ABUJA—Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday declared his intention to contest the presidency in the 2023 elections, articulating a five-point agenda to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria, if elected.
The declaration which took place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, had in attendance former Vice President Namadi Sambo; Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri; former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, among others.
Yesterday’s event marked Atiku’s second formal declaration for office of the President in the past four years.
The five-point agenda includes unity of Nigeria, security, economy, education and devolving more resources and powers to the federating units.
Addressing a mammoth crowd of supporters, Atiku said: “First, I want to thank you all for being here today and for all your enduring support. I know there are over 12 million Nigerians out there, who may not be here with us today, but they have been with us since the 2019 election.
”I know these numbers are growing every day. I want to thank you all for believing in our vision. I want to thank you all for your bravery. Despite the disappointment in the last election, you still believe that this time around, it is possible.
For me, I could say there was never a break. Since our last fight in the court, challenging the 2019 election results, I have received several calls and encouragements from you to contest again.
“I have listened to your brave voices. Beyond the words coming out of your mouths, I could imagine your frustrations, yet you are hopeful. I admire you greatly for choosing hope over despair.
“I know why you are doing this. You are doing this because deeply you believe something good is possible and is coming to Nigeria. In the face of the worst division, you believe this country can still unite.
”In the face of economic hardship, you believe prosperity is coming. In the face of the worst insecurity, you believe peace is possible. I also share in your optimism. That is why I am here today to give you an answer.
“The 2023 election is not just like the usual elections; it is a referendum to decide whether we want greatness or continuous destruction. It is a choice between two paths: the path of unity and progress or the path of division and backwardness.
“We need a new kind of leadership that will steer us to a positive path. In 2023, we want a President who has ideas on how to fix Nigeria. We want a president who understands, who inspires and is empathetic.
“As the election is fast approaching, we should not be distracted from the devastating conditions we are in now. The ruling party wants to divide us; they want to divide us along political, ethnic, and religious lines, so we forget to blame them for the rising inflation.
“They want to distract us from holding them responsible for the insecurity and rising poverty. They want us to be facing each other and hating one another. We should focus on the issues, not our differences. Let us unite and fight our common enemies, lack of unity, insecurity, poverty, inflation, and unemployment.
“That is what this election is about. I have no doubt in my mind that we as Nigerians can do it. We have done it in 1993. We can do it in 2023. We must stand firm, get our PVCs, come out en-masse, cast our votes, and protect them against any manipulation.
“I have contested for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria a couple of times in the past. My enduring persistence is borne out of my passion to rekindle the Nigerian dream that I was privileged to live.
“Nigeria is a land of possibility. There is no challenging background that will make any Nigerian give up. I am a living witness to what is possible in Nigeria.
“Who could have ever imagined, an eleven-year-old village orphan, who had to rear other people’s cattle to raise money to feed his family, would have the opportunity to go to school for free, rise through the cadre of a decent profession, establish successful businesses, and become the Vice President of this country?
“That is the Nigerian dream and that is my story, that is the possibility I want to pass to you and your children. No matter your current circumstances, you should not limit your success in life. There should be no limit to what you want to achieve if you are willing to work for it.
“That is my dream for Nigeria. However, that is not possible without credible and visionary leadership, and that is what I want to offer Nigerians.
“You and I know that Nigeria is in dire need of visionary leadership. Our fundamental principles and purpose as a nation have never been challenged as it is today. Currently, Nigeria is a sinking ship; it must be rescued urgently.
”That is why I am happy to announce my candidacy for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under the platform of People’s Democratic Party, PDP. I offer myself to rescue the sinking ship.
”Under my captainship, this ship will sail to a brighter course by the grace of God. However, this journey is not mine alone, it is a journey I am taking for all Nigerians. It is also a journey to a destination I planned with my late great mentor, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, and with my beloved compatriot, the late, and great, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. May their souls rest in peace.
“These two gentlemen helped me find my path in politics, and as a group, we had a vision to run Nigeria in a businesslike manner, where, as one nation, we would bid farewell to poverty, by understanding our differences, and harnessing them to do together what we would not be able to do separately.
”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.”