Thursday, 25 September 2014

Atiku: Why I Want to Be President

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Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar yesterday declared his intention to seek the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest for the presidency for a third time, promising that if elected president, he would tackle insecurity, corruption and work to rebuild the country’s infrastructure in order to return Nigeria to better days.
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Atiku’s declaration coincided with the condemnation by his party of President Goodluck Jonathan’s endorsement as the sole candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for next year’s presidential election.
Atiku, who blazed the trail yesterday by becoming the first presidential aspirant in any party in Nigeria to publicly declare his bid for the presidency, told a large audience of party supporters at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, venue of the event, that the country needs a strong, decisive, competent and visionary leadership to turn things around.
“We need a strong, dynamic, decisive, competent and visionary leadership that can halt the current drift of the ship of state, fight corruption, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, provide social 
 and tackle insecurity in a decisive, robust multi-pronged way. This is the change we want and deserve and this is the change the APC is primed to offer,” he said.

Speaking on his tenure as vice-president, Atiku said he and his boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, did their utmost best to reposition the affairs of the country and were able to retrieve Nigeria from the darks days as a pariah state to a country well loved and respected by the international community.
He said the string of achievements recorded during their tenure was made possible because of the vision, commitment and dedication of leadership.
“We re-integrated our country into the international community following years of isolation; we professionalised our armed forces; we embarked on fundamental economic reforms, articulated by an Economic Team, which I had the honour to chair.
“We focused on macroeconomic stability and transforming critical areas such as banking, insurance, oil and gas, telecommunications, pensions and the civil service reforms.
“We created novel institutions that would lay the foundation for good governance and accountability such as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), SERVICOM, whose golden rule is ‘Serve Others as You Would Like to be Served’. Sadly, most of these institutions are now mere shadows of themselves.
“We also paid off nearly all of our foreign debt, which was crippling the country, we stabilised the exchange rate of the naira, as well as interest rates, and reduced inflation. What needed to follow was for these macroeconomic gains to be further translated into improved welfare for our people,” Atiku said.
He said with the reforms in the telecommunications sector, the administration was able to increase the number of functioning telephone lines from “200,000 at the inception of our administration to over 70 million by the time we left”. 
According to him, the reforms they spearheaded also led to an increase in the market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) from N400 billion to over N8 trillion by 2007 and to nearly N13 trillion by 2008.
“We also handed over well-articulated master plans for the development of a multi-modular transportation system, including a contract for the modernisation of the railways. We also commenced the implementation of the Gas-to-Power master plan, with a target of 26,000mw of electricity expected to be delivered by 2015," he added.
Atiku also spoke of his days in the public service, saying in his 20-year experience in the Nigerian public service, he was able to build a solid reputation as a diligent, honest, hardworking and innovative staff.
Buoyed by the cheers from the large crowd that spilled out of the Yar’Adua Centre, Atiku said his government would invest in people because people constitute the wealth of any nation.
“I want to lead a government that will invest in its people because people constitute the wealth of any nation. I want to lead a government that will create ‘A Nigeria for All’.  A Nigeria that is not about north or south, Christian or Muslim, but about a better tomorrow where every citizen will feel secure, act with patriotism, having assurance of the fulfillment of his or her aspirations.
“I want to lead a government that will rebuild the institutions of governance with zero tolerance for corruption and nepotism, where hard work and dedication are adequately rewarded.
“I want to assemble the best brains in the land and provide the political will and commitment so that jointly, and with the cooperation of all of you, build a Nigeria of our dreams," he said.
The former vice-president, who said he would never give up on Nigeria, regretted what he described as a disturbing rise in ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry.
“This is promoting social tensions and mutual distrust amongst the people of Nigeria. All over the country, there are daily breaches of security resulting in the loss of lives and properties. Armed robbery, kidnappings and human trafficking continue to ravage many parts of the country. A bunch of extremist insurgents are hoisting strange flags on large areas of our territory that they claim to have conquered,” he said.
Atiku's declaration for presidency yesterday was witnessed by some bigwigs of APC, including the party’s National Secretary, National Vice-Chairman (North-east) B.D Lawal, National Youth Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and Senator George Akume. However, none of the serving APC governors were present at the event.
Also various campaign groups, including the Turaki Vanguard, Turaki Network South-east, Save Nigeria Group, as well as various youth and women’s groups were present to witness Atiku’s formal declaration of his intention to contest next year's presidency.
But as the former vice-president unfolded his bid for the presidency, his party, APC, took on the PDP over the ruling party’s endorsement of Jonathan as its sole candidate, calling the endorsement a mockery of democracy.
In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the endorsement had come at a great price to Nigerians, considering the obvious deals that were struck to make Jonathan the sole PDP candidate.
It said the parody of democracy that the endorsement represents has exposed the shameless hypocrisy of the PDP, which is ever so eager to accuse other parties of lacking in internal democracy.
“Obviously, those fellows in the PDP have never heard of the saying that those who must come to equity must come with clean hands. PDP, where is your own internal democracy now that you have turned your party into a fiefdom controlled by one and only one person only?
“While endorsements are part and parcel of democracy, they are never done to the exclusion of other candidates. This is simply not democratic. When then candidate Barrack Obama was endorsed by his party’s bigwigs to contest the US presidency, the party never excluded Hillary Clinton from its primaries. That’s how it is done,” APC said.
The party said the price being paid for Jonathan’s endorsement by Nigeria is simply too heavy, considering that the PDP governors, who spearheaded the endorsement have now secured perpetual immunity from prosecution by anti-graft bodies, including the EFCC and ICPC; automatic tickets for all first-term PDP governors, whether or not they have performed; and automatic tickets for all PDP governors running for the Senate, as well as the free ride back to the upper chamber for Senate President David Mark.
“It is now an Open Sesame for the PDP governors, who have no prying anti-corruption agencies watching over their shoulders. They can now simply see the commonwealth as an extension of their deep pockets.
“The endorsement is also a vote of approval for the proceeds of corruption that have been powering the noisy and outrageous Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN),” it said.
APC accused Jonathan of desecrating the country’s democracy because of his desperation for re-election, adding: “It is a cruel irony that a man who has benefited, more than anyone else, from this democracy has been the one who has been doing everything possible to undermine it.”
The party said the president has also abandoned domestic issues while seeking international relevance, in a clear negation of the aphorism that charity begins at home.
“This president has basically abandoned governance. Unprecedented corruption is mounting, insecurity stalks the land and Nigerians grope in darkness as power generation has plummeted. This president has yet to tell Nigerians the full involvement of his government in the $9.3 million that was illegally ferried to South Africa on a private jet.
“This president has yet to tell Nigerians why he has continued to hobnob with an alleged sponsor of Boko Haram, who is supposed to be under probe by his administration. Yet, he is eager to attend meetings with serious-minded leaders who have done well for their own people.
“Mr. President, it is only when you have achieved success domestically that you can parade yourself internationally. You cannot look good abroad if you look ugly at home,” APC said.

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