I Will Only Do One Term - Atiku (Flashback)

The PDP presidential flagbearer, Atiku Waziri Abubarka, who recently picked Dr Peter Obi as his 2019 presidential election running mate,  made this statement on August 12, during an interview session with one of media outfits. Read the flashback news below

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar , who has officially declared his intention to contest the presidency in 2019 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this exclusive interview with Olawale Olaleye and Bayo Akinloye lays out his plan to reposition the country to realise its full potential. Atiku speaks on a wide variety of issues, including youth
unemployment, the troubled education system, insecurity, and restructuring. Furthermore, for
the first time, he committed himself to doing

just one term of four years. Excerpts:

You officially joined the race for the PDP ticket
ahead of the 2019 presidential election two
weeks ago. What exactly is your agenda for
Nigeria?

My agenda is centred on jobs. That is what I
have been doing for the past 40 years. I am
first and foremost an entrepreneur. A job
creator. My group of companies has a workforce
of about 50,000. This does not include the
hundreds of thousands that are indirectly
employed. I believe in creating jobs, providing
opportunities, being united as one Nigeria, and
securing it all with a military-industrial complex
whose raison d’être is ‘Nigeria First.’

It is a fact of life that you cannot give what you
do not have. In December of 2017, the
government-owned and operated National
Bureau of Statistics officially revealed that 7.9
million Nigerians had lost their jobs in the 21
months immediately preceding the Buhari
government. The current government cannot
create jobs because it is headed and peopled by
men and women who have never run successful
businesses. They ran their own private
businesses down. So how can you expect them
to run the public’s business up?

What I am assuring Nigerians is that if they elect me, I
promise them that everyone who wants to work
will be given opportunities.
Even this thing they are doing, called N-Power,
is a product of their poverty mindset. Nigerians
do not need handout. Nigerians need a leg up!
Our people are not lazy. Quote me anywhere;
Nigerians are the most intelligent people on
God’s planet. The reason our people are living
in poverty today is that our current leaders have
a poverty mentality. I will give you a very good
example. How can I be president and criminals
will attack my people and I will tell them that
the only thing I can do is pray? Then, in that
case, I should be a clergyman, not a president!
How can a leader open his mouth and tell his
citizens that it is better to give land than to die?
That is as good as telling the people that they
have been conquered.

What do you think puts you shoulder above
other aspirants and more so, the current
president?

The number one problem facing Nigerians today
is not insecurity. It is not corruption. It is not
even lack of power. The most pressing problem
in Nigeria today is unemployment. We have
more unemployed people in Nigeria today than
the combined population of the Republics of
Benin and Togo multiplied by two. Two months
ago, Nigeria overtook India as the world’s
headquarters for extreme poverty. Not poverty,
mind you, but extreme poverty. That is the
highest level of poverty. It is almost as if I was
born for this challenge. You may even say that
the challenge is tailor-made for the unique
abilities that God has given me. Atiku means
Jobs.

President Buhari can’t say that. In fact, under
him, the situation has deteriorated so badly.
None of the other aspirants can say the same
thing. Most of them have spent their entire lives
being either employees of the government or
employees in the private sector, which in itself
is not a bad thing. However, I have created
more jobs than any other person in the race.
Let me ask you a question: If you are at an
airport with your private plane and you notice
that the weather conditions are bad, would you
go with a pilot who tells you, ‘I know how to
pilot a plane’ Or, will you go with one who tells
you, ‘I have piloted a plane in bad weather and
here is the proof?’ The current Nigerian
economic climate can be likened to bad
weather. Even the government cannot pay
salaries. Even the government is not employing.
Yet, with all that they have done to make things
difficult for me, I am still employing. I am still
paying salaries.
I recently brought the Chicken Cottage franchise
to Nigeria and created hundreds of new jobs. I
am currently building a hospital in Abuja with
the Saudi-German Hospital. Just the construction
and planning alone is already providing jobs.
Imagine how many jobs it will provide when it is
completed. Not to mention the huge impact it
will have in making healthcare accessible and
affordable for Nigerians.

You have become the champion of restructuring
even more than Bola Tinubu, who no longer
speaks of it. President Buhari described those
clamouring for restructuring as parochial. What
is your reaction to that? In addition, how do
you really plan to restructure the country if
elected in 2019?

With all due respect, it is the refusal to even
discuss restructuring that is parochial. Nigeria
either restructures or it withers away. And the
sad thing is that the man who made that
comment does not even know the meaning of
the word parochial. To be parochial is to have a
limited mindset incapable of seeing reason with
others. Now, who is parochial between him and
those advocating restructuring?
Take something like insecurity. The other day
there were killings in Plateau State and the
President said the situation had got so bad
there was nothing more he could do than pray.
Even that statement itself is a cry for
restructuring. The man is admitting that there is
nothing he can do, within the current structure,
other than to pray. That means the current
structure, by his own admission, is not working.
If we restructured and had community policing,
the man would not be in such dire straits. The
Imam of Nghar village, in Barkin Ladi Local
Government Area of Plateau State saved 300
Christians by hiding them in his mosque during
the recent crisis. By that singular act, Alhaji
Abdullahi Abubakar saved 300 lives. That was a
community solution to a community challenge.
Now put your thinking cap on. Imagine how
much safer that community would be if they
practised community policing, which relied on
community leaders like Imam Abdullahi
Abubakar?
Even in revenue generation, I came up with the
idea of matching grants when I gave a speech at
the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also
known as Chatham House, on April 25, 2018.
Matching grants would motivate our states to be
less dependent on federal allocation and more
dependent on internally generated revenue.
Today, both the Federal Government and the
states are broke. They depend on loans to even
pay salaries and in the midst of that, someone
is saying that we do not need restructuring.
Reality departed from such a fellow a while ago!
How do I plan to restructure the country if
elected? Restructuring is a process, not an
event. However, I have said it that I would
restructure Nigeria within six months of being
elected. First of all, no state will get less than
what they are currently getting from the
federation account. In fact, they will get more.
That is what my initiative of matching grant is
all about. I only need a constitutional
amendment if I want to take power and
resources away. I do not need to amend the
constitution to give power and resources away.
Let me give you an example. There are several
federal government-owned assets and projects
wasting away in Lagos and other states. I do not
need a constitutional amendment to call the
Lagos State government or governments of the
other states and say take over these assets and
projects and whatever monies they generate. I
do not need a constitutional amendment to
transfer universities from the Federal
Government to the state government. I only
need an Executive Order. Ditto for returning
schools to the missions and religious
organisations, which once owned them. The
most vital part of restructuring is the devolution
of powers, not the accumulation of powers and
it is easier to give powers away than to take
them from the federating units.

As you know, restructuring is not particularly
popular among the northern elite. How are you
going to convince them that this is the best way
to realise Nigeria’s economic and human capital
potentials?

That is a myth. Unfortunately, this presumption
has discouraged many true proponents of
restructuring. Those who perpetuate this
falsehood are attempting to rewrite history. Let
me tell you, when General Aguiyi Ironsi came up
with the controversial Unification of Assets
Decree No. 34 of 1966, it was not the West or
Midwest that resisted it. It was not the East. It
was the North that rejected it and for good
reason. Northern Nigeria is capable of feeding
not just the whole of Nigeria, but the whole of
Africa. That was why the Sardauna was so happy
with the discovery of oil in commercial
quantities in the East. He was not threatened by
it. He was overjoyed. His vision was that the
North would grow more food that the other
regions would be in a better position to buy. Is
that not genius? Does that sound like someone
who would be against restructuring?
Now coming back to the present time, even
though Nigeria did not become the world
football champions at the World Cup, I am so
glad that our Russia 2018 World Cup Team was
constituted the way it was. Ahmed Musa, a
northerner, was the Most Valued Player on the
Super Eagles squad. He delivered goals. Ahmed
Musa has proved some people’s fears to be
unfounded. Through his talents, he has
demonstrated that there is no part of Nigeria
that is without talents. He has shown that we
can run our government and our civil service
based on merit, instead of ethnicity and
religion.
Just last week, the Joint Admissions and
Matriculation Board revealed that the best
overall scorer in this year’s Unified Tertiary
Matriculation Examination came from Borno
State. Borno State! Think about that!
Stereotypes are dying. Let us give them a
proper burial and move on without them. There
is support for restructuring nationwide and
there is resistance to it countrywide. Let us not
make northerners a convenient scapegoat just
because Buhari, who does not want
restructuring, is a northerner.

The entire educational system in the country
has collapsed. We now produce fourth grade
graduates. Nigerian universities are hardly
among the top 500 universities in the world.
Our public schools are in a sorry state because
leaders like you have not done what you ought
to have done. Now that you have broken with
that class of leaders and you tell us that you
want to solve the problem, tell us where you are
going to start from and how you are going to do
this?

Well, you can only hold me vicariously liable as
a member of the political class, but you cannot
hold me personally responsible because when
our administration came into being in 1999 the
situation was already bad. However, by 2007
when we left, we made it better than we met it.
Our administration increased the salaries of
teachers and lecturers. We committed a higher
sectorial allocation to education than what was
the norm before us. And when you look at what
I have done in my personal capacity, you must
admit that, perhaps, no other individual or
group of individuals has committed the
quantum of investments I have committed to
education.
I did not found the American University of
Nigeria, Yola, to make money. It is my biggest
community development project. Chibok girls
are there on scholarship. I was an indigent
student. I was an orphan as a child. So I know
what it is to struggle. As a result, the American
University of Nigeria, Yola, has opened up its
doors to those who would not ordinarily have
been able to attend. If we want to fix education
in Nigeria, we must do the same thing. We must
commit to investing in education because no
other investment yields a greater interest.
If I am elected as the president, I would sit with
the heads of the legislature and the judiciary
and appeal to their sense of nationalism. We
must all reduce our recurrent expenditure so
that we can collectively increase our investments
in the education sector. The fastest way out of
Third World status for any nation is by
educating youths and women.
The whole purpose of the National Youth Service
Corps was to improve national cohesion by
involving Nigerian graduates in the development
of the country. If I am elected as the president,
all members of the National Youth Service Corps
would have only three options on where to
serve. You either teach, or you farm or you treat
people in a hospital or clinic. No exception,
even if you are my own biological child or
grandchild.

If I am elected as the president, I will ensure
that the education sector attracts the best brains
by working with the states to achieve targeted
salary increase for teachers and lecturers. You
cannot have a local government councillor
earning more money than a lecturer and expect
our best brains to be attracted to the academia.
I would change that.
I was shocked to find out that Nigerians spend a
billion dollars to educate their children in Ghana
every year. When you add the cost of educating
their wards in Europe and America, you are
looking at a further $1 billion. I am assuring
you that if we invest in our education sector and
make it as good as Ghana’s and definitely even
better, that $2 billion will no longer leave
Nigeria. It will circulate internally and boost the
quality of our education and the value of our
Naira.

Recently, you were said to have promised to
devote 21 per cent of your national budget to
education. Tell us, how you will do this because
we actually need a concrete plan of action and
specificity in this regard?

Yes, I did make that commitment and I make it
here again. I pledge that if I am chosen by my
party, the Peoples Democratic Party, to be its
presidential candidate, and if I am subsequently
elected as the President by Nigerians, I will go
above and beyond the United Nations’
recommendations and ensure that a minimum
of 21 per cent of the federal budget is devoted
to education. Beyond that, I will reserve 10 per
cent of that amount to further and continuous
education for our public school teachers.
Nigeria’s education sector must progress from
creating job seekers. We must train our teachers
to train our children to be job creators as well.
As for the specifics, for the last 10 years, Nigeria
has budgeted the equivalent of $30 billion at
the federal level, give or take. Twenty-one per
cent of that is about $6.5 billion. I already
mentioned to you that if elected as the
president, I would sit with the heads of the
legislature and the judiciary for the purpose of
coming to an agreement on how we can scale
down our overheads.
On the side of the executive, there are so many
things we can cut down on. Recently, I wanted
to go to Azerbaijan and I found out that they
don’t have an embassy in Nigeria or any other
country near Nigeria. To get a visa, you apply
online to their foreign office.
Nigeria maintains literally hundreds of
embassies and foreign missions in multiple
nations that we really do not need. We can
close down two-thirds of these missions and
have one embassy service as many as four
nations in the geographic vicinity. We can use
technology to provide consular services.
In 2018, we budgeted N63 billion for recurrent
expenditure in foreign affairs. Under an Atiku
presidency, we would spend only a quarter of
that. The rest will go to education.
In the same budget, we are spending N1 trillion
paying salaries for our military and paramilitary
officers and men, and less than half of that
paying salaries in the education sector. As an
educator, I see the problem immediately. The
less you spend on education the more you have
to spend on security. The more you spend on
education the less you have to spend on
security. It is interconnected. We are having to
spend so much on defence because over the
years we have not invested enough in
education. Beginning from my first year, I will
reverse that. The money will be re-channelled to
education.
In the 2018 budget, we have N112 billion going
to the Office of the Secretary to the Government
of the Federation. To do what? Award grass
cutter contracts? Under an Atiku administration,
whoever is the Secretary to the Government of
the Federation just has to find a way to manage
10 per cent of that money. The rest will go to
education. I am serious about this. This is not
rhetoric. I have achieved it in my private
capacity as an educator and if given the chance,
I will replicate it in Nigeria’s public sector.

Nigeria nationalised education in 1975 and that
has been the root of the crisis in the education
sector. How would you resolve that particular
issue of centralised control of education that
has destroyed the educational system? Would
you allow states to have total control over
education, limiting federal intervention to the
barest level? And how would you use the
increased budgetary allocation to education you
have proposed to ensure our education is more
relevant to the economic and scientific growth
of the country?

I believe I answered the first part of your
question when I said I would use Executive
Orders to devolve some powers. To be more
specific, by Executive Order, the President can
hand over universities to the states in which
they are located. By Executive Order, the
President can also hand over all unity secondary
schools to the states in which they are located.
Where these schools were taken over by the
Federal Government from religious bodies and
missions, they should be returned to such
religious bodies and missions.
As to the second part of your question, the bulk
of the 21 per cent sectorial allocation will not
go towards paying salaries, as is currently the
case. Almost half will go towards infrastructure
and capacity building. I will set up a fund for
the compulsory training and continuous
education of all Nigerian teachers. I will issue
an Executive Order mandating that all Nigerian
schools must be WiFi-equipped at federal
government expense. We will work with the
private sector to take in students as interns so
that they can learn on the job during their
holidays and the federal government will be
responsible for paying these students a learning
bursary.
Our research and development agencies will be
retooled. They must deliver. How could the
Buhari administration be considering importing
grass from Brazil when we have research
agencies like the Federal Institute of Industrial
Research, Oshodi, and the non-government
owned International Institute of Tropical
Agriculture, Ibadan? I would order our research
agencies to work with fully Nigerian-owned
businesses, like Innoson Motors. Because of the
immense successes we have had at the
American University of Nigeria, Yola, I know that
Nigeria as a whole can have similar successes.

Are you going to devolve responsibilities for
education to the states? And how will you
engender competition among the states to
ensure that the educational system is merit-
driven?

I already answered this question and in some
detail too. As to the second part of your
question, the federal government will retain
ministries and agencies, like the ministry of
education and the National Universities
Commission and other agencies for other levels
of education to ensure that minimal national
standards are in force in institutions. As long as
these institutions maintain these standards, the
federal government will continue to intervene in
those institutions through the initiatives I
already outlined.

Some people are worried about your age. Many
also say that you don’t have the cult-like
followership that Buhari has, to be able to win
the election. The belief is that even though you
have national support, winning the presidential
election is still going to be a tall order. What is
your reaction to this?

How old am I versus the incumbent? I know
when I was born. This is my exact age. I do not
have a football age. But the issue is even
beyond age. It is about fitness. I am fit. I am
ready to publish my medical records and I
challenge all those who are running, including
the incumbent, to give that same assurance. As
to the cult-like following, yes, you are right, I
am not a cultist, nor will I ever be. The history
of the human race has shown that personality
cults do more harm than good. But if this cult is
so powerful, how come it could not help elect
Muhammadu Buhari in 2003, 2007 and 2011?
How come Nasir el-Rufai, my former protégé,
said on October 4, 2010 that Buhari is
‘perpetually unelectable’?
The truth, which you and I know, is that without
the support of Bola Tinubu, Buhari would not
have been elected as the President, his cult
followership notwithstanding.

Some have also said that your chances of being
president would be enhanced if you commit to
only one term so that you will be the bridge
between the old and the future. Would you
commit to one term only?

Of course, I would! I have said this before on
my own initiative. I believe in it. If I am elected
as the President in 2019, I give an undertaking
that I would only do one term.
Having said that, let me remind Nigerians that
Buhari also gave such an undertaking in 2011,
but he is not living up to it today. My own case
will be different. I am prepared to sign an
undertaking to do only one term.
Are you not just saying this to get the ticket
and, ultimately, get elected after which you
would feel no obligation to honour your words?

But how do you make us believe you, since
Buhari, as you have said, failed to honour his
own 2011 pledge?

I am not Muhammadu Buhari. I do not make
promises I cannot keep. I am assuring Nigerians
that I will keep this promise. I am making it out
here in the open. I am willing to sign a written
document. If you or any other Nigerian can
come up with an iron-clad legal document that
binds me, I am willing to publicly commit to it.
Would you eliminate State of Origin and replace
it with State of Birth to herald a new Nigeria?
I have said this publicly before now. And this is
not a new thing. The first elected mayor of
Enugu, Umaru Altine, was a Fulani resident of
the coal city. On the 10th of November, 1956,
Altine was also elected the leader of his local
branch of the NCNC without any opposition.
In fact, our constitution does not give
prominence to this dichotomy. That is why my
party, the PDP, fielded Oghene Egoh, from the
South-south, and Rita Orji and Tony Nwolu from
the South-east, as candidates for election into
the House of Representatives, representing Lagos
constituencies and the good thing is that they
won. So, it is already happening, and if I am
elected as the president, it will become an
official government policy.

The APC has been mobilising to remove the
Senate President and his deputy. How do you
see a move like this by a party that benefitted
from defections that it celebrated with fanfare a
couple of years ago, which, of course, helped it
to win the 2015 election?

Hypocrisy has always been the APC’s stock in
trade. They claimed that the PDP mismanaged
Nigeria for 16 years, yet in just three years of
APC being in power, Nigeria experienced a
recession, which we never experienced under
the PDP. Nigeria’s currency became the fourth
worst performing currency in the world and in
just three years, they have taken more loans
than the PDP took in 16 years. They claim the
PDP was corrupt, yet Nigeria made its best
showing in Transparency International’s annual
Corruption Perception Index under the PDP in
2014 when we moved eight places forward, from
144 to 136. Meanwhile, under the so-called anti-
corruption government of the APC, we made our
worst performance ever, moving 12 places
backward, from 136 to 148.
They claim that the PDP lost the war on terror
and they declared victory. But look at where we
are today? Terror has spread nationwide and the
man who said the PDP was weak on terror says
there is nothing he can do but pray! So when
you talk about hypocrisy and the APC, you are
referring to two evil twins that are so identical
that one can pass for the other.
How would you resolve the security challenge in
the country – Boko Haram, ISIS, herdsmen, etc.?

Many worry that the spate of killings threatens
the very existence of the country. Why do you
think it is so difficult for the government to
protect lives and property? It is all about leadership. Pure and simple. I have said it before that Nigeria has 150,000policemen performing non-core police functions, chief of which is guarding VIPs. Do you know
that Leah Sharibu’s father, Nathan, is a
policeman? He is a member of the Nigerian
Police Force’s Special Protection Unit. Just look
at how we failed him and his family as a nation.
At a time when he was protecting others,
nobody was protecting his daughter’s school in
Dapchi. How do you think he will feel?

My solution to the current insecurity in Nigeria
is that I would commercialise the Special
Protection Unit. Those 150,000 policemen will
still guard VIPs and the private sector. But those
VIPs and the private sector will have to pay for
their services. From the money realised, we will
recruit an additional 150,000 policemen and
send them to security hot spots, thereby
creating jobs by securing the nation.
It is all about priorities. The other day we had
an election in Ekiti State and this administration
mobilised 30,000 policemen there. Then two
weeks later, the government proudly announced
that they were sending a 1,000-strong force to
tackle the scourge of banditry in Zamfara State.
Under an Atiku presidency, this will not happen.
Securing the lives of Nigerians would have
priority over securing votes for my party.