Atiku Abubakar says that he has been talking to Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Obi.

In this interview he gave to the BBC Hausa service monitored by PREMIUM TIMES, Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar explains why he has been seeking to be president of Nigeria. He also talks about his relationship with his main rival, All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu, his views on the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and other topics.

Mohammed Babangida translated the interview.

Extracts:

Question: You have been competing for this position (president). Why do you want to be president of Nigeria?

atiku: My ambition is to make sure that I use the experience I have in public service and politics to help develop this country. But most importantly, which has been bothering me, as I tell my children, I have many children and I have given them the education they deserve, both religious and conventional. Most of my children have been to other countries, but I also make sure that they all come back to Nigeria to live here. So, I used to think about what kind of country my children will find themselves in the future. When I think about the situation and future generations, it motivates me to keep competing to see if God gives me the opportunity to be president.

Question: So when you become president, what do you hope to do differently from what was done, for example, during the DPP years?

atiku: I will focus on five main issues. First, the insecurity that afflicts all corners of the country. He will unite the country by running a just and just government. There is also the issue of the economy and education. The last one looks at how some responsibilities and functions can be transferred to state and local government councils in the country because when you look at it, the federal government has taken over government dealings. So these five things are what I will prioritize if I am elected president of the country.

Question: But how do you think you can use these priorities to solve the country’s problems, because each candidate will say that they would do these things that you have mentioned? What style would you use to ensure these priorities work differently?

atiku: Well, the difference is that I’ve done it before and people have witnessed what I’ve done. Did the other (presidential candidates) do anything like me? Can you say that you have done something like me?

Question: Let’s take the issue of insecurity in the Northwest as an example. How do you plan to approach it?

atiku: First I will increase the number of security agents, I will increase their weapons and other equipment, I will increase their salaries. These are things I intend to do immediately when I become president.

There is also a decision that I am thinking of taking that is to look at the possibility of allowing states to have their own security agencies. However, we will monitor the activities of the states to ensure that they did not use state security agents to intimidate the opposition.

Question: What you intend to do requires funding and it is obvious that there is no money in the country. Even the country’s foreign exchange reserve is dwindling and the country’s debt profile is also huge, reading around N16 trillion. Where do you plan to get the money to do these things you mentioned?

atiku: A good thing about debt is that you can sit down and discuss with those who owe you to reach an agreement on the form of payment. You can look for an extension to pay when your economy recovers… …

Secondly, the moment we tackle the problem of insecurity, we will invite foreign companies to come and invest in the country, which can boost our economy and reduce the level of poverty.

Question: (interrupts): You’re talking about foreign companies when the naira is always falling while the dollar keeps going up… .

atiku: (Interrupts) This depends on the efforts made by the government at a given time. For example, this government did something that we believe is wrong. The naira has three or four rates, but we think this is wrong. They should let the market decide the rate of the naira and not the government decide that.

Question: On education, UNICEF said that around 20 million children in the country do not attend school, most of them in the northern part of the country. How do you plan to tackle this problem?

atiku: There are 12 million of those children in the north. To be honest with you, state and local governments don’t use the money we send them from the federal government for the education sector. So what I will do is make sure that the state and local governments that collect money from the federal government use it to provide education.

Question: There is an incessant strike by the Union of Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU). This disagreement between ASUU and the federal government, how would you address it?

atiku: I’ll sit with them because I didn’t see any problem in doing that. I have been running a university for over 20 years and not once did our staff go on strike. Why do you think that,? I think it’s because we pay them their salaries and allowances when they are due.

Question: But your university is a private one that is expensive and is only for the children of the privileged… .

atiku: Even in that… . Even at public universities there was a federal scholarship board, but I don’t think it’s there now. So, I’ll revive that board to give loans to students who can’t fund their education.

Question: Let’s talk about health. There is a shortage of doctors and it is said that each doctor treats 2,000 people. Some of them are leaving the country in large numbers. If you are elected, what would you do to solve the problem of doctors leaving the country to practice in other countries?

atiku: If you can remember, a few years before we started this dispensation in 1999, we had these kinds of problems when our doctors were leaving the country for Saudi Arabia and others. But when the PDP came, we rehabilitated hospitals, built several more, and raised their salaries, they all returned. If the government is serious, it will do things well.

Question: So you mean you can bring them back if you’re chosen?

atiku: By the grace of God. First, make sure there is a conducive environment for them to practice. Hospitals must be well equipped and their salaries standardized.

Question: But you rich people go abroad to seek medical care…

atiku: What do you mean rich people?

Question: The rich and those in positions of authority. Some go out of the country to treat the headache…

atiku: No. I’m not one of them. Yes, I go abroad but not to treat the headache (laughs). It may be once after six months or a year I go out for a medical check up or when I fall I hurt my leg. Yes, I went abroad then and they treated me and I came back.

Question: Let’s talk about politics now. There is the issue of G-5 governors in his party. Don’t you think you have a problem because those governors are from the sub-region where the PPD is considered to be strong?

atiku: Well, every party has its own peculiar problems. We are discussing with them and most of them are neither here nor there. This will not affect our chances because we believe in the way that they (INEC) are planning to conduct the elections now, because it is not like in the days when a governor would be the one to decide who wins or not. The Law has changed that and now the election is decided by the electorate.

Question: LP and NNPP candidates are seen as capable of hindering your success. Many believe that it would have been better if you were with them.

atiku: Even if everyone in this country promises to elect you, you will not be at peace until you are elected.

Question: But these, Peter Obi and Kwankwaso, do they scare you?

atiku: No. No. I’m not afraid of them. They don’t make me nervous.

Question: Is there any chance that one of them will join you before the election?

atiku: Why not? It is very possible because this is all politics.

Question: Are you reaching out to them now or are you just sensing the possibility that they…

atiku: We are arguing with them.

Question: Who do you think between the two of you will easily join you?

atiku: Any of them can join us.

Question: Tinubu is your friend. They started together and had a political godfather, Shehu Yar’Adua. But now you’re blocking horns. Some may believe that he (Tinubu) knows his political strategies, don’t you think it will affect his chances?