By Sam Akpe
On Sunday night, he wasn’t very interested in watching TV; until I got a compelling message from a politically minded friend. He came as a directive: Atiku is on the TV channels. Look and give me your opinion.
Reluctantly, I grabbed the TV remote, switched off the sports channel, and switched to Channels TV. He simply needed to fulfill all justice. He had a beautiful book that he needed to read that night.
There sat Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa and presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. To his left was Ifeanyi Okowa, a former senator and acting governor of Delta State; and of course, Atiku’s running mate.
I sat up, hoping to get away soon. But after a few minutes, it seemed like I was getting interested in the conversation. Good penetrating questions flowed from the audience followed by what seemed like frank answers from Atiku and Okowa.
Atiku looked tired. Intermittently, what looked like a smile crossed his lips. At other times, he became a little too serious, perhaps anticipating another difficult question.
I could excuse it. The heat in Abuja is unbearable. The city lives an intense trial to compete with hell. That alone is enough to melt any political rock in Atiku’s mould.
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One of the comments I kept hearing from Atiku was: as reflected in my Compact with Nigerians. Another question and the answer was: we have already dealt with that in my Compact with the Nigerians. I kept thinking: what is this Compact with the Nigerians about?
From my observation, throughout the session, Atiku did not mention any of his political opponents in the Villa race. He concentrated on the questions asked. No abuse directed at anyone. He kept his responses brief and did not outsource any questions.
One interesting aspect of that interview was when he answered a question about Wike. The man who submitted the question got straight to the point: why hasn’t he personally engaged with Nyesom Wike on this issue that is affecting his chances in 2023?
Atiku’s response was short and quite presidential. Remember that ever since Rivers State Governor Wike lost the presidential bid to Atiku in the party’s primary, he has cut himself off from the winner.
Beyond that, he campaigned and rallied loyalists in four other states to fight Atiku’s candidacy with the excuse that the party’s president, Senator Iyorcha Ayu, must resign because the party cannot have both the candidate and the president. from North.
Your argument makes a lot of sense, except for two reasons. First, he has gotten so personal and seemingly arrogant on the subject that he wants Nigerians to know that without him, Atiku cannot be president. He’s already hanging Rivers State’s two million votes as personal property.
Of course, Wike looks like a sore loser who needs to be compensated. His eyes were on the vice-presidential candidacy, in his own right. That didn’t happen. For unknown reasons, those who selected candidates for that position disqualified him.
These two reasons have made the otherwise good Wike case seem like a personal mission for personal gain. Under normal circumstances, he should have been applauded for fighting for the rule of law and moral fairness, but this has not happened.
A pushy politician mentioned to me the other day that if it weren’t for Wike’s swagger, the PPD’s victory at the polls would have been easy. As he said, by now, Atiku should have chosen his waiting room and made his oath outfit.
So when Wike’s question came up during the presidential candidates’ engagement at Channels’ Television Town Hall, Atiku gave a short answer that I hope Wike will answer soon after celebrating his birthday.
Atiku noted that he had faced Wike twice in Rivers State, twice in Abuja and once in the UK. He did not reveal if he bought Wike’s plane ticket to the UK or if they flew on his private jet.
What Atiku said in effect was that as a person, having started five peace movements, Wike has remained stubborn, inflexible, almost playing god. But anyway, he’s still waiting for Wike to get back to him with an answer. Will?
I was interested when questions about economics were asked because that is the basis of development. When the economy works, all other aspects of national development fall into line.
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This is what he said about the dead refineries across the country: “for the four refineries that are not working, please turn them over to the private sector. I mean, in all the big countries in this (world), you find that the private sector is the engine of the economy.”
He continued: “They provide the jobs, they provide the prosperity, and they do everything. Why should we be different? Atiku’s belief is that these refineries would perform optimally if they were managed by private investors. I think that makes a bit of sense.
Can Atiku guarantee an exchange rate for the naira if he is elected president? He said that he would. I am not an economist. I don’t know how that sector works. But the man made it sound so simple when asked how he could stop the currency shortage.
His response: “I will order the Central Bank to stop multiple exchanges so that we close the gap.” So?
Then came another controversial issue with which the current government has been playing politically: the elimination of the subsidy for petroleum derivatives. Atiku said that he would achieve this by negotiating with relevant stakeholders on palliatives. I never like that word.
He stated that according to the Oil Industry Law, whether the government removes the subsidy or not, by June 2023, the subsidy will be removed only based on the law passed by the National Assembly.
As a northeaster, it is believed that Atiku should be concerned about the deadly threat posed by Boko Haram. So when the question came up, I became more attentive. His response revealed little or no how he would deal with the situation beyond providing good governance. Atiku, like other Nigerians, expressed surprise that with all the human and material resources committed to the fight against Boko Haram, the bloody and religiously motivated rebel group still stands to be defeated. “I’m baffled,” he pointed out, as you could see on his face.
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He continued: “So maybe when I get there, I’ll understand. But honestly, I can’t understand the Boko Haram phenomenon.” He said that it was not a mere act of terror. A lot of politics and business could be attributed to it, but with the right leadership, it could be managed.
By then, in 2014, candidate Buhari had vowed to end Boko Haram within three months of taking office. Atiku is saying: let me get there first, study the dynamics before you commit. Should we trust him?
Two sectors of the nation’s development that have suffered at the hands of successive governments were also seriously questioned during the Cabildo. These were education and health. As always, analysis was followed by promises.
Well, the town hall engagement turned out to be quite rewarding as I listened to Atiku’s responses to questions on various topics. Okowa was quite eloquent on the issues of militancy, health and education.
One question to which Atiku did not give a satisfactory answer, in my subjective opinion, was about the public murder of Deborah by a gang of religious fundamentalists.
Yes, he condemned the act in a public statement, but why did he delete his initial tweets condemning that murder? His response was that the tweet did not have his approval although the content seemed acceptable to him. That’s not cool.
As the engagement came to an end, my mind went back to the publication called Compact with Nigerians. At dawn I was able to get a copy; In addition, another called Restructuring as a Path to Unity and Development. I’m still studying them.
The Pact deals with what Atiku calls: the Five Point Development Agenda, which comprises: unity, security, economic prosperity, education and restructuring. A review of these documents is much needed and will be done soon.