With less than two months to go to the polls to elect Nigeria’s next president, Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, has begun looking beyond the elections.
The former vice-president has begun putting in place processes to help run his government.
Confident of victory, the PDP candidate has set up a Policy and Advisory Committee to begin designing what he called “a robust framework for effective governance under an Atiku Abubakar federal administration”.
In the terms of reference given to the committee, Atiku said: “Given the enormity of the problems which will be bequeathed to the incoming administration, coupled with acute scarcity of resources, submit recommendations for prioritisation of the implementation of government policies and programmes contained in the blueprint to avoid losing focus and its attendant problems of indigestion.”
He asked the team to “undertake an extensive review of the organisational framework and structure of the entire Federal Government (including the presidency, ministries, departments and agencies) since the introduction of the presidential system of government in 1999 and determine if the structure as designed and built was truly reflective of the cornerstone principles of a presidential system of government in best practice environments, whether the structure over time has become too large, unwieldy, inefficient and expensive, whether in a fast-changing world, conscious and deliberate efforts have been made to adapt our system of government (which has been in operation for 23 years) to the needs and dictates of a 21st century world”.
The team was also instructed by the former vice president to “undertake benchmark desk studies and tour of a few countries which represent the best models of presidential systems of government with a view to onboarding powerful lessons in how we can reorganise our various institutions of government to become highly competitive, effective and efficient”.
He urged members of the committee to also undertake an exhaustive review of Nigeria’s national security institutions and infrastructure and determine whether the philosophy, objectives and cardinal principles enshrined in the founding documents of these institutions are currently being observed in letter and spirit and in practice.
Atiku also wants the committee to know if members of the armed forces are sufficiently motivated, trained and equipped to deal with the multi-pronged national security challenges confronting the nation at home and abroad and whether in a nation where the population has exploded, there are sufficient number of men and women in uniform capable of dealing with the nation’s “burgeoning national security threats”.
A senior PDP presidential campaign official told BusinessDay that the party’s flag-bearer is confident of victory and keen to “hit the ground running when he is elected”.
“Whoever is taking over from Buhari is not only going to inherit a gigantic mess, but also fail woefully if he does not start planning now. We know this, and this is why our candidate wants to get things moving even before the elections. We know we are going to win the election and Atiku is going to be the president of Nigeria in May,” the official said.
Atiku is facing a major crisis in his party which some political watchers say is capable of depriving him of victory.
He has consistently come third in most opinion polls conducted. He was tipped in the Arise/ThisDay projection in December to win overwhelmingly in February.
While it is increasingly looking unlikely that Atiku will make any headway in the South, he is focusing on winning the majority of the votes in the North to grab the presidency.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku’s former boss, under whom he served as vice president between 1999 and 2007, has declined to endorse his ambition.
Obasanjo, in his January 1 letter to Nigerians, repudiated his former deputy while supporting the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi.
“None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedent, their understanding, knowledge, discipline and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge,” he said.
In June, Obasanjo had vilified the PDP candidate as an erroneous choice for vice-president in 1999.
“One of the mistakes I made was picking my number two when I wanted to become the President. But because it was a genuine mistake, God saved me,” the former president had said.
The PDP say they are however confident of victory, dismissing Obasanjo’s endorsement of Obi as his personal opinion.
Obasanjo’s opinion, according to the party, does not reflect the position of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians across the country. It described its presidential candidate as the most acceptable of all the candidates.