On Saturday, 21 July, the city of Yola will receive one of Adamawa’s illustrious sons. Of course, Yola is Atiku’s first home and his going home should ordinarily not catch any big attention. For the fact that much of Atiku’s private business investments are domiciled in Yola means that Atiku knows the in and out of the city. Quite expectedly the city, too, has a generous appreciation of Atiku’s contributions of its alluring outlook in the past few decades.
So, when Atiku goes home on Saturday, he is not doing so routinely. While charity has always begun at home for Atiku, his home-coming will be to show that really, honour should as well begin from the home front. The Waziri Adamawa has stood tall for Yola all his life and this Saturday, the people of Adamawa heartily welcomes him as he makes an important declaration to run for the president of Nigeria in the 2019 election.
Before now, Atiku had been vigorously consulting with stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as he gears for the ticket of the party as a presidential flag-bearer. Having listened keenly to what Nigerians are talking about on the problems that beset the country at the moment and what PDP stakeholders are saying about repositioning the party for more strength, it has become incumbent on Atiku to join the debate to get Nigeria working again and positioning the PDP as a political vehicle to transition to the country from the current low into a bigger and prosperous future.
The point therefore is to interrogate what Atiku is bringing to the table as he joins the fray of presidential contenders in next year’s election. Since 1989 when Atiku became active in the political space of the country, he has been able to stand by certain principles that have ultimately defined his persona in the Nigeria’s public. The point that is under reference here is that through his political trajectory, it is clear that Atiku has remained steadfast in refraining from playing politics of convenience. Either when his life was directly under threat during the Abacha junta or when his political life was in the line for standing by constitutionalism during the Third Term imbroglio, Atiku has paid his dues to convince everyone that he is an irrepressible advocate of democracy and good governance.
So, at such a time when there is huge deficit of trust between the electorate and the political class, Atiku represents an identity of a politician who stands for the common good in all situations even against personal conveniences. Although negative narratives from political opponents against Atiku have been sustained over time, it is high time that Nigerians began to interrogate the false red flags that have been raised about Atiku and sieve the facts from the fallacies.
Today, Nigeria is in the throes of mutual division. The spasm and suspicion among the various ethnic groups and faiths in the country is at a frightening height. Almost on daily basis, there is a reckless and needless loss of human lives arising from reprisal attacks and with disunity; the associated problem of insecurity seems intractable. Given the strange and uncertain time that we are in, the only clear solution to the twin problems of disunity and insecurity in Nigeria is in electing a president whose appeal transcends beyond our fault lines. Atiku’s circle of friends cuts across the length and breadth of Nigeria. His disposition is pan-Nigerian and his belief that not ethnic or religious sentiments, but the competences of the individual, should determine their destinies are values that are required of a president that Nigeria should have at this juncture.
Atiku possesses a convincing credential as someone who believes in education and the role it plays in upward social mobility. Either in the public service or in his private businesses, Atiku has been able to give a succinct account of himself as a talent hunter who knows how to assemble a right team for the job. That is a time tested fact that even the worst of his detractors won’t challenge. Little wonder that his tenure as Vice-President when he was the Chairman of the National Economic Council remains iconic up till this time. It was an era when the Nigerian economy grew in scale of annual 7 per cent GDP growth. The policies that he espoused such as the National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Pensions Reforms, the creation of anti-corruption institutions, and the Procurement law that acts as a bulwark to inflated invoicing in government procurement are all the brainchild of the Obasanjo/Atiku administration.
Right now, the country is shouldering a huge burden of a troubled economy with an attendant problem of unemployment particularly among the youth. The prism that you can only give what you have speaks to Atiku’s capacity to create more jobs for the economy.
It is not difficult to discern that the biggest national security issue in Nigeria now is the loss of not less than ten million jobs in the last three years. It is the single sequence of jobs losses at an average of three million jobs being lost annually. That is a scary statistics!
If we must arrest that trend, and recover lost grounds, it is imperative that Nigeria comes forth with a leader who is skilled and in the art of creating jobs. Atiku currently employs not less than fifty thousand Nigerians directly and two hundred and fifty thousand indirectly in his private businesses and that means he already knows the tricks of the deal.
If we understand personal financial insecurity as a catalyst for national insecurity, then the call of the time demands of us to elect the best hands in jobs creation in 2019. And only Atiku fits that bill.
Moving forward, Nigeria needs a president in 2019 whose experience dwells in the past and who minds is cast in the future of the country. That is why the Yola declaration on Saturday should be of concern to all Nigerians. We must throw away every conceivable bias and interrogate the antecedents of everyone aspiring to lead the country ahead of 2019.
We cannot afford to settle for mere tokenism as substitute for the important substance. The world is fast moving ahead in terms of innovative thinking through smart technology and liberal economic models. We deserve a president who is well-wired for the times, whose mind belongs to the future and who has set an example of prosperity in his private life. Like the saying goes again, you can only give what you have.
Sanni wrote this piece from Abuja