The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday said it would be too risky for Nigerians to hand over their future to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, or that of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, in next month’s election.
This was just as former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the 2023 general election would be a referendum on the performance of the APC-led government, adding that Nigerians would not reward failure.
But the Spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, countered Saraki, saying that the ruling party was in pole position to win the forthcoming elections
Speaking at the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) Presidential Dialogue on the Economy in Lagos yesterday, Atiku said he has a good understanding of the challenges bedeviling Nigeria.
Analysts have narrowed the race to Atiku, Tinubu and Obi.
The former vice president described Obi as a greenhorn and alleged that the APC-led government brought Nigerians to “this sorry situation.”
Atiku said: “Experience is important and we must avoid the mistakes of the recent past. It is too risky for Nigerians to hand over their future to a greenhorn or to the national leader of the very party that brought us to this sorry situation.
“This is election season. So, you will see and hear from snake-oil salespeople, false prophets and purveyors of false hope and misleading statistics. There is, therefore, the need for caution.
“We must also remember that we cannot trust the doctor that poisoned and continues to poison the patient to be the one who provides the curative treatment. The stakes are too high; so, we must get it right. This may well be our last chance to do so.
“The Nigerian economy is barely growing. Per capita income, a measure of citizens’ well-being, has progressively fallen since 2015 because of declining output and a fast-growing population. Our people are worse-off today than they were in 2015.
“The oil and gas sector, which is the country’s main foreign exchange earner, has declined for most of the period since 2014. For many economic sectors and for the ordinary citizens it still feels like we are in a recession.
“Under the current administration our people are not working. More than 23 million people are out of jobs. In just five years between 2015 and 2020, the number of fully employed people dropped by 54 per cent, from 68 million to 31 million people. This is frightening in a country of 200 million people.
“And the majority of the unemployed are young men and women, who lack not only the means to survive but any hope for the future. The number of unemployed youths increased by nine million from four million in 2015 to 13 million in 2020.
“High youth unemployment and limited employment opportunities pose serious economic and security challenges. It is, therefore, an urgent matter to ensure that there are enough jobs for Nigeria’s youth. More Nigerians are poorer and more miserable today than in 2015,” Atiku explained.
Voting APC is Rewarding Failure, Says Saraki
Meanwhile, Saraki has insisted that the ruling party has failed Nigerians in all ramifications, including security and economy, stressing that more Nigerians have been plunged into poverty since the APC came into power in 2015 while insecurity had been the order of the day.
Speaking on ARISE NEWS Channel, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers on the 2023 election, as well as the chances of Atiku, the former senate president argued that the ruling party had failed to deliver on virtually all the promises it made to Nigerians in 2015.
He said Nigerians now have a choice to choose a better party that would rescue the country from the precipice, adding that the PDP remained the better alternative.
Commenting on sundry national issues, Saraki insisted that most progressive Nigerians would not vote for the ruling party in the forthcoming elections because of its unimpressive performance over the past seven years.
He said the country is no longer united under the APC, while unemployment, insecurity, poverty and economic woes are the hallmark of the present administration.
Saraki expressed the confidence that the main opposition party would come back to reclaim the seat of power at the elections, stressing that the PDP remains the only hope to rescue the country.
He boasted that the party has the capacity to secure the 25 majority votes in over 24 states as required by the constitution.
He argued that the PDP would win four zones, including the South-south, South-east, North-central, and North-west.
He, however, admitted that the South-east remains a challenge for the party because of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
He, however, argued that the Labour Party lacks the structure and spread to win the presidential elections, pointing out that even if Obi wins, he would find it difficult to deliver on his mandate because his party would also lack majority seats in the parliament.
Saraki said: “First, I strongly believe that the 2023 election is a referendum on the performance of the APC government and party and I believe that a country like ours, a very progressive country with a lot of progressive individuals – would never reward failure.
“The question that Nigerians must ask is: Has this government and party failed or done well in the last seven years plus?
“And let’s take the indices one by one because I want to stay on issues and move away from sentiments. In 2015, their promise to Nigerians was that we would fight insecurity, we would improve the economy, we would create jobs for the youths – those were the major issues.”
Speaking further, he said, “In 2015 if you can remember very clearly, issues of insecurity were limited to the North-east. Since then, till today, we’ve seen insecurity in the North-west – farmers cannot go to their farms, people are being killed and kidnapped; we’ve seen herdsmen and farmers clash in the North-central and we’ve seen the highest level of oil theft in the South-south – and we’ve seen kidnapping. So, on the issue of security, they have not performed, they have failed.
“Let’s take the economy, and again, I will take them one by one and I will challenge you because you are know these issues; let’s take inflation – the inflation level today is about 16 per cent, which was never like this in the time of PDP in the single digit. You have the highest number of Nigerians below the poverty line at 133 million; it was not like that. Unemployment under PDP was about six per cent to seven per cent; today it is 33 per cent, and youth unemployment is about 40 per cent. Foreign Direct Investment if we are lucky may be just about $2 billion compared to $8 billion to $9 billion.
“These are facts we cannot run away from; on the economy as well, the exchange rate was N200, the official rate was probably N195 and the parallel market N230 – today official about N450 and the black market N735. It’s never been like this. And these are facts.”
According to him, “When you take all these issues, they have failed and as they’ve failed as a political party, we cannot reward failure. So, I don’t even think that the race should be about APC; they’ve had an opportunity to make Nigerians’ lives better but they have not.
“The question now goes as you’ve all asked – who next? Some would say oh, do we want to go back to PDP? Let’s talk about that back to PDP- the PDP days.
“The PDP days, as I said, we had insecurity limited to just one part of the country. In the PDP days we are talking about, we had GDP growth of about six per cent to 7 per cent. Now, we are seeing GDP growth of about 2 per cent, less than the population growth.”
He said: “In the PDP days we talked about, we had Foreign Direct Investment into this country – about $8 billion – and the largest economy in Africa. These were the PDP days, the exchange rate was not N700 inching to N1000 at a time, these were the PDP days.
“PDP days, the country was more united but now it is no more; now, it is normal in democratic settings that the populace has a choice especially when you get tired of a party and you say oh, I want to try another party. But when the party has failed, you come back to what they call the good days and that is what PDP offers under Atiku Abubakar.
“When you talk about other parties – with great respect to them – to the individuals, particularly, Peter. But don’t forget again that what we run in Nigeria, we run a presidential system. When you go to that ballot box on election day, you are voting for the party.
“Now, a party where from day one, you don’t have candidates in all the parliamentarian seats; so, already from day one, there’s a recipe for disaster because you know that the executives and legislature are not going to have a majority. And a lot of people when you ask them what is their concern, they tell you about restructuring. These are things that need constitutional review. These are things that you also need to have a majority in the National Assembly.”
Saraki, among other things, said, “Investors are no longer satisfied with Executive Orders. They want to see legislation to support investment. So, if as a small party, you don’t have a spread; we’ve seen our experience in 2015 – let’s move away from internship to reality and practicality.
He said: “Now, that takes me back to Atiku Abubakar. In Atiku Abubakar, you have a candidate that is ready from day one to run. The experience he has is even at the federal level.”
APC in Pole Position to Win the Forthcoming Elections, Says Keyamo
While also responding on ARISE NEWS Channel, Keyamo said the APC was in pole position to win the forthcoming elections.
Though Keyamo admitted that Obi had made a significant impact in the North-west, he argued that it would be an advantage to the APC, because the LP presidential candidate has been able to appeal to the Christians going by his campaign techniques so far and he would be taking a chunk of votes from the PDP.
In the North-west, Keyamo explained that the defection of the former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) would affect the electoral fortune of the PDP, while the ruling party would maintain its strong hold on the region.
In the North-east, Keyamo recalled that in 2019 elections, Atiku had no one to contend with – either presidential or vice presidential candidates, yet he lost four of the six states, adding with Kashim Shettima, the vice presidential candidates of the party from the region, that would pose another problem for the PDP.
He said while the APC might not win the South-east and South-South, the South-west was for the ruling party to lose.
He concluded that ruling party would win the presidential election.