Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the 2023 general election, has said Nigeria today, after seven years of poor performance by President Muhammadu Buhari, is in need of a leader who has the capacity to foster unity in diversity and encourage the people to respect and accept each other, despite their differences.
The former vice president made this known in an interview with THISDAY at the weekend. He further reacted to the issue of zoning, saying the South-east should focus on what cannot lie, that is his record, “My attitude towards them. My history with them.”
He did not miss an opportunity to sell his candidacy and vision, but dismissed tales about marabouts predicting he would be president someday as the reason he had held on to the dream tenaciously. He said the story remained a surprise to him, too.
Speaking directly to some of the issues defining the state of the nation on the journey to 2023, Atiku said, “I think after seven years of incompetence, Nigerians just want competence. Where it comes from, they do not mind.
“The challenges that we face today have so focused us on the need to elect leaders based on their competence, instead of their region or religion. Nigeria needs a unifier, not a pacifier. We will be pacified by unity. We will not be united by pacification.”
On insinuations about a groundswell of opinion against his recurrent presidential bids, especially suggestions that the people might be tired of seeing his face on the ballot, Atiku said, “That is a fallacy. There is no groundswell, to use your word. Yes, there are people who have large megaphones, but they do not constitute a groundswell.
“Some of these people have emotional and historic reasons for making their appeals, and one must be sensitive to them. That is why I have gone round and keep going round this country to consult. I believe in the politics of addition. I am not a subtracting politician.”
On the mounting sentiments in favour of a Nigerian president of South-east origin in 2023, he stated, “Of course it is in order. Have you forgotten how passionate I have been in advocating for the South-east? Look at my record.
“What the South-east has to understand is that people’s records matter more than people’s rhetoric. I ask my beloved people of the South-east to focus on what cannot lie; my record. My attitude towards them. My history with them.”
Dismissing speculations that marabouts played a role in his presidential aspiration, Atiku said, “Even me, I am surprised when people bandy about these types of beer parlour myths. I am a devout Muslim. My principles do not allow for anything other than total submission to the will of God.
“That is a myth put together by my political opponents to achieve whatever ends they wanted to achieve. That is just like saying Reagan and Churchill kept trying multiple times because they were powered by soothsayers. It may interest you to know that I became governor after four attempts. Tenacity is a virtue. It is not a vice. It should be celebrated.”
Talking about moves for consensus approach in selecting the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) , Atiku contended, “I just believe that no man should be a judge in his own case. Let’s go down memory lane.
“In 2010-2011, the North chose to go that route. However, it was not the aspirants who elected on their own to come up with a consensus candidate. It was the region. Specifically, the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum led by the late Malam Adamu Ciroma.
“If the North as a region wants that option, then, it should be driven by our natural leaders and elders. It should not be promoted by partisans. Once it becomes like that, then, it may become a poisoned chalice.”
While addressing the issue if zoning, Atiku said, “I will add this: the Peoples Democratic Party, of which I am a founding member, should focus on winning, not on zoning!”
On why he still wanted to be president of Nigeria after five “failed attempts”, he said, “Please, allow me the liberty of rephrasing your question. I would rather say, after several attempts. They were not failed attempts, as I have already explained above.
“In the year 2022, Nigeria is the world headquarters for extreme poverty, and the third most insecure nation in the world. Our economy is not growing, while our population is expanding.
“If you now look at my record in government, where under the leadership of President Obasanjo, I was the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, and a coordinator of our economic management team, you can clearly see my achievements.
“Those achievements need to be replicated if we are to turn the tide. In fact, it is almost as if providence thrust me out this time to do again what God had enabled me to do before.
“We provided jobs. Nigerians are now unemployed in record numbers. We paid off Nigeria’s foreign debt. Nigeria is now more indebted than at any time in our history. Through our policies and inclusiveness, we had relative peace.
“Now, Nigeria is in crisis due to insecurity. It would look to me that my curriculum vitae or my resume appears tailor-made to address the challenges we now face as a nation.”
Atiku spoke on the corruption allegations against him, saying, “Thank God you said allegations. Anybody can allege. You know the history of this country and what specifically I went through. All that is now in the past. What I will say, however, is that I am the most investigated politician in
Nigeria; yet, nothing has been established against me. I have received a clean bill of health with regard to the allegations raised against me.
“That alone should tell you something. It speaks volumes. In the attempt to stop me, knowing that my plans are sound, my ideology is solid and stable, and my connection to Nigerians is enduring, the only thing that my political opponents could use against me are false allegations. My only answer to that is that I have judicially been exonerated and vindicated of all of them.”