The four main presidential candidates on Thursday in Abuja outlined their plans and how they will tackle critical issues if they are elected president in the upcoming elections.

Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); Tinubu Ball of the All Progressive Congress (APC); Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP); and Peter Obi of the Labor Party (LP), spoke at the 20th Daily Trust Dialogue organized by Media Trust Limited, publishers of the Daily Trust newspaper.

With the theme: “Interrogating the Presidential Agenda 2023”, the program was attended by former governors, traditional rulers, diplomats, civil society groups, students and academics.

The presidential election takes place on February 25 with the candidates of all registered political parties in the country on the ballot.

Speaking about his program for the country, Atiku said that currently Nigeria has fallen below all known standards, in social, economic and political benchmarks.

“Our experience of the last seven years under APC rule had made us doubt our strength as a people. The biggest thing APC will be remembered for is how it failed to maintain the integrity of our unit,” he said.

Atiku promised that the first direction “our administration will take is to reinvent the governing principle of national unity.”

“For me, the next elections are not a winner requires all the exercise. On the contrary, it will be a win-win because I will make a deliberate attempt to win the trust of all Nigerians when we create an atmosphere where government and governance are owned by all Nigerians.

“The drive to achieve national unity becomes easier. And with our unity restored, it becomes easier to address the other challenges of security, economy, education and devolution of powers,” said the former vice president.

In the same vein, the APC candidate said that if elected, he will create a better life for all and a bright future for our youth.

“We will revive our economy and our manufacturing sector and return Nigeria to a place of industrialization and job creation. We will manufacture, produce and increase the quality of the goods and services we need,” said Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state.

“Nigeria will be known as a nation of producers and creators, not just consumers.

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Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of Media Trust Group
Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of Media Trust Group

Then, on the other hand, NNPP’s Mr. Kwankwaso argued that Nigeria needs a leader to tackle insecurity, an evil that plagues the country.

“As it stands today, we have more security issues, even in other parts of the country, especially in the Northwest and even in the Northeast. That is why we are increasing the number of the military and that is why we are going to provide special training, special equipment, relevant technology, etc., to combat the situation or insecurity from 2023 onwards.

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“And we believe that Nigeria has the numbers, the ability and the determination to ensure peace in this country and that is exactly what we will do,” Kwankwaso said.

He added: “With peace, you will see people come to invest; You don’t have to come out and yell. They see the situation and that is why they decided to leave the country to go to another place where there is better peace”.

According to Mr. Kwankwaso, the LP candidate also said that “the number one priority today in Nigeria is the issue of insecurity.”

Obi said: “Insecurity has become an existential problem for Nigeria. You can’t talk about being a country unless that country is safe. If you address insecurity, food inflation will be addressed, and we will immediately review and restructure the country’s security architecture.

High school students at the event.

Regarding the economy, the LP standard-bearer said: “I will make this country go from consumption to production. Look at the vast lands we have in the North. That is the most important fiscal asset of the country today”.

Worrying security status

Earlier in his opening remarks, Media Trust Limited Chairman Kabiru Yusuf said this year’s event was organized in the hope that Nigerians will learn what will prepare them for the twists and turns of the coming weeks.

He lamented the terrible state of insecurity in the country and said that the government and its security agencies should be aware that in hundreds of towns and villages in the northwest and northeast of the country, banditry and kidnappings have made normal life impossible.

“It remains to be seen whether people facing such existential threats can patiently line up to exercise their civic duty,” Yusuf said.

“In the southeast, violent IPOB agitation, mainly directed against police and INEC facilities and staff, could deter entire communities from voting. This deliberate disenfranchisement will fuel the separatist agenda and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“When you add this to the online and offline political vitriol; the dirty tricks campaign and the dirtiest money circulating; it is hard to imagine an election result without opposition.

“Indeed, if we, the citizens, ignore the provocations, Nigeria could be the ultimate winner at the polls. It is in our collective interest to give this poor but rich country another chance to rise from the ashes,” he said.

For her part, Mary-Beth Leonard, United States ambassador to Nigeria, said the United States supports transparent and credible elections that reflect the will of the people in a process that is carried out peacefully.

“The 2023 elections are a critical opportunity for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest democracy, to consolidate its place as the democratic leader in Africa,” said Ms. Leonard.

Ms. Leonard said that her country does not favor a particular candidate but a peaceful and transparent electoral process in Nigeria. She believes that elections are the foundation of democracy based on the legitimate transfer of power.

“But it is valuable for us to reflect on the fact that since 1999, Nigerian voters have successfully demonstrated their democratic powers to elect leaders six times in the country,” he said.

“For more than two decades, Nigeria has demonstrated to Africa and the world its strong commitment to peaceful, credible and transparent elections at a time when many places in West Africa face challenges to democratic processes. For Nigeria, these rules of the democratic games are internalized and accepted”.

The diplomat added that as election day approaches, “we urge the political parties to adhere to their peace commitment and the promise of September 2022.

“The candidates will soon have another opportunity to affirm their commitment to the democratic process by signing the pre-election peace agreement and accepting the election results.”

The United States stands firm with the demands and wishes of Nigerian voters for full transparency of electoral integrity, Ms. Leonard said.

“Persons who undermine or undermine the democratic process in any way, including intimidation and violence, may not be eligible for visas to travel to the United States. We have taken steps in the past to impose US visa restrictions against those complicit in undermining electoral processes.

“Similarly, we will deny or cancel visas for those who try to undermine the upcoming elections. Visa records are confidential, we cannot and do not announce the identities of the people subject to the sanction, but I can tell you that I personally know people whose travel to the US was blocked for these reasons”, he concluded.

drastic change is needed

Also speaking, Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja John Onaiyekan raised a question on the show asking “whether this election will bring significant change to our nation.”

According to him, a relatively small group has been running the nation’s affairs mainly loosely between two political parties with no specific ideological identity but mainly structures to capture power.

Mr. Onaiyekan argued that if things are going to change for the better, that change needs to be drastic.

“It can’t be business as usual. A drastic change of orientation is necessary, especially in the concept and practice of political power characterized by politics as a sincere and honest service of the common good and not as ways and means of capturing power for one’s own interest.

“Let professional riggers be given strong notice that it will not be business as usual this time. This is not a threat, but a sincere warning and may those with ears listen,” Mr. Onaiyekan said.

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