s running mate from the South-East, as a compensation for the region’s contribution to the party since 1998.

They said the party risks losing support and goodwill from the region if they are denied the presidency, while also being snubbed for the vice-president’s position.

Meanwhile, a PDP chieftain who spoke to BusinessDay suggested that on the basis of performance in their state and contribution to the party, Wike deserves to be the running mate of Atiku in the 2023 presidential election.

The party chieftain noted that Wike appears to be the most visible among the contenders, and had also kept PDP in view when others kept mute.

“Well, if you ask me, I think I am in support of Wike; several names have been suggested in recent days, but what is their contribution to the party? Wike has done well in Rivers State in the last eight years. Also, he carried our party on his own, when others abandoned us and travelled abroad. We would probably have lost the governorship election in Edo, but he went there and made sure we won,” the chieftain said.

Meanwhile, since the emergence of Tinubu on Wednesday, several names have been touted as a possible contender to be his running mate.

However, political watchers are of the view that for religious balancing, Tinubu should go for a Christian running mate from the North.

Those being mentioned are George Akume, Simon Lalong, Yakubu Dogara, Boss Mustapha and Babachir David Lawal.

Akume, a former governor of Benue State and Senate minority leader is the present minister of special duties and intergovernmental affairs. The retired permanent secretary is a founding member of the APC, who in his position as Senate minority leader then was instrumental to the merger that brought about the APC.

He is also an ally of Tinubu; they were governors between 1999 and 2007. They were also from the Action Congress of Nigeria at the time of the merger. As the chairman of the 19 northern governors while serving as Benue State chief executive, Akume has the political clout to emerge as vice president.

Akume is also one of the strong leaders of the APC in the North-Central. Akume recently aspired to become APC National Chairman but had to withdraw for Abdullahi Adamu.

Also mentioned is Simon Lalong, governor of Plateau State (North-Central), who has served as the speaker of the State House of Assembly.

Lalong, who is aspiring to become senator, is the chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum that championed power shift to the South, which contributed significantly to the emergence of Tinubu.

Yakubu Dogara is a former speaker of the House of Representatives and is presently a member of the Green Chamber from Bauchi, North-East.
Since Dogara returned to APC in 2020, two years after he left the party to PDP, there have been permutations that he would be Tinubu’s running mate and that was part of the reasons he returned to APC.

Boss Mustapha is the current secretary to the government of the federation and hailed from the north-eastern state of Adamawa. It is believed that having worked for long in that sensitive office, he is eminently qualified to be vice-president.

Babachir Lawal, like Mustapha, is also from Adamawa and had served as secretary to the government of the federation. He is one of the strong leaders of the Tinubu campaign organisation.

A source within the party in Lagos State, however, told BusinessDay that the decision on who is running mate to Tinubu would be decided between him and the APC governors.

He said it may be impossible for another Muslim candidate to emerge as Tinubu’s running mate, knowing how controversial that decision would be across the country.

“It would be a decision of him and the APC governors to sit down and decide in the next coming days. But you know a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be controversial and may difficult to sell now. He can also pick any of the northern governors as his running mate; the party still has about a week to make that decision,” the source said.

Read also: Nigeria: Growing insecurity and fate of 2023

Economic advisers, a priority

Although the general election has neither been contested nor won, analysts are concerned about the style of leadership of the next president, particularly in relation to the economy.

Observers believe that getting the right personnel to advise whosoever emerges as president on how to steer the ship of Nigeria from its current economic doldrums should be one of the major concerns of the presidential candidates.

For Atiku, it is expected that he would once again tap Mustafa Chike-Obi, a former managing director/chief executive officer of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, who was the economic adviser to his (Atiku’s) campaign organisation for the 2019 presidential election.

Moreover, with tentacles spread across the country and a number of thriving businesses, the PDP presidential candidate is expected to have a pull of economic team that would jump-start the economy.

Atiku, who has promised a robust economy under his watch if he wins in 2023, said: “Just compare the economic indices during the PDP and also the APC reign, the growth in GDP and industrialisation and other sectors of the economy; we did extremely well and we also promoted the growth of the private sector.”

Tinubu is also believed to have an economic team that comprises some of those that helped him to excel while presiding over Lagos as governor.

Searchlights may be beaming on people like Yemi Cardoso, Adebayo Olawale Edun, Ben Akabueze, among others.

Cardoso was the first commissioner and cabinet member for economic planning and budgeting for Lagos State. He was credited with crafting and monitoring the implementation of the blueprint that catalysed economic development in the state.

Edun was a commissioner for finance in Tinubu’s cabinet. He is said to be the chairman, Board of Directors of The Nation Newspaper, owned by Tinubu. He was to be appointed the minister of finance in 2015 by the Buhari administration, but missed it as Kemi Adeosun, through the help of Ibikunle Amosun, got the job.

Ben Akabueze is a chartered accountant and current director-general of the Budget Office for the Federal Government. He was commissioner for economic planning and budget in Lagos State.

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