2019: Buhari, Atiku unveil plans as campaigns begin
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday asked Nigerians to re-elect him in 2019, primarily to keep fighting the corruption war his administration started in 2015.
He also stated that his commitment to the provision of infrastructure, rebuilding the economy and sustaining the anti-insurgency war would be re-doubled if given a second opportunity.
Buhari spoke in Abuja at the unveiling of his 2019 campaign document, titled, ‘The Next Level.’
The two-part document also showcased the achievements of his administration in the past three years, especially in the provision of infrastructure and tackling insecurity.
The event took place at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President, whose speech was devoted more to corruption, noted that except the county was rid of the problem, it would get nowhere.
He stated, “To succeed, moral integrity and conscience must continue to form the dominant character of our nation and its leadership.
“Corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria. Despite the gains we have made in closing the gates, we know that there is still much ground to be covered to stop systemic corruption. We are committed to deepening the work we started this past term.
“The nation’s assets and resources will continue to be organised and utilised for the good of the common man.”
The President told Nigerians that they would either leave him in office to fight corruption or allow the county to return to the past.
Buhari added, “The next four years will be quite significant for our country. Nigeria is faced with a choice to keep on building a new Nigeria or to go back to its tainted past, which favoured the opportunistic few.
“Our choices will surely shape us, defining clearly, our economic security and our future prosperity. Nigeria, more than ever before, needs a stable and people-focused government to move the development of our county forward.
“Join us in this journey to the next level, for a strong and stable Nigeria…”
Buhari announced that at least 15 million new jobs would be created in the next phase of his administration if re-elected.
The President called on all candidates and political parties to be peaceful.
He said, “I urge all candidates and supporters of all political parties to go about their campaigns peacefully and decently. As I always say, we have no other country but Nigeria. Let us not set it ablaze because of politics of sectional interestss.”
At the event, selected ministers spoke on the “achievements” of the Buhari administration.
For instance, the Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), spoke on road infrastructure, power and housing provisions.
Fashola said work was ongoing on 365 roads. He stated that 244 of the roads were awarded in 2001 and abandoned, adding that Buhari revived them for completion.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, praised Buhari for insisting that all the rail projects inherited from the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan were not abandoned.
I’ll privatise nation’s four refineries, NNPC – Atiku
Also on Sunday, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, formally released his policy document aimed at wooing voters for the 2019 elections.
The 63-page document titled, ‘Let’s get Nigeria working again,’ captured his plan for the nation’s critical sectors.
Atiku categorises his mission into three: unity, security and prosperity.
Under what he tagged, ‘Refining and Petrochemical Infrastructure,’ the former vice- president promised to privatise all the nation’s four refineries if voted into office in February 2019.
He said the decision became necessary because the four refineries with a total installed capacity of 450,000 barrels per day had operated sub-optimally over time.
Atiku noted that the refineries had struggled to produce at 10 per cent of installed capacity.
He described Nigeria as the most inefficient member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in terms of both the percentage of installed refining capacity that worked and the percentage of crude refined.
He said, “We shall prioritise investment in nameplate capacity and ensure that Nigeria starts to refine 50 per cent of its current crude oil output of two million barrels per day by 2025.
“We shall privatise all four outstanding government-owned refineries to competent off-takers with mandates to produce agreed levels of refined output.
“We shall issue new licences for Greenfield investment in crude oil refining and allied activities,” adding, “We shall introduce market-friendly fiscal and pricing policies.”
Atiku said the objectives of the policy were, among others, to create one million new jobs within 10 years via petrochemicals and petrochemicals-based activities, as well as to build enabling infrastructure to add value to the economy via the development of petrochemical facilities.
As part of efforts to promote the oil and gas sector, Atiku said he would partially privatise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to ensure transparency and accountability of the oil firm.
He also promised to reconsider the introduction of the marginal fields’ bid round and oil blocks’ bid round as well as the building of modular refineries in the northern parts of the country.
The PDP candidate said he would deploy modern technology in pipeline surveillance and other security enhancements as well as intensify engagement with local communities in the oil production zones.
Promising to embrace restructuring, Atiku said his administration would decongest the exclusive and the concurrent list in the Constitution.
He stated that the Federal Government would retain the role of providing required direction for the economy, defence and national security, internal law and order, currency, international affairs and foreign policy, customs, citizenship and immigration, firearms and related matters.
He added, “Issues bordering on minerals and mines, internal security including police, law and order, railways, communications, transport, environment, land matters etc would be devolved to the concurrent list.
“Local governments shall become an independent tier of government, generating units will be supported in economy management.
“Nigeria’s common resources will be shared equitably in accordance with a new revenue allocation formula to be negotiated across abroad.”
On youths and women empowerment, the PDP candidate promised to break all barriers that prevented women from actualising their potential whether in adolescence or adulthood.
He regretted that while women constituted 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population, they were less empowered financially, politically, socially, culturally and economically within and outside the home.
Atiku promised to create a special tribunal for crimes against women.
“We shall encourage states and the private sector to incentivise studies for girls in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We shall provide microfinance and financing schemes specifically targeted at the youth and women.
“We shall create a special tribunal for crimes against women including domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, rape.”
He added, “We shall increase women representation and retention rates in politics and business, through positive action such as quotas for women on political platform and corporate boards.
“We shall increase the number of appointments made to young people in government and in government committees.”
Under his economic development agenda, Atiku said he would ensure a competitive and open economic system; reform public institutions; reduce infrastructure deficit; promote economic diversification; and human capital development.
He said he would target the creation of three million self-and-wage-paying employment opportunities in the private sector annually.
Atiku added that he would target all categories of youths, including graduates, early school leavers as well as out-of-school and unemployed youths.
Atiku said he had a good grasp of the challenges facing Nigeria and would learn from the mistakes of the past, consolidate on the successes of previous regimes and build the future.
The presidential candidate said he had an unwavering commitment to the principles of open, competitive and private sector-driven economy and was committed to building institutions.
I’ll lift over 80 million people out of poverty – Ezekwesili
The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, similarly kicked off her presidential campaign, saying she remained “the best man for the job.”
Ezekwesili who is a former minister of education, released official photographs for the campaign.
A terse statement by Aisha Yesufu, the Director of Special Projects for ‘Hope 2019’, the campaign organ of Ezekwesili, entitled, ‘Here comes the best MAN for the job, the woMAN,’ expressed optimism that by her track records, she would fight for Nigerians and the masses.
Yesufu said, “The Obiageli ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili For President organisation – Hope 2019, has issued official campaign photos as it kicked off the INEC-approved campaign season.
“Hope 2019 campaign kicked-off officially on Sunday with a thanksgiving service in Abuja, after which the candidate will go to her home state, Anambra, to officially get blessings from the royal father and other elders of her community.
“We are excited and we can’t wait. The best MAN for the job in 2019 is definitely a woMAN and this woman we know by her track record, will #Fight4Naija.”
Ezekwesili has promised to “lift over 80 million people out of poverty”, if voted into office in the 2019 general elections.
She has therefore challenged her rivals to “bring up their doable programmes to better the lots of citizens.”
According to her campaign organisation, watchers of the forthcoming general election in Nigeria have expressed the view that Ezekwesili remained the most prominent woman to run for the office of President in Nigeria’s history.
While describing her pledge of lifting over 80 million Nigerians out of poverty through human capital development and technological innovation as unprecedented, the organisation said her plan to lift majority of Nigerians out of extreme poverty stood out as the most actionable strategy in the lead up to next year’s general elections in the country.
Ezekwesili’s dream came on the heels of a recent pronouncement by the founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, that the world could overcome extreme poverty as demonstrated by countries including China, India, Mexico, South Africa.
Ezekwesili said, “Beyond the rhetoric of this election season, it is clear to us that getting people out of debilitating poverty is the single most crucial assignment that we have. That is why we adopt this as the cornerstone of the #Oby4President campaign.”
While lamenting that most aspirants to public office in the country were seeking political power for its sake, the campaign organisation said, “This position is premised on Oby Ezekwesili’s informed belief that only a prosperous people can take the nation into the future we all dream of.”
She contended that since research had indicated that over 40 per cent of cases of extreme poverty could be found in sub-Saharan Africa, she promised by year 2050, “to turn around these tragic projections, we need to drastically change how we do things as a country. We cannot continue to vote in the incompetent leaders who put us into this poverty while expecting change to happen.”
“It’s time to put in motion another wave of poverty reduction – which has slumped by over 1.2 billion people globally since 1990 – and we are more than ready to make this happen,” she stated.
US, EU urge transparent campaigns, warn against hate speech
As the campaigns for the 2019 elections commenced on Sunday, the United States, European Union and 23 other western nations have called for transparent campaigns in the run up to the polls.
They also warned political and non-political actors against hate speech and violence, stressing that their concern was to see a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.
The group in a joint statement in Abuja on Sunday said they would follow the campaigns and monitor the election process closely.
The statement was signed by the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic and Denmark.
Other signatories included Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
The group said, “As friends of Nigeria and its people, we will follow the campaigns and election process closely. Who wins the elections is for the Nigerian people to decide. Our concern is to see a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.
“We hope to see transparent campaigns and we urge all voters to use their democratic right and vote. We are particularly keen to see greater participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities.
“We urge all involved – political and non-political actors – to refrain from using hate speech and take a firm stance against violence. The 2015 Peace Accords played an important role in that regard and we welcome new efforts towards that end.”
The coalition expressed concern over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent elections.
“We were also perturbed by irregularities and violence during party primaries, and noted with particular concern that several women candidates were disenfranchised,” it added.
The statement reiterated the importance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, noting that the commission must be allowed to operate free from outside pressure and intimidation, and in turn must demonstrate full neutrality and professionalism.
It said, “We encourage that adequate funding is swiftly facilitated for INEC and supporting institutions, and we hope to see the entry into force of improvements to the Electoral Act as soon as possible.
“We wish to draw particular attention to the fundamental role of the security agencies in providing a safe and secure environment for the Nigerian people to exercise their democratic rights.
“It is vital that security agencies act, and are seen to act, in an impartial manner that maintains the high standards of professional conduct.”