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  • 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.