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Atiku, Obi fault bad leadership, restate plans to salvage Nigeria

By Tunde Oyedoyin (London) and John Akubo (Abuja)
17 January 2023   |   4:30 am
Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, spoke about his plans for reviving and growing the economy if Nigerians, in the general elections, choose him to lead the country. Atiku made the disclosure in a speech he presented at the Nigeria Economic Summit Group Presidential Dialogue on…

Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, spoke about his plans for reviving and growing the economy if Nigerians, in the general elections, choose him to lead the country.

Atiku made the disclosure in a speech he presented at the Nigeria Economic Summit Group Presidential Dialogue on the Economy, at the Summit House, Ikoyi, Lagos.

This came as Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, promised to “declare war” on the power sector and put up a fight to “stop corruption” if elected as President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.

He promised to put an end to oil subsidies, noting: “We’ll stop oil subsidy on day one.” He also described “growing insecurity” in the country as “due to bad leadership and lack of focus.”

Atiku, who noted that the country is stepping into a critical phase, warned: “Elegant slogans, social media insults and misleading statistics are not a substitute for sober diagnosis and analysis of where we are, how we got here and what we must do to get our country back on its feet and take our rightful place in the comity of nations.

“This is election season. So, you will see and hear from snake-oil salespeople, false prophets and purveyors of false hope and misleading statistics. There is, therefore, need for caution.
“We must also remember that we cannot trust the doctor that poisoned and continues to poison the patient to be the one who provides the curative treatment. The stakes are too high, so we must get it right. This may well be our last chance to do so.”

Atiku, who highlighted perceived faults of the current All Progressives Congress (APC) -led government, said the administration “is dressing Nigeria in borrowed robes!”

In his words: “The failure of leadership by the APC-led government is staring every Nigerian in the face as the country’s economic, social, political and security challenges persist and assume frightening dimensions.”

The former Vice President, however, said, if elected, he would focus on five priority areas, with a view to rescuing and repositioning the country for sustained economic growth, improved welfare, peace and security.

These priorities are: unify the country, revive the economy, improve security, improve infrastructure, and develop human capital.
“My government will create a suitable investment environment for the private sector to thrive. Thus, we will listen to the private sector more, understand its needs and challenges and secure its buy-in when policies are designed. Through regular dialogue with the private sector, we will build consensus, improve trust between us and make new reform initiatives easier to implement and sustain. There will be more clarity, coherence, and consistency in policy,” Atiku promised.

Noting that conflicts and insecurity scare investors away, the presidential candidate said his government “will take tough and difficult decisions on security matters without fear or favour. We shall put more boots on the ground and ensure that the security forces are well equipped, well trained and well paid. Those who confront deadly criminals everyday must have the resources needed to do their job and be well rewarded for doing so.”

He said: “In the medium to long term, I shall work with National Assembly and State governments towards allowing state police for the states that so desire.”

On efforts to enhance electricity supply, Atiku said: “As a short-term measure, I shall, within the first year of the new administration, initiate and implement an emergency power programme (EPPs) that can deliver additional capacity in certain key areas. Over the medium term, I will propose legislation for the removal of the entire electricity value chain from the exclusive list and give states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity for themselves.”

According to him, “it is counter-productive and injurious to let an industrial dispute with the Federal Government in Abuja affect an industry in Lagos or a factory in Aba or Kano or even an average Nigerian, who simply desires to get home, watch the news and sleep under a ceiling fan.”

While committing to attracting investments in the oil and gas sector, enhancing revenues, including through reduction of oil theft, Atiku promised: “We will undertake an immediate review of government spending with a view to eliminating all leakages arising from subsidy payments, especially subsidy on petroleum products.”

He added: “We will also stop all fiscal support to ailing State-owned enterprises. We will improve spending efficiency by gradually reducing government recurrent expenditures. Over the medium term, recurrent expenditures should not exceed 45 per cent of the budget. We will also review government procurement processes to ensure value-for-money and eliminate all leakages.”

Admitting that Nigeria’s economy is “bleak and our challenges daunting”, Atiku, nevertheless, assured: “I have a good understanding of the challenges facing Nigeria. I know that many of these challenges are self-inflicted and can be reversed if we are determined. And we are determined!”

He added: “Experience is important and we must avoid the mistakes of the recent past. It is too risky for Nigerians to hand over their future to a green horn or to the National Leader of the very party that brought us to this sorry pass.”

OBI disclosed his plans for a better Nigeria while speaking on ‘A vision for policy change and institutional reforms’ at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), yesterday, as part of the Africa Programme event series tagged, ‘Nigeria’s 2023 Elections.’

He spoke for about a half hour and then fielded questions from the audience and online.

The LP presidential candidate, who came alongside his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, lamented that Nigeria’s “economy is in crisis,” coupled with “the Nigerian state” being “captive to an elite” group.

Referencing his kinsman, the late iconic author of ‘Things Fall Apart,’ Prof. Chinua Achebe, he blamed bad leadership as being at the root of the country’s problems, including oil theft and inability to meet OPEC’s production quota.

He told the packed house that what Nigeria needs is “a great escape” from the cycle of bad leadership for a new country to emerge.

During the interactive session, he was asked how he plans to tackle age-long problems of the power sector and vested interests.

The LP candidate responded by making reference to South Africa’s situation. He reasoned that if a country of only 60 million people can declare a state of emergency, then “I’m going to declare war on the power” sector, he said, adding: “We’re trying to destroy the structure of criminality.”

Obi, who had in the audience, social critic and commentator, Prof. Pat Utomi, a former British Ambassador to Nigeria, Richard Taylor (father of murdered schoolboy, Damilola Taylor) and Dr. Doyin Okupe, former spokesman of the Obi-Datti campaign, among others, said he will incorporate the guiding principles his mother taught him and which he used during his eight-year tenure as Anambra State governor, to preside at the centre if elected.

According to him, “what remains for Nigeria is change of leadership,” and this, he said, is the motivation for putting himself forward for the country’s topmost job.

Asked for his plan on the country’s mounting debt, Obi argued that there’s nothing wrong with debt itself.

Citing Britain, the United States and Japan as examples of countries with huge debt profiles, the former banker said there must be a paradigm shift.

He said: “We will shift emphasis from consumption to production. We will dismantle the inefficient market structures and implement radical measures to reduce debt servicing, and target schemes to diversify our non-oil sector.”

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