The continued rampage of Boko Haram in the North East including their vicious war against education, particularly the education of the girl child, shows a failure of leadership
Rarely, in Nigerian Presidential elections, has the choice before Nigerians been so stark and the economic prospects of the country so bleak.The choice before us as Nigerians is between moving forward as a country or more of the same hopelessness and rising poverty. There must be no doubt in our minds as Nigerians about the gravity of the 2019 elections.
The Post Civil War consensus of a unified and indivisible Nigeria of the past 48 years is fraying—maybe even breaking down. Nepotism in appointments at the federal level has put a dent on the principle of federal character—a key pillar of the post civil war Nigeria.
The continued rampage of Boko Haram in the North East including their vicious war against education, particularly the education of the girl child, shows a failure of leadership. Further down, in the Middle Belt, the incessant killings of indigenous populations with no response from the government has emboldened killer herdsmen, threatening our nation’s unity and spreading havoc and fear in the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle Belt. Also, the stringent calls for restructuring around the country is a genie that can never be put back into its bottle; and the present government has shown no interest or willingness to engage with the fundamental questions of our Nationhood.
Nigeria is in dire need of healing and unity. This indeed is a moment for sober reflection and a renewed desire to rescue our country from the deep malaise we have found ourselves in. It also impossible to overemphasize the importance of electing a leader who has a magnanimous spirit and is able to unify the disparate groups in Nigeria. Our country more than ever needs a unifier, a person who is not vindictive and who plays the kind of politics that gives no room for bitterness.
The Buhari led administration has failed to appreciate the challenges of this moment. On the economic front, it took him 6 months to put together a cabinet and his economic policies have shown no discernible focus or direction, leading investors to pull their investments out of Nigeria in droves. His government has also shown contempt for Nigeria’s hard-fought democracy by abusing the independence of the judiciary, threatening the rule of law by subjugating it to National security, and unleashing brazen attacks against the opposition. He has also repeatedly abused the concept of separation of powers, violated the principle of federal character repeatedly, buried our economy in the doldrums, and capped it up by making Nigeria the poverty capital of the world.
In comparison, one candidate has the credentials to take Nigeria from this dark era in its history. Mr. Atiku Abubakar has served as Vice President of the Country during a trying period, when Nigeria was emerging from 14 years of uninterrupted military rule. As Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, went to work sorting out the mess they inherited without blaming previous administrations, because they came prepared to deal with the challenges of office. They assembled a fantastic team of technocrats that achieved debt relief, grew the economy consistently and also achieved the Telecommunication revolution.
Yet, Mr Atiku Abubakar has much to prove to Nigerians. To many Nigerians, Mr Atiku’s decades of public service is problematic for them. They see him as part of the old political class who has been Vice President, Governor Elect and has contested for the position of president on four different occasions.
The uncomfortable truth is that Mr Atiku has acquired an unfair tag of being corrupt despite actions that clearly reflect integrity, such as his refusal as a young customs officer to allow “53 suitcases” into the country illegally, and recommending the honest and vibrant late Dr. Dora Akunyili (of blessed memory) for the position of DG of NAFDAC. He was also instrumental to the establishment of various anti-corruption policies and institutions like the EFCC and ICPC.
On the economy, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is a Businessman who has created over 50,000 direct jobs, he is an educationist who understands the entire value chain of education and its impact on national development having successfully run educational institutions from the Nursery level to the Tertiary level. He understands the language of business and has shown that he will be able to assuage the concerns of foreign and local investors thereby creating an enabling environment for economic growth. In his choice of Vice President, he has also added to his team former Governor of Anambra State Peter Obi; a competent economic manager who will no doubt spearhead the economic policies of the government.
On inclusion, Atiku Abubakar is a nationalist who feels at home in modern Nigeria; is comfortable with and in fact actively desires diversity. He is a practical example of a well-integrated and detribalized Nigerian who will leave no part of the country behind and his government will reflect federal character. On the issue of youth participation in governance, he is also comfortable working with young people and has said publicly on the BBC, that 40% of his cabinet will be made up of young people and we will hold him to account on this promise.
If elected, Mr Atiku must work out how to heal the divisiveness that characterizes the Nigeria of today. In the national interest, he must show a willingness to work to heal and unite a fractured country. He must bring to the fore the magnanimous spirit he displayed at the PDP convention in PH, when he shared his moment of glory by honoring his former boss, President Obasanjo and the successful efforts of reconciliation between them to unify a heavily divided and bitter country. This has proven to be beyond President Buhari, whose government has been unable and unwilling to unify the country.
After three and half years of economic dislocation, Atiku’s economic agenda from May 29th, 2019 must be clear: appointment of sound technocrats to deal with the economy, restructuring, that will entail reducing the amount of items on the exclusive list and devolving it to the states; state policing to deal with the challenges of the killings in the middle belt; Local Government reforms, particularly financial autonomy of the L.G.As which can be achieved by paying the allocations of the Local Governments straight to their accounts; an end to illegal caretaker chairmen; boosting infrastructure; and restructuring our national debts. There should also be a constitutional amendment to deal with all areas of inequality in the current 1999 constitution (as amended).
The 2019 election, more than any in our country’s history, is a test for the democracy of our country with profound implications for our nation, for the West African sub region, and for Africa as a whole. Atiku Abubakar has shown that he is more competent and inclusive than President Buhari, whose poor handling of the economy and divisiveness is on daily display. Finally, Mr Atiku is eminently qualified, to be elected the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019, and he is the best hope to lift our boats from this strong tide of helplessness and overwhelming poverty and to detoxify the toxic state of our politics.
None of the two contestants is ideal or perfect, but a closer analysis of both candidates should inform us that one of the candidates is significantly better than the other on two critical issues: the economy and inclusion. Atiku Abubakar has therefore earned my vote in 2019 and hopefully the votes of all well meaning Nigerians.
Abbiba Ivy Princewill has an LLB from King’s College London, an LLM from the University of California, Los Angeles and an LPC from City University London. She is passionate about STEM education, opportunities for women and girls and youth participation in governance and socio-economic life.