The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said he would form a government of National Unity if elected in the 2023 general elections.
Atiku, who promised to take on the restructuring agenda in his first day in office, also said he would improve the nation’s economy through the liberalisation and promotion of private sector-driven economy.
The former vice president spoke in Lagos Wednesday at a parley with members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
He said the PDP would form a government of National Unity as a way of uniting the country, where members of the opposition parties would be picked across the six geo-political zones of the country, and given roles to play in the government in power.
Atiku said that was what the PDP-led government did under President Olusegun Obasanjo regime when members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All People’s Party (APP) were included in the government following the PDP’s victory in the 1999 election.
He said: “Even though PDP won overwhelmingly in 1999, we still included members of the opposition parties in a government of national unity and with that, we were able to ensure unity.”
On restructuring, the PDP standard bearer said his agenda in this regard remained intact, describing as unfortunate report in a section of the media which misinterpreted his comments at a session with the Lagos Business School Alumni Association Tuesday.
He said: “It is rather unfortunate that a section of the media reported my remarks at an event yesterday which casts doubts on my readiness to implement my restructuring agenda.
“Let me therefore use the opportunity of this gathering today with the gatekeepers of the Nigerian media to say that my restructuring agenda is intact and it will be implemented from my first day in office.
“Already, I have received report from a team of constitutional law experts which I assembled to look into our constitution and highlight areas where there are items that can be moved to the concurrent and residual lists of the constitution.
“Let me tell you that I will start work on the implementation of that report from my very first day in office if I am elected president next year.”
Responding to questions from editors, the former vice president said his administration would work closely with the private sector towards ensuring the gaps in infrastructure deficits were closed.
“The private sector is pivotal to my agenda to rejuvenate the economy and close our infrastructure deficit gaps. If I am elected president, I will work closely with the private sector by giving them incentives to create more jobs and also grant them tax holidays in order for them to intervene in our infrastructure development.
“It is obvious to all that government doesn’t have all the money and the debt burden has continued to weigh us down. Therefore, government has to be creative and engaging the private sector is one way of solving our infrastructure problems in a sustainable way.
While promising to continue with the economic policy of the Obasanjo administration from 1999-2007, Atiku who was VP under the period said, the world’s greatest economies in the world were private sector-driven with little or no government’s interference.
“We brought liberisation of the economy, more private-driven economy, most successful economies allow private sector to play its role. We saw prosperity,” the PDP standard bearer also said.
He said rather than government borrowing money to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure, “such can be conceded to the private sector, then there will be jobs and prosperity.”
Giving his recipe to the current insecurity, Atiku said he would ensure more recruitment of personnel, more equipment, more training and more votes for security, just as he promised state Police.
The PDP presidential candidate also said “he will ensure every geo – political zone is represented in the headship of the security agencies.”
Speaking on the place of women in his administration if elected, the former vice president said the previous PDP-led federal government gave prominent role to women, assuring this won’t be a difference either.
G-5 govs and PDP
On the lingering crisis between the party and the G-5 Governors led by Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike, Atiku said the crisis would soon be resolved, stressing that it is a family affair.
“Talks are going on. It is a family issue and we regard it as such. We will resolve our family issue very soon”, he said.
NGE President speaks
Speaking earlier, NGE President Mustapha Issa said the body designed the forum to give opportunity to various candidates to present their policies to the electorate before the election.
He advised all the candidates in the 2023 election to avoid mudslinging and personality attack, but urged them to concentrate more on issues that could promote the future of the country.
On Atiku’s entourage were Director General PDP Presidential Campaign Council/Sokoto state Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Chairman PDP Campaign Council/Akwa Ibom state Governor Udom Emmanuel, former Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki, Mr Timi Alaibe, Alhaji Muktar Shagari, Maxi Ohunabunwa, Minority Leader House of Representatives Hon. Ndidi Elumelu, Chairman Emeritus Daar Communications Dr Raymond Dokpesi, and the campaign spokesman, Mr Dele Momodu among others.
Tinubu meets CAN, explains Shettima’s choice
Similarly, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has assured the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that he would not run his administration on the basis of religion if elected.
A statement by the Tinubu Media Office and signed by Tunde Rahman, quoted the APC presidential candidate as saying this at a meeting with the CAN leadership Wednesday in Abuja.
Tinubu said, he would run the administration by not discriminating against anyone either based on tribe, religion or gender, like he did as Lagos state governor.
The leadership of CAN under the new president Daniel Ukoh presented a charter of demands and issues to the APC presidential candidate.
They demanded among others state police or a decentralised policing system, devolution of power to states, equal rights for all religions and their adherents, right to self-determination by all ethnic groups, right to control natural resources by communities that bear them, no to open grazing, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all.
Tinubu said: “My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organizations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.
“As Governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christians to improve lives and foster education. For instance, I returned mission schools to their owners, most of who are Christians.
“I instituted yearly Christian Denomination Service at the Governor’s residence as we approached the new year. This tradition continues in Lagos.
“More importantly, we fostered an atmosphere of religious tolerance and inter-faith collaboration. My cabinet was diverse and talented. In the exercise of government, I did not give a thought to whether a team member was Christian or Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo or Arewa.
“I have never lent myself to baseless prejudice and discrimination. To do so would be a recipe for failure in the governance of a diverse society and I am not a man that is familiar with failing.
“I never chased people out of Lagos nor made them feel unwanted. Under my administration Lagos welcomed all comers and continues to do so today. After me, Lagos has had one Muslim and two Christian governors. I may not be perfect. What human being is? But I am not a petty man secretly wedded to secret biases and prejudices.
“As such, I see all Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in our national family. This means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender. Anyone who does not hold this fair and equitable view, should not run for president in a country such as ours.”
The statement further quoted Tinubu as saying “the Christian body has a great role as the moral compass of the society which he cherishes and will always support.”
“You, as an organization and as individual leaders of CAN, are entrusted as the watch person of the welfare of this society from a Christian perspective. Which means functioning in an atmosphere of charity, understanding, patience and wisdom.
“I understand the tremendous importance of your work and have nothing but the deepest respect for your selfless contributions to our national cause,” he added.
On his choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate, which has generated a lot of controversies, Tinubu assured the Christian body that he made the best available choice at his disposal without recourse to religious sentiments.
He said: “I did not choose Senator Shettima so that we could form a same faith ticket. The ticket was constructed as a same progressive and people- based ideology ticket.
“I offer a confession. I selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier. But the easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous yet very intimate decision.
“Resting such a key decision on religious affiliation as the primary weight did not sit well with me. I am not saying there were not good and adequate potential running mates of the Christian faith.
“What I am saying is that the times we inhabit do not lend themselves to the good or adequate. We have urgent problems that lend themselves not to a Christian or Muslim solution. We need the best solution.
“Every time I thought about it, and I did think a lot; I came to the same conclusion: Kashim Shettima, his faith was immaterial. He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detailed oriented. Enjoying excellent organizational skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.
“This exceptionally gifted human being has humility of spirit, courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive world view in harmony with my own perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed.
“I know people have reacted harshly to my selection. They have done so without knowing the man or giving him or me a fair chance. The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate.
“I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. You all know my wife is Christian and a pastor. My children are Christians. I can no more disown them and their choice of faith than I can disown myself. As a husband and father to Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful.”
He thereafter shared his campaign policies with the Christian leaders, asking for their support.
“We must move the nation forward more quickly so that hatred and pettiness haven’t a chance to imbed themselves and become the main colours of the fabric of our society.
“My team, Senator Shettima and I have crafted our Action Plan for Nigeria titled Renewed Hope. This agenda is based on the progressive notion that our economy must be recalibrated to ensure better jobs and wages for people. That all are entitled to basic health care and education.
“We will combat hunger and poverty by growing more food and better rewarding farmers for their toil.
“We shall revive our industrial capacity to provide work for our growing urban population and to produce more of the things that we need.
“Where the private sector thrives, we will not attempt to fix what is not broken. Where it falters, government shall lend a hand to keep people employed and the economy vibrant. Where there is a gap, we must fill it so that we more fully employ our idle workforce and productive capacity.
“We must better tend to the poor, vulnerable and elderly by strengthening the social safety net.
We shall end the fuel subsidy because it has become an unproductive policy favouring an elite that needs no favours while giving the people precious little. Funds that were previously used for the subsidy will be invested in public transportation and other infrastructure, education, and health.
“Let us advance to the economy point where no parent is forced to send their children to bed hungry and no one is fearful that tomorrow will bring more lack and poverty.
“Fiscal power and authority shall be recalibrated to give the states more latitude to better fulfil their mandate of grassroots development and empowerment of people and local communities, This includes assessing each state’s best option regarding a more active role in crime prevention and law enforcement.
“On security, we will not relent until terrorists, kidnappers and criminals quit their malign ways or are completely defeated. We shall augment our security forces and use advanced technology to track and defeat these evil groups,” he added.
In their contributions, the vice presidential candidate, Senator Shettima, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Governor Umar Abdullahi Ganduje and Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu attested to Asíwájú Tinubu’s character and integrity.
They said he usually places merit and competence above any other factor in choosing who to work with and always moved to act in the best interest of the country.
Also on Tinubu’s entourage were his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Governors Hope Uzodinma (Imo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdulrahman AbdulRasaq (Kwara), Deputy Senate Leader Boroffice Ajayi, and Minister of Special Duties Senator George Akume among several others.
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