GETTING NIGERIA TO WORK AGAIN

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Atiku Abubakar

Monday comment1

Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi will manage the economy better, writes Grace Bunor

The average Nigerian must have learnt something and forgotten nothing in these past three and half years that Muhammadu Buhari has held forte as the country’s president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.  One needs not over-emphasize the fact that life has been nothing but tough on several fronts.

I am one that hardly likes joining issues with people who hold different political opinions from mine.  Reason being that, there is no amount of argument I can put forward that would reverse whatever opinion they hold. However, in recent time I have come to realize that remaining indifferent or sitting on the fence when serious issues of national importance are in the public domain, I should take position and declare where I stand.

It is therefore in the light of this, that I make bold to join those who are clamouring for the Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi presidency come February 16 election.  The question is why Atiku and Obi and not Buhari and Osibanjo?  The answer is that we have had a test of Buhari and Osibanjo leadership and the bitterness of it leaves much to be desired particularly with respect to the ‘grounding’ of the economy.

We should not forget in a hurry that one of the three campaign promises of Buhari in 2015 was taking the economy to a higher level with the provision of employment for the teeming youths and other unemployed persons.  Regrettably, in the last three and half years not only had the administration failed in providing reasonable number of jobs, but has precipitated massive layoffs in different sectors of the economy.  In the banking sector, many commercial banks have had to disengage many of the staff.  It is the same story in other sectors, such that the statistics of those out of job between 2015 and now are well close to 10 million across the sectors.

The resultant effect of this job loss is the increase in criminality as many jobless people easily resort to self-help including involvement in activities that are ordinarily illegal but cash rewarding. There is the tendency to argue that joblessness should not be an excuse for indulging in criminality as a skilled jobless man can easily innovate or create some form of self employment. Yet for me, it should not largely be a defense for an administration that has promised to provide jobs for its citizens.  The number of suspected criminals being paraded on weekly or daily basis by the various state police commands attests to the worsening scenario in our country.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice may have good intentions for the country by way of creating some sense of infrastructural development, yet their inability to create jobs alongside the infrastructure is like building blocks of flats with nobody occupying same.  Whatever reason the Buhari administration could give as reason for the failure to fulfill the electoral promise of providing jobs was made worse by the inability of Prof. Yemi Osibanjo to carry the day when he had a public debate with Peter Obi in late 2018.

It was evident from the debate that even though Osibanjo is a learned man with professorship in law, his knowledge of development economics is incomparable with Peter Obi.  From the debate, an average Nigerian who intellectually shared in the discourse would readily conclude that Obi brings to the fore more knowledge needed to transform the economy.

While Osibanjo was enthused by the ability of the Buhari administration to go after recovering some money from corrupt Nigerians, Obi would not see how the pursuit of suspected criminal elements would be regarded as economic development.  To Obi, developing the economy for the good of the citizenry should go beyond chasing those who once looted the treasury because in an attempt to concentrate more in the chase of treasury looters, attention is diverted from potential looters capable of destroying the economy.

With his antecedents as a prudent manager of men and resources while holding sway as governor of Anambra State, Obi is a perfect combination with Atiku whose success as a businessman is evident.  With thousands of Nigerians working in different companies owned by him, Atiku stands miles apart from President Buhari whose only credential as a businessman or entrepreneur is the ownership of about 130 cows.

The man Atiku is an expert job creator who has founded many successful and thriving businesses including the ABTI-American University of Nigeria, in Yola.  He is also reputed to have created a micro-finance bank that has moved about 45,000 families out of poverty just as his company Rica Gado, a livestock feed company has significantly reduced instances of herdsmen/farmers clashes by providing a business friendly solution instead of asking Nigerians to give up their lands for cattle ranching or face death as the Buhari government did.

Quite unlike President Buhari, the PDP presidential chieftain does not believe that Nigerian youths are lazy.  Atiku is quite empathic with the aspirations of the youths and rather than cast aspersions on them like Buhari, Atiku has provided no fewer than 25,000 of them with employment.  This forms part of the 50,000 work force in his group of companies. Also a good number of Nigerian youths who are in tertiary institutions both home and abroad are enjoying free tuition under the Atiku Abubakar Special Scholarship scheme.

With respect to security, which forms part of his campaign manifesto in 2015, President Buhari’s administration has performed below expectation.  With his background as a former military top brass, Nigerians had expected an easier combat against the criminal elements in our midst.  Though officials of the administration keep telling us that the Boko Haram insurgency has been technically defeated, yet the country has continued to lose the precious lives of its military personnel and other security forces fighting the insurgents.

The issue becomes more frightening with the recent revelations by some of the soldiers in the terror zone that they are fighting with obsolete equipment, thereby becoming easy prey to the enemies.  This ugly development which has exposed some agents of the administration to the fact that there may be a hidden agenda in some quarters for the insurgency to continue unabated since some Buhari administration’s officials may be benefitting immensely from it.

Matters are not helped with the lopsided appointment of officers of northern extraction to head the security forces.  Whatever good intentions President Buhari may have had towards creating a politically stable Nigeria are rubbished by the unpatriotic actions he has continued to take particularly in the appointment of his men of Fulani origin with a total disregard for the constitutional requirement of federal character in such appointments.

His penchant for the championing of his Fulani ethnic interest is legendary such that one begins at some point to ask if his own Fulani extraction is different from the likes of Atiku who consider other Nigerians as having equal stake in the affairs of the country.  Buhari’s ethno-centrism has even misled him to the point that he longer sees anything wrong in the activities of his herdsmen brothers who keep killing innocent citizens of other tribes in the Middle Belt and other places where they are not easily given access to breed their cows.

Hundreds of Middle Belt citizens were slaughtered in 2017 and 2018 and the situation became quite worrisome that Buhari’s indifference to the spate of killings began to evoke some reactions even from his retired military colleagues like General Theophilous Danjuma and Lawrence Onoja.

It remains incontrovertible that the Buhari administration has failed woefully with respect to security in those areas where his Fulani herdsmen clash with farmers.  Records show that nothing concrete has been done against perpetrators of the criminality simply because the President does not want to be in the bad book of his tribe.  To the average Nigerian, he has taken ethno-centrism too far in a 21st Century Nigeria where the likes of Atiku, Obi and other well meaning Nigerians see the whole country as their constituency with little or no intent to play up ethnic card.

Now is the time for Nigerians to vote for a man with an all-inclusive agenda of making Nigeria to work again.

Bunor, a sociologist, wrote from Asaba