Atiku’s Policy Document of Growth

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SATURDAY POLITY  

If properly implement, observers feel that recently launched policy document titled ‘Let’s Get Nigeria Working Again,’ by the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is what the country needs to be on the path of development, Ugo Aliogo writes

Since the former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the party’s ticket to contest the 2019 election, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the presidency has been seriously unsettled. More unsettling perhaps was Atiku’s policy document titled: ‘Let’s Get Nigeria Working Again,’ recently launched. Atiku listed human capital development, job creation, poverty eradication and infrastructure development as the corner stones of his economic policy, if elected president. In the 63-page document which has been a reference point lately, the PDP flag bearer said his broad mission is to unite and secure the country by building a strong, resilient and prosperous modern economy that would work for Nigerians’ needs.

Specifically, he said his target would be to create three million jobs annually, just as he disclosed that he would re-launch the National Open Apprenticeship Programme (NOAP) and ensure speedy passage of the National Research and Innovation Fund Bill. He added that his vision is to deliver an affordable and easily accessible transportation system that would be fully integrated across the length the breadth of Nigeria. He also criticised President Buhari’s next level manifesto as vague, saying his economic agenda would include promoting economic diversification,

He stated, “Poverty does not simply have one solution; rather it requires the concerted application of many solutions. Nigeria has vast natural resources, but our challenge remains harnessing these resources for the greatest good.”

According to him, “There would be deliberate efforts to increase access to electricity for Nigerians, including those in rural areas. My vision is to ensure that Nigeria’s economy is responsive to the challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy by keeping the amazingly dynamic technological pace. I will like to see a country where our people live and work in an environment that guarantees the highest level of social empowerment.”

The former vice president stressed that Nigeria could surpass its growth expectations beyond its dreams, adding that he would ensure an increased inflow of foreign direct investment to a maximum of 2.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. He said he would work towards achieving the lowest corporate income tax rate in Africa; strengthen credit guarantee initiatives of infra-credit, by substantially increasing its capital base and lower transaction costs; amongst others.

According to him, his pledge to Nigerians is that “we can get Nigeria working again.”

Atiku said his mission would be to reinforce Nigeria’s unity by promoting the spirit of co-operation and consensus, especially in a society “that is as complex and as heterogeneous as Nigeria;” establishing a strong effective democratic government that secures Nigerians and provides opportunities for them to realise their full potentials, allows greater autonomy for the federating units and gives each region in the country a sense of belonging.

He pointed out that despite the country’s vast resources, Nigeria has failed to deliver the development and living standards expected in the country.

“Nigeria’s under-performance is attributable largely to the many economic and political structural fault lines that limits its ability to sustain growth, create jobs and achieve real poverty reduction. Nigeria needs a unity that is transparently and collectively negotiated and agreed upon. We need to restructure our polity,” he added.

Atiku pointed out that while economic growth in Nigeria has remained slow and uninspiring, the economy has remained undiversified, uncompetitive and foreign investments has continued to decline. In addition, he stated in the policy document that Nigeria is in a precarious fiscal position, has a fragile financial system, poor exchange rate management system as well as regional disparities. He said his administration would promote agri-business by collaborating with the states; promote the manufacturing sector to achieve increased manufacturing output from nine per cent, to 30 per cent of GDP by 2025.

Similarly, Atiku disclosed plan to support micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs), saying Nigeria has a vibrant informal sector with nearly 40 million MSMEs employing 60 million people or 84 per cent of the labour force; promote the oil and gas sector by among other things, expanding the oil and gas reserves and boost upstream and downstream production. He said if elected, he would build a knowledge-based economy and establish a technology support programme to be funded by a Diaspora bond.

The PDP presidential candidate said his administration, if elected, would increase Nigeria’s export base and the country’s market in Africa; sign-off the African Free Trade Continental Agreement (AfCFTA), which the Buhari government has failed to sign; engage the organised private sector to identify how best to harness the benefits of the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA); promote public-private partnerships, among others.

In the area of anti-corruption and rule of law, Atiku said he would champion institutional reforms of anti-corruption agencies and strengthen them to be more effective, retool Nigeria’s foreign policy instruments as well as reactivate meaningful registration at birth as a way of reducing crime and protect Nigerians.

He spoke about security, “Our national security is multi-dimensional. It has gone beyond armed defence to include protection of democratic and constitutional values like food security, peace, human, political and economic security. Resolving the unfair access to democratic dividends to reduce internal armed conflicts, insurgencies, crimes and militancy.”

To many observers, Atiku’s policy document is what the country needs right now to get it working again. They believe that if properly implemented, it will not only set Nigeria on the path of development but peace

It is no longer news that President Buhari’s approval rating has taken a plunge in the last three years that he has been in office, which informs the belief by political pundits that a run against the president in 2019 posses no political risk.

Various polls and public opinion have returned a damning verdict on President Buhari’s stewardship, with their results and opinions showing that over the last three years the president’s job performance rating has taken a downward turn for the worse, plummeting from his highest rating of 78 per cent and 80 per cent recorded in September and October 2015, to 37 per cent recorded in August 2016 and more recently to 39 per cent respectively.

In more specific terms, the average approval rating of the president in 2018 stands below average at 39.6 per cent; with his latest rating of May 2018 at 41 per cent. He did poorly in all areas of assessment. So if 2018 holds the truth for 2019, a well-grounded candidate like Atiku can confront the president with possibility of electoral good show.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the former vice president has been the most prepared Nigerian to steer the ship of state in the last decade. However he hasn’t been able to actualise his ambition because of the disposition of some detractors who feel threatened by the rich credentials that he brings to the table.

Furthermore, governance is not about making pretences to integrity or about some shadowy fight against graft. It has little to do with age. It has more to do with competence, sensitivity and responsiveness to the plights of the governed. In and out of public offices, the Wazirin Adamawa exemplifies excellence. His mission, as contained in his acceptance speech in Port Harcourt has a huge trunk to do with making Nigeria a better place for all.

Many Nigerians believe that his standpoint on the vexed issues on restructuring and fiscal federalism are timely wake up call, and will form a major part of the issues that will shape campaigns for the nation’s most coveted political position in 2019.

Being that a man of Atiku’s standing was the one canvassing for ‘resource control’ made a lot of difference within the context of power alignments.

He has consistently argued that, Nigeria as currently constituted as an entity is rooted in corruption, impunity and injustice and thus must be reconstituted. According to him, political and civic leaders from across the country must come together, discuss, negotiate and make the necessary compromises and sacrifices needed to restructure our federation to make the nation a stronger, more united, productive, and competitive country. His contention is that there is a flaw in the country’s constitution which was why there is a recurring cry of marginalization from every section of the country. Atiku believes that no section of Nigeria can claim correctly that its people are better served by the current structure of our federation.

He has since challenged those who against restructuring the country’s federal system as it currently stands, to show an example of countries that are functioning well with a structure such as Nigeria.

Whatever one’s arguments are, restructuring will shape the way Nigerians will vote during the Nigeria’s next presidential election.

Atiku’s blueprint for Nigeria is by far his strongest weapon. The rich manifesto addresses all the challenges currently confronting the country. From defence and security, through job creation, education and infrastructure to poverty alleviation and power, no document from any presidential candidate in the history of Nigeria come close to Atiku’s manifesto in terms of concept, content and creativity.

Reacting to the document, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, it represented the quest of Nigerians for a new leadership and a better life in the country. He said policy document offered solutions and practical direction for delivery in all sectors.

“Atiku’s policy document is a product of very wide, painstaking and productive consultations with Nigerians from all walks of live, critical stakeholders and development partners in key sectors, in the overall determination to chart a new course for our nation. The policy document foretells a new dawn as it articulates practical solutions and answers to the myriad of economic, social and political challenges facing our nation and sets out all-inclusive templates for national rejuvenation, cohesion, protection of human rights and democratic tenets, wealth creation, transparency and elimination of corruption in governance.”