Atiku at NGE Forum, Vows to Continue Obasanjo’s Economic Policies
•Restates desire to privatise ailing government enterprises
•Says nation needs healing, vows to form government of national unity
•Reiterates support for resource control
•Upbeat about reconciling with Wike-led group
Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, promised to revive economic policies that were implemented during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, when he served as vice president, if elected president next year.
Specifically, he said he would encourage increased private sector investment to stimulate economic activities, promote job creation, and give attention to poverty alleviation.
The former vice president made the assertions in Lagos during an interactive session with members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
Atiku said his administration would work closely with the private sector to fix the country’s infrastructure deficit. He restated his favourable disposition to resource control by endowed sub-national units, and said he remained optimistic about reconciliation with fellow party man and governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.
Atiku stated, “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.”
The PDP candidate said his first job, as president if elected, would be restructuring. He restated his commitment to ensuring that necessary constitutional amendments that would cause a transfer of more powers and resources to other tiers of government were activated on his first day in office, if elected.
He also pledged to form a government of national unity.
Atiku stated that in the last few years, the country had been polarised along sectarian, religious and ethnic lines, hence, only a government of national unity would heal the wound.
Commenting further on his plan for a government of national unity, Atiku said what the PDP government did under the Obasanjo administration, when members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) were included in the government after the PDP won the election in 1999, paved the way for reconciliation and unity after a tense period.
“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,” he said.
Atiku declared that he would not behave like President Muhammadu Buhari, who picked almost all the heads of security agencies from a section of the country, saying if he becomes the president, he will ensure that every geo-political zone has a sense of belonging and is represented in the headship of the security agencies.
On the economy, he said he would continue with the economic policies Obasanjo implemented, particularly, the privatisation of ailing public enterprises.
Atiku stressed the importance of a private sector-driven economy, saying the greatest economies in the world are private-sector focused.
“Most successful economies allow the private sector to play its role and we saw prosperity during Obasanjo’s administration,” he said.
He said rather than borrowing money to build roads and bridges, government could concession such to the private sector, which would help create the needed jobs and prosperity.
On how he would improve the security situation in the country, Atiku said he would ensure more recruitment of personnel, purchase more equipment, train more personnel, and commit more funds to the security agencies.
He also declared his support for state police, and promised to include more women in governance, saying PDP included more women when it was in government, compared with current the All Progressives Congress (APC) federal administration.
Atiku stressed that he had been an apostle of resource control, devolution of power, and restructuring, even when the north was not favourably disposed to them.
He disclosed that he had assembled a pool of constitutional lawyers to help him put together legislation that would be forwarded to the National Assembly to facilitate the necessary amendments to the constitution to ensure restructuring.
On the lingering crisis within the PDP, Atiku assured his audience that it would soon be resolved, describing it as 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.
The PDP presidential candidate, however, pointed out that it was unfortunate that a section of the media chose to misinterpret his comments at a session with the Lagos Business School Alumni Association on Tuesday.
He stated, “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.”
In his remarks, Governor of Sokoto State and Director General of the Atiku National Campaign Management Committee (NCMC) for the 2023 elections, Aminu Tambuwal, said the former vice president was prepared to hit the ground running if elected. Tambuwal said electing Atiku would ensure Nigeria was in safe hands.
Speaking earlier, President of NGE, Mustapha Issa, said the editors’ forum was designed to give opportunity to various candidates to present their policies to the electorate before the election.
Issa advised all the candidates in the 2023 election to avoid mudslinging and attack on personality. He urged them to concentrate on issues that could promote the future of the country.
Present at the forum were Chairman, PDP Campaign Council, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Timi Alaibe; Alhaji Muktar Shagari; Mazi Sam Ohunabunwa; Hon. Ndidi Elumelu; Dr. Raymond Dokpesi; Dele Momodu; Liyel Imoke; Alhaji Mohammed Hayatudeen; Managing Director of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Eniola Bello; and PDP governorship candidate for Lagos State, Dr. Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, among others.