Why Nigerians Should Vote for Atiku – Saraki

Why Nigerians Should Vote for Atiku – Saraki

Monday, January 23, 2023 12:04 pm

Dr Bukola Saraki

Dr. Bukola Saraki, a former President of the Senate, in this interview, spoke on why Nigerians should vote for Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.

What is Atiku Abubakar’s path to victory, and what are his chances and that of PDP?

First, I strongly believe that the 2023 election is a referendum on the performance of the APC government and the party and I believe that a country like ours, a very progressive country with a lot of progressive individuals would never reward failure.

The question that Nigerians must ask is: Has this government and 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, their promise to Nigerians was that we would fight insecurity, we would improve the economy, would create jobs for the youths – those were the major issues.

In 2015, if you can remember very clearly, issues of insecurity were limited to the North-east. Since then, till today, we’ve seen insecurity in the North-west – farmers cannot go to their farms, people are being killed and kidnapped; we’ve seen herdsmen and farmers clash in the North-central and we’ve seen the highest level of oil theft in the South-south – and we’ve seen kidnapping. So, on the issue of security, they have not performed, they have failed.

Let’s take the economy, and again, I will take them one by one and I would challenge you, because you are all well- knowledgeable on these issues; let’s take inflation – the inflation level today is about 16 per cent which was never like this in the time of PDP in the single digit. You have the highest number of Nigerians below the poverty line at 133 million; it was not like that. Unemployment under PDP was about six per cent to seven per cent; today it is 33 per cent; youth unemployment about 40 per cent. Foreign Direct Investment if we are lucky may be just about $2 billion compared to $8 billion to $9 billion.

These are facts we cannot run away from; on the economy as well, the exchange rate was N200, the official rate was probably N195, and the parallel market N230 – today official about N450 and the black market N735. It’s never been like this. And these are facts.

When you take all these issues, they have failed and as they’ve failed as a political party, we cannot reward failure. So, I don’t even think that the race should be about APC; they’ve had an opportunity to make Nigerians’ lives better but they have not.

The question now goes as you’ve all asked – who next? Some would say oh, do we want to go back to PDP? Let’s talk about that back to PDP- the PDP days.

The PDP days as I said, we had insecurity limited to just one part of the country. In the PDP days we are talking about, we had GDP growth of about six per cent to seven per cent. Now, we are seeing GDP growth of about two per cent, less than the population growth.

In the PDP days, we talked about, we had Foreign Direct Investment into this country – about $8 billion – and the largest economy in Africa. These were the PDP days, the exchange rate was not N700 inching to N1,000 at a time, these were the PDP days.

PDP days, the country was more united but now it is no more; now, it is normal in democratic settings that the populace has a choice, especially when you get tired of a party and you say oh, I want to try another party. But when the party has failed, you come back to those they call the good days and that is what PDP offers under Atiku Abubakar.

When you talk about other parties, with great respect to them, to the individuals, particularly Peter. But don’t forget again that what we run in Nigeria, we run a presidential system. When you go to that ballot box on election day, you are voting for the party. Now, a party where from day one, you don’t have candidates in all the parliamentary seats; so, already from day one, there’s a recipe for disaster because you know that the executives and legislature are not going to have a majority. And a lot of people when you ask them what is their concern, they tell you restructuring. These are things that need constitutional review. These are things that need you also to have a majority in the National Assembly.

Investors are no longer satisfied with Executive Orders. They want to see legislations to support investment. So, if as a small party, you don’t have a spread; we’ve seen our experience in 2015 – let’s move away from internship to reality and practicality.

The practicality – why APC has failed is because APC really was a special vehicle party to win elections, 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 parliament from day one, we are not going to see what Nigerians what to see. The laws that would change the country, the laws that would make the country move efficiently

Now, that takes me back to Atiku Abubakar. In Atiku Abubakar, you have a candidate that is ready from day one to run, and you’ll say what do I mean by that- the experience he has is even at a federal level not sub-national. All the other candidates, with due respect to them, have been at best governors at the sub-national level. I have been a governor as well; but I will tell you from 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, a different religion, and different culture. That experience, you don’t gain it at the sub-national because you’re a governor because if you’re a governor, it is not multi-ethnicity.

Do you think PDP has done enough; if elections were to happen today, where do you think the party and candidate are so strong to get the results required?

The PDP again as a party and with the candidature we have with Atiku Abubakar, we will easily get our 25 per cent constitutional requirements across the country.

If you do any polling, or any discussions, you’ll find out that we are either coming first or we are coming second in most of the states; South-south has always been a strong PDP area, and we will do very well in South-south. South-east – the challenge we have over there, of course, is Labour Party but we would still do well and take our 25 per cent.

We would do well in North-central, we will do well in North-west and North-east – you need four zones and by the time you have four zones, you will win the election. So, the four zones that we would win – we will win North-west, we would win North-east, we would win South-south and we would win North-central – those are the four zones and we would take our 25 per cent in more than 24 states; here’s no doubt in my mind about that.

You talked about the failure of the APC government on security, and economy. Why you believed that the PDP coming into power would make a difference? You were elected on the platform of the APC in 2015 when you were as senate president. Was that one of the reasons you left APC because of their ideology and how they handled the economy and security situation?

Yes, you can come in with the news 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 people voted for even parliamentary candidates of that party. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that; what I am saying from what you’ve seen – the party itself started in April/May – these kinds of movements should have started earlier where it’s not just the president – that’s the point I am making – that it must also be the House of Assembly, National Assembly, where a party from day one, does not have candidates filing all the positions in the National Assembly, it’s already a problem and that’s the point I am making. I am not saying, I am not talking of structure in that sense. So, from day one, and based on my experience, and I am sure you’ve seen it – it means that government would not be functional, because definitely, it would not have that support to be able to drive, because all this is for what, to be able to drive these changes. So, what you’re promising as a presidential candidate – oh, when I get there, I will make sure states have powers, I will make sure that this happens – it can only happen when you have the support. And so, that’s the point I am making there.

Going back to the other question; as you can see, and you all know the history, I parted ways. I’ve said I was one of those that came and sold APC to Nigerians but I realised very early on that we are not going to deliver on the promises made and this was not what we promised Nigerians. We’d promised Nigerians as I said, that we would bring employment, we would fight insecurity and we would ensure we create enabling environment for investments – and these are not happening. And as such, there was no way my conscience would continue to stay at that party. I have said it many times, even those who are in that party cannot tell Nigerians that they have performed because the indices are there.

Of any of those things that I have said this morning if anyone can fault them – but for as long as you cannot fault any of those things 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.

The same way in 2015 when Nigerians taught PDP had failed, they voted for another party.

So, I am saying that no matter the propaganda, we must go back to content. Have they performed? If they have failed, then the agenda or discussion we should be holding for the next four weeks is where do we go as Nigerians? Do we go to any of these small parties that are offering a dream or their own vision or do we go to safe hands? I am saying that Atiku Abubakar is a safe hand today and because of the precarious position this country is in, we cannot afford an experiment in 2023.

There are conversations that politicians have the penchant for jumping ships when they think things are not going right but that’s what they should be doing as it is done in other climes – stay within the boat and try and create the change. A typical example that was given is that Tinubu – that in spite of whatever might have been the errors of the current Buhari administration, he stayed there and contested so as to change whatever had gone wrong. Why wouldn’t you stay with APC and be part of the change within that would ensure that APC performs and delivers on its promise?

I am not saying they shouldn’t. The point is that the party has failed. Yes, he is asking for an opportunity to be given a chance to repair. He says ‘I will continue where Buhari has left off’, that’s what he is saying to Nigerians. But I am saying that with what Nigerians have been through, the pains, the hardship, it is not the time to go through that; Nigerians are looking for a better time; they are looking for a much fruitful future and so, it is a choice they have to make. What I am saying is that as Nigerians, we should still ask ourselves that this party has failed, and the candidate is saying I will improve on the failure, I will make it better but there are other options for Nigerians. The other option for Nigerians is to go to that party that in their time, the economy was much better, the country was more secure and we should go back to that.

As a Nigerian, 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 will be fair. The issues are that what is fair is a better Nigeria. Now, if you look at the number of years when power has been between the North and South between since 1999, particularly under this present republic, there hasn’t been that much difference, it is a difference of four years that’s still on to the north to balance. So, there’s no large discrimination on one side. But what is fair now in my view – I sit down and I talk to Nigerians – it is a better life. Atiku Abubakar will provide that better life. Unfortunately, the reason why we got to where we are; where ethnicity and religion have become so paramount is again part of the failure of APC. Atiku Abubakar does not belong to that. Here is a man who if you look at his career, he’s lived in the North, he’s lived in the South, he’s surrounded by people from across the country – his focus would be pan-Nigerian and he’s been like that. And another issue against other candidates who have played regional politics mostly, he’s always put Nigeria first. So, what is fair is will we get a better Nigeria? I think we would get a better Nigeria with Atiku because he would be transparent, and he would not have a lopsided appointment; what has raised issues like this that people like you ask ‘is it fair?’ It is 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 not matter – that is what has aggravated why Nigerians feel like this. But more important than that is who would make Nigeria better? Who will unite this country? Who has friends across this country irrespective of tribe and religion? Because his antecedents have shown that.

Let’s talk about making Nigeria better…let’s look at the economy – N77 trillion debt profile. The next president is bound to inherit it and an economically weak nation and we have a revenue challenge. What are the plans of the PDP presidential candidate to revive the economy, shore up revenue base and tackle the debt burden?

That’s huge, I mean if you can recollect, when PDP was off in 2015, the total debt profile was about N10 trillion, today as you rightly said, maybe they will tell you it’s N40 trillion but if you add Ways and Means, it’s about N77 trillion and you’re running at about 90 per cent of debt to revenue. That is because I remember when I was president of the senate when we had an economic recession. We organised a meeting with the private sector and one of the things we were driving then was investment, looking at assets where we can allow people to invest but this government discontinued it and decided to go on one line which is borrowing. There was no opportunity given to people to come and invest. So, the only opportunity if you don’t have the revenue was to borrow. Under Atiku Abubakar who has always said he would be private sector-driven, you would see investments coming in because there are lots of people that still want to invest in this country. But the language and attitude of the APC government has not encouraged them. So, three things are key; one, oil theft needs to be dealt with precisely and that’s why we’ve lost a great opportunity – oil-producing countries during this Russia-Ukraine war have had a great time; look at Angola, they’ve benefitted from this, it is not acceptable and despite this, we are still having oil theft. That would stop and the corruption there would stop.

On the issue of foreign exchange, he has also said multiple rates would stop and that would encourage investments and people coming in. There are people who want to bring currency into the country but they are not going to come in when they know the official rate is not realistic. So, you are trying to ensure that funds come in so there would be more money available. Thirdly, if you have the private sector leading infrastructure development, some of the private sectors can take it off your hand and these are ways you can create jobs and then you start reducing your level of borrowing, and the only way to do that as I said where some of those projects can begin to look for other sources of finance which is equity, investment of the private sector. The reality is that until you build confidence in the private sector to invest in this country, this pathway which they are going, which is reckless – I mean you have a budget deficit now which is 4.76 per cent. The Fiscal Responsibility Act that exists now, I am sure a lot of you don’t know; I remember I was SA Budget when I went to meet Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and I said I saw this law in Brazil to do fiscal responsibility and he said bring it to me and he moved for that law to be passed. And that law said you must not go above 2 per cent to 3 per cent of fiscal revenue; this government is running 4.76 per cent – that would not happen under Atiku Abubakar. He’ll bring down the level of borrowing and so, there would be some level of discipline. Now, if you also remember, under the PDP government that there was a lot of engagement with the private sector; I remover I was a young SA at that time – every Saturday, the president and the vice president, because he was chairman of the economic council, he used to meet with leaders of different sectors and business community that would come and tell them what were the issues they had that was affecting business. And they will address them with technocrats. This is the kind of government that you are going to have with Atiku Abubakar – hands-on, private sector driven that will bring confidence for investment. Look, Africa is still the continent for investment, we are lucky about that and so, if we get the message right – the body language if this government does not encourage any private sector person bringing in money and so the government has to fund everything but immediately you create that, the government would have to fund less, your foreign reserves would pick up, you would borrow less and also your revenues would go up. He has also said the issue of fuel subsidy is something that we have to let go of so your revenues will pick up.

And you were part of the people that left the PDP government and moved to APC; you said the government was better and then you left, isn’t it?

Yes, I did. Sometimes in life, you do take decisions, and it was done out of the interest of this country. But, one was also bold and manly enough to say we made a mistake, this cannot take us there because the promises and expectations were not there.

So, you are acknowledging that all of you that left PDP in 2015 made a mistake…?

*Continue to read from the source: Thisday

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.