Atiku: Nigeria Must Be Cured of Dependency on Oil


Thamsanqa Zhou in London

Former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called for urgent restructuring of the country’s institutions in order to cure the states and federal government of addiction to oil revenue.

Atiku was addressing an audience of intellectuals, businessmen and Nigerians in the Diaspora at Chatham House in London, United Kingdom.
He said restructuring in Nigeria was no longer a subject for debate but a necessity because history will record that “we were too drunk” to look after the oil revenues from crude oil sales when the prices were high.

Atiku added that the country had nothing to show for the revenues collected over the years because poverty levels remain high throughout the country.

At the government level, the former vice-president called for reforms especially to introduce effective revenue collection and transparency at all government levels.

He said his dream was to see pure devolution of power and federalism in Nigeria.

Atiku also argued that there is no alternative to a policy that promotes the growth of local economies, calling for an urgent diversification programme to be led by the federal government.
“Let’s begin to visualise a Nigeria without oil,” he said.

The former VP said the country could only succeed in an environment where there is a more open and market orientated economy.
Atiku blamed Abuja for the problems in some of the states, arguing that they must be encouraged to be self-reliant, and stop depending on handouts from the federal government.

He said further that some of them continued to borrow beyond their means for recurrent expenditure rather than learning how to generate the funds locally and internally.

According to him, the administration that he and former President Olusegun Obasanjo led between 1999 and 2007, had liberalised and paid off Nigeria’s debts in full, adding that something had gone wrong in the last 12 years, and that borrowing has gone up again.

The former vice president said he wants to see a budget heavy on capital expenditure to improve the country’s infrastructure. He said the states must be challenged to take on these projects on a micro level.

The potential People Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate called on the current government to embrace the private sector and other partners to help both restructure and move the country forward.

On the social contract between leaders and the led, Atiku said it was important to change the politics as well-moving towards true federalism.

He urged Nigerians to get involved in a collective effort to move the country forward because both its citizens and Africa need “a Nigeria that is working.”

The former VP said some of the recent statements by some political leaders about the youths where an indication that they do not understand labour or business. He said Nigeria must adopt a system where only people who understand business must go into government.
Atiku therefore called on Nigerian voters to demand concrete plans from those seeking political office on how they would create wealth and generate income. He said slogans cannot build a country, but a shared vision can.

Finally, in an explosive question and answer session, when asked if he considered running as an independent presidential candidate in the event he failed to win the PDP ticket, he said: “We wait until that time.”