On December 11, 2022, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, were guests at a town hall hosted by Channels TV. The two-hour townhall focused on the PDP’s plans for Nigerians if the party is allowed to return to Aso Rock Villa.
What did Atiku say?
In his opening remarks, Atiku said Nigeria is going through its worst existential challenge since the civil war, describing the country as disunited due to security and economic issues.
The candidate believes his experience makes him uniquely qualified for the position of president more than the other candidates. Don’t forget this is his sixth attempt trying to become Nigeria’s president.
Atiku believes the central issue regarding the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is the realisation of Biafra. He noted that the options for that to happen are either another civil war or negotiations, and indicated his preference for the latter. Atiku also believes more autonomy for subregions will quell agitations.
On the recurrent strikes by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Atiku says he’ll clear all their backlogs. A very bold promise.
“I’m going to increase the funding level (of education) as against what’s currently obtained. There’s no doubt about that because I’m a firm and committed believer in education.
“I’ve undertaken to say, whatever backlog — we’re going to clear all the backlogs and make sure that you go back to classes and students go back to school.”
Atiku has plans to emulate the UAE to tackle insecurity in Nigeria. He’d know a lot about that seeing as Dubai is his second home.
“The security architecture I admire is the UAE security architecture and it’s primarily based on monitoring. You don’t see policemen in uniform in UAE, you don’t see soldiers but virtually everybody is being monitored on a daily basis and particularly if you are a visitor, from the moment you step into the country or go out, anywhere you’re going, you’re being watched and that’s the deployment of technology as far as security is concerned.
“That’s to say we’re aiming for the ultimate, but we have to deal with our current security structure. How we reform it to ensure we give our people a more secure environment to undertake their own legitimate businesses wherever they may be, whether in the rural areas, semi-urban and so on.”
On Wike’s unending beef
Atiku said he tried on his part to square things with Nyesom Wike who he defeated at the PDP primaries to clinch the presidential ticket.
“I’ve met Wike two times in Port Harcourt, two times in Abuja, one time in London, personally. It’s not on my part; it’s on the other side. I’m waiting for him.”
Dear Wike, we’re all waiting for your reply.
Atiku has long been a champion of privatisation which has earned him equal measure of praise from his supporters and criticism from those who say he wants to sell state assets to his friends.
He responded to a question on why he’s fixated on selling public assets.
“I’m not fixated but I think that’s best for the country. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves, we have four refineries and they’ve ceased functioning; I don’t know for how many years now and every year we budget money for overhauling the refineries that don’t work. Please, let’s give it to the private sector.
“In every great nation in this world, you find out that it’s the private sector that’s driving the economy — they provide the jobs, they provide the prosperity, and they do everything. Why should we be different? So, I’m not fixated.”
On Deborah Samuel
Atiku also addressed the controversy surrounding the death of Deborah Samuel, a 19-year old Christian killed by a mob of her classmates in Sokoto over allegations of blasphemy. Atiku’s Twitter account had posted a statement condemning her death, before later deleting it.
When asked why he deleted the tweet, the candidate said it was posted without his approval. But he made it clear that he later condemned the murder.
Not everyone’s buying his answer though.