Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said on Sunday that he has met with Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike on multiple occasions and is waiting to hear from him about the next steps in the party’s ongoing crisis.
At a live television Town Hall hosted by Channels Television and monitored by the NewsXtra, the former Vice President and his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, answered viewers’ questions.
“I have met Wike personally two times in Port Harcourt, two times in Abuja, and one time in London,” he said when asked why he has not been able to meet with the leader of the G5 governors despite his extensive background and expertise. “It’s not on my part. It’s on the other side. I’m waiting for him.”
Atiku admitted that he was the architect of the policy that established the Amnesty Programme, which successfully ended militancy in the Niger Delta.
He claimed that in 2007 when he first considered a run for president, he hired consultants to help him figure out a way to deal with the issue.
However, when he was unsuccessful in securing the PDP presidential nomination, he passed the policy on to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
You may recall that Yar’Adua’s Amnesty Programme was responsible for finally ending the years of unrest in the region.
He criticised the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for failing to meet expectations despite having access to substantial funding, as evidenced by the poor state of the East-West Road.
The leader of the main opposition party has stated that he is willing to negotiate with the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in regard to the organisation’s agitation for Biafra, as he believes that what they desire is autonomy, which he says can be achieved within the framework of his restructuring and power devolution agenda.
‘The IPOB issue in the Southeast is basically about the realisation of Biafra,’ he said. “Is it possible for Biafra to be realised today? How? By negotiations or going through another civil war we can’t afford?
“So, we should be able to negotiate with the agitators from the Southeast as far as the issue of Biafra is concerned.
“We believe what they need is more autonomy as far as their sub-region is concerned. That is why we proposed restructuring of the country.”
The former Vice President reflected on the success of self-governing regions during the first republic but cautioned the secessionist agitators that they would not be successful unless they engage the rest of the country.
Atiku has stated that he will address security issues by following the lead of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and employing a model based on the use of technology to track and record potential lawbreakers.
However, he promised that short-term measures would be taken to address the problem and outlined a strategy that included security sector reform and improved administration.
Even though he won’t be eliminating the security budget, he has made it clear that the money is being misused at all levels of government and that more oversight is necessary.
Concerning Boko Haram, he expressed perplexity at the group’s continued survival, saying that, as someone familiar with the Northeast’s geography, he was at a loss to understand where the insurgents could hide.
He claimed that the insurgency problem had drawn in all spheres of society, from business to politics, and that only effective leadership and governance could end the insurgency.
Atiku analysed the current administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) and concluded that its components, including Trader Moni, are not sustainable because the initiative is not institutionalised.
The Vice President or Minister of Humanitarian Affairs should not be responsible for distributing the funds, he said, because the programme had become a political tool serving the interests of the current government.
He spoke out against the corrupt multiple exchange rate of the Naira that is available in the country.
Atiku added that the country’s currency would have no actual value unless it were eliminated.
He also reaffirmed his government’s plan to end petrol subsidies and to consult with affected parties to lessen the blow.