By John Alechenu, Abuja
The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has described his combination with his running mate, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as unbeatable in the upcoming 2023 general election.
He said the PDP has a team of competent and experienced people with the right policies and programs to rescue Nigeria from its current bad state.
Atiku said this while responding to questions from Nigerians on his plans for the nation if elected President.
He spoke during the Channels Television Presidential Town Hall meeting, in Abuja, on Sunday.
Atiku explained that his plans to deal with the security challenges in Nigeria will be scientific.
To buttress his point, the candidate cited the example of the United Arab Emirates where he said over 10 million people live.
He noted despite this number, one can hardly find a uniformed policemen on the street people are aware that they are being watched and the attraction to commit crime is at minimal.
Atiku described the Boko Haram insurgency as puzzling. He confessed that he was yet to fully understand the phenomenon because so many issues including politics and business were involved.
On security, Atiku said, “I served in Borno State when it was the North East and as a Customs Officer, I was patrolling the entire North East and remote areas.
“I still cannot find a place in the Borno area where any body can hide and cannot the seen. I cannot honestly understand the Boko Haram phenomenon.
“Sometimes when returning from Europe 30 feet above, I could see a man walking in Borno State. So, where is the place to hide?
“To the extent that they said there is a place called Sambisa, I have been there i didn’t see a forest it’s just shrubs here and there.
“We have deployed the Nigerian military which used to be the one of the best in the World they have fought in a number of theatres in the international arena and excelled.
“And here we are deploying the Nigerian military with all its might yet we cannot eliminate them.”
Speaking in a similar vein, his running mate Ifeanyi Okowa, who spoke on what an Atiku Presidency will do to prevent a resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta.
He said, “Once you provide leadership militancy will not return. When Atiku Abubakar comes back, the leadership will be so structured that we are going to make sure that people are carried along in the education sector, in the provision of start up jobs, in the provision of skills and in ensuring that our people go to school.
“We are going to make the economy work again. We will ensure the full implementation of the Petroluem Industry Act.”
According to him, with the PIA fully operational, oil producing communities will be empowered to cater for their personal and community needs.
Responding to a question about his plans for the Niger Delta, the PDP candidate expressed sadness that his ideas passed on to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua which culminated in the setting up of a Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs was yet to achieve its objective.
He said, “The Ministry has not been able to deliver on one project. Take the East West Road for example, they have enough money fo complete it but have not. When we come in we will review its functions.”
Speaking about the trader money program of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress administration, Atiku lamented that it had degenerated into a political tool at the hands of the APC.
He said for it to be effective, it has to institutionalized so that it can survive administrations and give more Nigerians access to better their lot.
Atiku said the administration he intends to head will assist states provide sporting facilities.
This, he said, will go a long way in encouraging sporting activities across the nation.
He cited the example of the Moroccan Government which has been able to provide football pitches in virtually all communities.
This, he said, has gone a long way in improving the quality of sports especially football.
Collaborating this position, his running mate, Okowa said the Atiku-led administration will invest heavily in sports.
He cited the example of Delta, Edo and Bayelsa States that have made significant impact in the areas of sports as evidenced by their performance in the just concluded national sports festival which ended in Asaba.
He also promised to give the creative industry the attention it deserves in order to improve Nigeria’s economy.
Atiku said apart from Agriculture, Nigeria’s creative industry has the second largest potential of bringing in foreign exchange earnings.
He said, “Apart from Agriculture which is the highest employer of Labour, the creative industry is the second highest employer. None of my contemporaries in this presidential race has engaged the industry more than I have done.
“I was with them in Lagos about two weeks ago. “
On his plans for Education and Healthcare delivery, the PDP candidate equally promised better investment in both sectors in order for Nigeria to take its pride of place in the comity of nations.
Atiku promised to invest at least “the minimum” recommended by the United Nations to invest in the education sector to encourage retention of qualified Nigerian professionals.
He said, “When I was setting up my university, I started with the provision of infrastructure. There was uninterrupted electricity and internet connectivity in a remote area called Yola. When we did that, our Professors came in from the United States.
“Our Neighboring countries that are poorer than us invest more than us in education. We need to involve the private sector. “
On the issue of healthcare delivery, Atiku while responding to a question by a little girl who expressed concern about cost, Atiku sympathized with her and other Nigerians facing similar challenges.
He, described as unfortunate that the National Health Care Insurance Scheme set up while he served as Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo, was yet to get the desired mileage.
The PDP candidate promised to ensure that more and more Nigerians get enrolled in the scheme to reduce the burden of paying for medical services on individuals and families.
In response to a question why he deleted a tweet condemning the killing of Deborah, a student by religious extremists in Sokoto, Atiku explained that he ordered that the tweet to be deleted because it didn’t get his approval before it was sent out.
Atiku however condemned the killing which he said did not follow due process. According to him, the Quran did not permit people to take the laws into their hands.
On the challenge posed by regular face off between government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities by investing more in education and removing bottlenecks.