At long last, the former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has officially announced his intention to run for the Nigerian presidency in the 2023 elections. As in the 2019 presidential elections, Abubakar is competing under the auspices of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The announcement, which was broadcast live on his Facebook page on Wednesday, was made at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. In attendance were former Vice President Namadi Sambo; Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri; former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, among others.
Abubakar’s announcement has surprised no one. The 72-year-old’s presidential ambition has been nationally known since he first vied for Aso Rock in 1993, when he contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries, but lost to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe.
Abubakar also lost the primaries in 2011 and 2015, under the PDP in the former, and under the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the latter. He was the 2007 presidential candidate of the Action Congress party, but lost to Umaru Yar’Adua of PDP. In February 2019, when he last contested for the presidential office, he lost by nearly 4 million votes to APC’s candidate and incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari. Abubakar called it a “sham election,” and contested the results in the courts. However, the Nigerian Supreme Court, in October of that year, dismissed Abubakar’s appeal as “lacking merit.”
Three years later, Abubakar’s opted for another bite at the cherry. This time, his bid is anchored on a five-point agenda.
Abubakar’s Five-point Agenda
Speaking on Wednesday, Abubakar laid out a five-point agenda on which his presidency would be built. It includes: (i) unity of Nigeria (ii) security (iii) economy (iv) education and (v) devolving more resources and powers to the federating units.
A large part of his Wednesday speech zoomed in on the Buhari-led APC government, which he said has “failed in its fundamental responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians.”
“Under my presidency, I want to focus on five key areas: Unity of Nigeria, security, economy, education and devolving more resources and powers to the federating units.”
“Since the civil war, the unity of Nigeria has never been threatened as it is today. Nigerians are losing hope in the oneness of this country. My fellow Nigerians, I am the unifier that is coming to bond the broken union.”
“We will open doors for dialogue to hear the grieving voices of all Nigerians. Under my presidency, there will be a new Nigeria, where everybody has an equal voice and is heard.”
“Throughout my life, I have never looked at Nigerians as divided people. In my eyes, all Nigerians are the same. When I see you, I don’t see Yoruba or Hausa or Igbo or Fulani or a northerner or southerner; when I see you, I only see a Nigerian, and I expect the best from you.”
“The APC administration has failed in its fundamental responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians. The most significant human right is the right to life, which has not been protected under the APC administration.”
“Our military forces are fighting on the front lines without equipment and morale. That is not fair. If we get into power, we will increase the welfare of all security forces. We will use modern technology and intelligence to combat insecurity. We will also increase the number of personnel for our security agencies.”
“All the macro-economic indicators are not favourable under the APC administration. APC inherited single-digit inflation; they now increased it to about 16 per cent. When APC came into power, unemployment was around 9 per cent; now, unemployment is more than 33 per cent.”
“The exchange rate was N197 to a dollar in 2015, but in the hands of the All Progressives Congress, APC, naira suffered the worst devaluation ever. As we speak, the exchange rate is more than N400 to a dollar, the official rate.”
“That was not the change we wanted. If we get elected, we will create alternative sources of foreign exchange supply to Nigeria and reduce importation to increase the value of the Naira.”
“They said we should go back to the farmlands. How can you ask people to go to the farms while you have not secured the farms? People cannot go back to the farm because they are afraid they could be kidnapped or killed.”
“Under my leadership, we will ensure absolute security because that is the number one condition for economic prosperity.”
“When APC came into power, Nigeria’s debt was N12 trillion, and now they increased it to N32 trillion.”
“They still want to borrow more. Under my leadership, we will reduce government borrowing. Too much borrowing comes at the detriment of future growth.”
“Education should be given free to every Nigerian, at least up to the secondary school level. I know the value of education; if not because of education, what kind of value would someone like me, a poor child from a small village, would have added to Nigeria?”
“That is why I established an educational community in my hometown, where I built schools from Kindergarten to University all in one place to provide education to the promising younger generation.”
Abubakar’s declaration comes amidst a dispute in the PDP camp over which geopolitical zone should get the party’s presidential ticket. One body known as the Southern Governors Forum, have insisted that it’s the turn of the southerner to rule the country after 8 years of a Northerner- President Buhari. After Abubakar picked up the PDP presidential form on Wednesday, it caused a stir among the proponents of a southern president, who said the party shouldn’t have started selling forms when its position on zoning remains unclear. It is hard to conclude on what the party will decide, but a party source told the Vanguard that the sale of forms implies that there will be no zoning of the party’s ticket.
The PDP has set up a 27-man committee to decide on zoning, and failed to offer a particular direction on the subject. Asked why it has begun its sale of presidential forms, the party chalked that up to keeping with the timetable set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As for Abubakar’s chances, presuming he wins the primaries, it could be negatively impacted by potential infighting within the PDP on the zoning matter. This could also spillover to the general elections as after the two-term presidency of President Buhari, there’s a general expectation that power will return to the South in 2023.
The PDP primaries are scheduled to take place on the 28th and 29th of May, 2022.