Deji Elumoye in Abuja
After months of consultations, Senate President Bukola Saraki Thursday declared his interest for the country’s presidency and said he would seek the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he returned to last month from the All Progressives Congress (APC), to bid for the nation’s top job.
Saraki made his declaration in Abuja at a dialogue with young aspirants in the PDP, saying he decided to throw his hat into the ring following pressure from the nation’s teeming youth who had asked him to run for President.
He promised to turn Nigeria around, strengthen the anti-corruption institutions and tackle other challenges facing Nigeria.
The Senate president enumerated several problems bedevilling the country to include unemployment, hunger, insecurity, lack of medical care, lack of education, lack of economic growth, terrorism, kidnapping, communal and farmers/herders clashes.
Saraki expressed his readiness to tackle all these challenges if elected as the president in February 2019.
According to him, this is an urgent task that requires the concerted efforts “of each and every one of us”.
He also painted a gory picture of an average Nigerian citizen, “If we look around today, what do we see? What is the condition of our citizens? Where are we as a nation? How are we perceived locally and internationally? Why are we not making the expected progress? Why are we not growing? There is no time to waste. The time is now, to come together to stimulate growth in Nigeria, especially in the national economy.
“The choice we face in the forthcoming election is either to keep things as they are, or make a radical departure from the old ways – to find a better way of doing things or keep repeating the mistakes of the past. To fix the problems or keep compounding them.”
He justified his presidential run, “It is with all these in mind, and taking account of the challenges that I have outlined, that I have decided to answer the call of teeming youth who have asked me to run for the president.
“Accordingly, I hereby announce my intention to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the coming general election in 2019 on the platform of the PDP. I do so with the firm conviction that I have what it takes to secure inclusive growth for Nigeria and its people.”
Saraki promised to run an all-inclusive government devoid of tribalism or religious creed.
“My plan for Nigeria has inclusion in all aspects of the country’s affairs as a central pillar. Every citizen has the inalienable right to feel a sense of belonging, no matter their background or creed, or what part of the country they come from; no matter who you voted for or what your convictions are, government must work for you,” he added.
Wooing the youth, he said their generation did not deserve to live in the poverty capital of the world.
“It is no longer an issue of how we got here, but how do we get out of this situation? I promise you that I will lead the fight and employ every God-given resource available to us in turning things around. I am determined to grow Nigeria out of poverty. We will stimulate the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as one of the ways of energising the economy and to create wealth for our people, especially the youth,” the presidential aspirant said.
He emphasised that his government will actively involve the youth from the local government to the federal level.
“I want to see the youth play major roles at all levels, not only in government but also in the private sector and indeed in every area of Nigerian life,” he said.
He also stressed his administration’s commitment towards eradicating corruption in both the nation’s public and private sectors.
“Ours will not be a selective fight against corruption. The emphasis will be on strengthening institutions, with a particular focus on deterrence. We cannot afford to compromise our institutions with proxy wars against perceived political opponents. We see the fight against corruption as crucial to Nigeria’s economic development,” he added.
On security, Saraki said his plan would be to secure Nigeria by redesigning the national security architecture, while adequately equipping the security agencies to fulfil their primary role of protecting lives and property.
He enumerated his other programmes to include addressing the country’s infrastructural deficit through aggressive financing initiatives, including mutually beneficial public private partnership (PPP) arrangements, regular floating of bonds and other financial instruments, which will ensure stable, adequate and reliable funding to see to the completion of core projects especially road, rail and power.
He said: “I offer leadership driven by empathy where leaders are responsive to the citizens – where they know that government cares. We will not be indifferent or turn a blind eye to the real concerns of our people. Every single Nigerian life matters.
“For me, the leadership we deserve is one that will be a source of pride to all Nigerians, one that will be respected and admired in Africa and around the world. It should be a leadership that can hold its own and stand tall anywhere in the world. That is the type of leadership I offer.
“As a former two-term governor and currently President of the Senate by the grace of God, I believe I possess a unique blend of executive and legislative experience to push for and implement reforms that will deliver real improvements in the daily lives of our people. I know what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy. I can make the tough decisions when it matters. I will spearhead a new agenda that can transform the lives of ordinary Nigerians in real terms.”