Nigeria Decides 2023: Atiku only presidential candidate prepared to govern –Saraki – Daily Sun

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By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
Former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki has said the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Atiku Abubakar has made a number of promises he intends to fulfill if voted to power in the next presidential election. Speaking on AriseNew Morning Show, Monday, he said among other issues that the former Vice President is the best man for the presidential seat.
Monitoring the campaigns in the last few months,  quite a few pundits and some political analysts, say that the top three candidates are Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi. Some say that Peter Obi is definitely going to win, others say no way. But having been in politics in Nigeria for quite a while, what is the path to success for your candidate?
First of all, I strongly believe that the 2023 election is a referendum on the performance of APC government and party. And I believe that a country like ours, a very progressive country, with a lot of progressive individuals will never reward failure. The question that Nigerians must ask is, has this government and the party failed, or done well in the last seven years plus? And let’s take the indices one by one, because I want to stay on issues and move away from sentiments.
In 2015, the promise to Nigerians was that we would fight insecurity, improve the economy, create jobs for the youth. Those were the major issues. In 2015, if you can remember very clearly, the insecurity issues in this country was limited to the northeast. Since then till today, we’ve seen insecurity in the Northwest; farmers cannot go to their farms. People are being killed, kidnapped. We’ve seen herdsmen farmers clashes in North Central. We have seen the highest level of oil theft in the South south. We have seen kidnapping; so on the issue of security, they have not performed. Let’s take inflation. Well, inflation the level where it is today at 16% was never like that. At the time of PDP, it was single digits. You have the highest number of Nigerians below the poverty line, 133 million. It was not like that. Unemployment under PDP was again about 6 to 7 percent. Today is 33 per cent. Foreign direct investment, if we’re lucky, maybe just about 2 billion compared to N8 to N9 billion. These are facts we cannot run away from.
On the economy as well. Exchange rate was N200 or N195, parallel market N230. Today, official for N415 or something like that, black market N735, it has never been like this. These are facts. When you take all these issues, they have failed and they have failed as a political party; we cannot reward failure. So I think that the race should be about APC, they have had an opportunity to make Nigerians live better, but they have not.
The question now goes as you have asked who next? Some will say, Oh, do we want to go back to PDP? Let’s talk about that back to PDP, the PDP days. And the PDP days as I said, we had insecurity limited to one part of the country. In the PDP days, we’re talking about we had GDP growth over the 6, 7, 8  percent. Now we are seeing GDP  growth of 2 percent less than population growth. In the PDP days we talked about, we had far foreign direct investment into this country at about $8 billion, largest economy in Africa; these are the PDP days. Exchange rate was not N700 into N1000 at the time, these are the PDP days.
In PDP days, the country was more united. Now it is normal in democratic societies, that’s the populace has a choice to say, you know, you get tired of a party and you say oh I’m going to try another party, but when the party fails, you come back to what they call the good days. And that’s what PDP offers under Atiku Abubakar.
When you talk to other parties, the great respect to the individuals, particularly, Peter, but again, don’t forget that what we run in Nigeria, we run a presidential system, where you go to that ballot box on the day of election; you’re voting for party, you don’t see Peter Obi, you see a party. Now a party where from day one, you don’t have candidates in all the parliamentary seats. So already from day one is recipe for disaster because you know, the executive and the legislature are not going to have a majority. And a lot of people we ask them, what is their concern, they say restructuring. These are things that need constitution review. These are the things; you also need to have a majority in the National Assembly.
Investors are no longer satisfied with executive orders. They want to see legislation to support investment. Let’s move away from intention to reality and practicality. The practicality of why APC has failed; it is because APC really was a special vehicle party to win election, not a party that was built with cohesion. And so a small party that does not have the spread across the country, even if it has a president and doesn’t have the parliament from day one, we’re not going to see what Nigerians want to see. The laws that will change the constitution, the laws that will restructure and make the country more efficient.
Now that takes me back again to Atiku Abubakar, you have a candidate that is ready from day one to run. What do I mean by that? The experience he has is even at the federal level, those of national, all the other two candidates with respect to them, have been at best governors on sub national level. I’ve been a governor as well. But I will tell you from my experience, my experience as governor for eight years and my experience as President of the Senate, presiding over Nigerians from different parts of the country, different languages, different religion, different culture is totally different.
For anybody to win election, he must get a certain percentage in a certain number of states. Do you think that PDP has done enough? If election was to happen today, where do you think PDP is so strong and your candidate so strong to get the results required? Southwest, for example, some people said he’s not going to happen, because they said APC own Southwest, the Southeast they said Labour Party will take it because of Peter Obi and in the North it’s going to be a competition among Atiku, Shettima and Kwankwaso.
Very simple. The PDP again, as a party with a kind of candidate we have in Atiku Abubakar, we will easily get our 25 percent constitutional requirement across the country. If you do any polling, any discussions you find are either coming first, or we’re coming second. In most of the states that we’re doing, South south, this has been a strong PDP area, we will do very well in the South south, South east, the challenge we have there, of course, is Labour but we will still do well in South East and take our 25 percent. Right, we will do well in North Central. We will do well in Northwest and Northeast, you need four zones. By the time you have four zones, you will win the election.
So our four zones that we will win, we will win North West, we will win North East, we will win  South south, we will win  North Central and we’ll take our 25 percent in more than 24 states; there is no doubt about that in my mind that we will get there.
I would like you to speak to some of the things that you’ve talked about with regards to the failure of the APC government in terms of handling security, the economy, and why you believe that the PDP coming in would create that difference. Another thing is that you were elected under the umbrella of the APC in 2015 and you served as Senate president during that time, I’d like you to share with us, was the reason you left the APC because of their party ideology and how they handled the economy and security.
That’s one. And the second thing is with regards to structure, the presidential candidate of the APC Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had spoken to structure as well but Mr. Peter Obi whom you refer to, say that is the structure we’re trying to do away with. We’re trying to do away with the structure of entitlement, impunity. I mean, aside the political structure he was referring to, I know you’re talking about numbers and being able to have his people in the National assembly so they can pass laws. But he’s also saying that it is an opportunity for Nigerians to do away with the old and come in with the new?
Yes, you can do with coming with a new, but it has to be comprehensive. In France, when Macron came in, he was not part of the structure. But the movement there was not just on the executive. The country voted for even parliamentary candidates of that party. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong in that. What I’m saying from what you’ve seen, the party itself started in April, May but these kinds of movements should have started much earlier, whereas not just the Presidential, that’s point I’m making, that it must also be in the House of Assembly, National Assembly. Where a party from day one does not have candidates filling all the positions in National Assembly. It’s already a problem. That’s the point I’m making. I’m not talking about structure in that sense. I’m saying from day one, based on my experience, and I’m sure you’ve seen it, it means that that government will not be functional. Because definitely, it will not have that support to be able to drive because all this is for what is to drive those changes. So when you are promising as a presidential candidate, oh when I get there, I will make sure that the states have powers, I’ll make sure that this will happen. It can only happen if you have the support. So that’s the point that I’m making.
Let me go back to the APC government and why I left.  As you can see, I mean, you all know the history why I parted ways. Yes, I’ve said that we’re one of those that came and sold the APC to Nigerians. But I realized very early on, that we’re not going to deliver on the promises made. And this was not what we promised Nigerians. We promised Nigerians, as I said, employment, fight the issue of insecurity, to ensure that we create the environment for investment, and these did not happen. And as such, there was no way my conscience would continue to stay in that party. I said many times, even those who are in that party cannot tell Nigerians that they have performed because the indices are out there. Many of those things I’ve said this morning, if anybody can fault them, for as long as you can fault those things that I have said that party has failed. And if it has failed, are we going to reward failure? I don’t think in our lives, we don’t reward failures in our homes, we don’t reward failure in our offices, we don’t reward failure. They have failed.
Same way, in 2015, when Nigerians felt PDP had failed, they voted for another party. So I am saying that no matter the propaganda, we must go back to the content; are they performing? If they have failed and the agenda or the discussion which we are holding up in the next four weeks, is where do we go as Nigerians? Do we go to any of these smaller parties who are offering a dream or their own vision? Or do we go to safe hands. I’m saying that Atiku Abubakar is a safe hand today. And because of the precarious position this country is, we cannot afford an experiment, again.
Just to fact check that the Labour Party was actually founded in 2002 and they have even produced a governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko…
No, no I meant the movement of Peter Obi. I’m saying for this election, the movement of Peter Obi started when he moved into the party. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what I’m saying is that as a party, that movement of Labour Party candidates for all the positions is not there. So it would be very dangerous, from a practical point of view, having a president from a party with a parliament that his party doesn’t control. We will have achieved this. But at the same time, we will not deliver on those promises that they have made. I’m speaking as somebody who has presided over National Assembly, and I know what it takes to make the country move forward because some of the things we need to do need legislation.
Quite a few people across different political parties say that politicians have a penchant for jumping ship when they think things are not going right that what they should be doing is what happens in other clime, stay within the boat and try and create the change. Typical example is that Asiwaju has decided that in spite of whatever might have been the errors of the current Buhari administration, he is going to stay there and contest with a view to change whatever has gone wrong. Why don’t you do the same? Why wouldn’t you stay with APC and be part of the change within, that would ensure that APC delivers on its promises?
Why don’t you think that the likes of Asiwaju should have a chance with the APC?
I’m not saying he shouldn’t? But the point is that the party has failed. Now, yes, he’s asking for an opportunity to be given a chance to repair and he says, I will continue where Buhari has left. That’s what he’s saying. I’m saying what Nigerians have been through, the pain, the hardship, this is not the time to go through that. Nigerians are looking for a better time. They’re looking for a much fruitful future. So it’s the choice they have to make. What I’m saying is that as Nigerians, we should ask ourselves that this party has failed. Yes, the candidate is saying that, don’t worry, I will improve on the failures, I’ll make it better. But there are other options for Nigerians, the other option for Nigeria is go to that party that in their time the economy was much better, the country was more secure, and we should go back.
While you’re thinking along that line, some Nigerians are wondering, you are in Nigerian and you come from the North Central. And the question that is being asked is that it’s been seven years going into eight years of a man who is Hausa Fulani. And then we’re looking at the possibility of PDP, giving us another Hausa Fulani man for another four years, possibly even eight years. You from the North central that some people consider as Yoruba to a large extent though you share a heritage of both the Hausas and the Yorubas. Personally as Dr. Bukola Saraki, not a politician, do you think it will be fair in terms of equity, to have another Hausa Fulani as the next president of Nigeria?
I think it is fair. I think what is fair is a better Nigeria; if you look at the number of years, where power has been between the North and South since 1999, particularly under this present Republic. But what is fair now, in my view, I sit down I talk to Nigerians is a better life. Atiku Abubakr will provide a better life.
Unfortunately, the reason why we got to where we’ve gotten to where ethnicity and religion has become so paramount is again part of the failure of the APC.
Atiku Abubakar does not belong to that. Here is the man who if we look at his career, he has lived in the North, lived in the South. He’s surrounded by people from across the country. His focus will be pan Nigerian, he has always been like that. And another issue against all the candidates who have played regional politics mostly, he has always placed Nigeria first.
So what is fair is will we get a better Nigeria, I think we will get a better Nigeria with Atiku because he’ll be transparent, he will not have the lopsided appointment. What has raised the issues like this that people like yourself is asking is it fair, is it not because of what we’ve seen the APC party do in appointments. You do appointments with disregard to certain parts of the country, you take certain actions as if certain parts of the country do no matter. That is what has aggravated why Nigerians feel like this. But more important than that, is who will make Nigeria better, who will unite this country, who has friends across the country irrespective of their tribe or religion. because his antecedent has shown that.
Okay, let’s talk about making Nigeria better, because that’s top of mind for many Nigerians, they just want a better country where the people can survive and can live well. Let’s look at the economy, which we spoke about. N77 trillion debt profile, its been said a number of times on the show that the next President, is inheriting an economically weak nation and we have a revenue challenge. What are the plans to revive the economy, which your presidential candidate promised in one of his campaign trails last year, to revive the economy, to shore up Nigeria’s revenue and to respond to this debt profile of N77 trillion? Because that’s big on the table.
That’s huge. I mean, if you if you can recollect, when PDP were off 2015, the total debt profile potentially was about N10 trillion. Today, maybe they will tell you N40 trillion, but if you add with ways and means, it’s close to N77 trillion, they are running at about 90 percent of debt to revenue. That is because you know why I remember when I was president of the Senate when we had economic recession. We organized a meeting with the private sector. And one of the things we’re driving then was investment; looking at assets of which we can allow people to invest. But this government is continuing to go just one line into borrowing. There was no opportunity given for people to come and invest so the only opportunity they had was to borrow.
Under an Atiku Abubakar who has always said it will be private sector driven, you will see investment coming in because there are a lot of people that still want to invest in this great country. But the language, the attitude of the APC and APC government has not encouraged  that. So, three things are key, one, oil theft needs to be dealt with to be precise. That has not happened. That’s why we’ve lost a great opportunity; look at  oil producing countries under this Ukraine, Russia war; look at Angola, they have benefited from this. It is not acceptable how, despite this we are still having oil theft. The corruption there has not stopped. He has said also the issue of foreign exchange multi-currencies rates will stop. That will encourage investment coming. There are people who want to bring money into the country, but then, they’re not going to come in when they know that the official rate is ridiculous and not realistic.
So he will try to ensure that investment funds come in. So the more money available, right? Thirdly, if you’re, if you have private sector living in infrastructure development, some of the private sector can take it off your hand. So, these are ways in which you will create jobs and then you start reducing your level of borrowing.

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