Presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party, Peter Obi, on Monday flayed the Federal Government over the insecurity and economic crisis confronting the nation, stating that Nigeria possessed all the negative indices that qualified it as a failed state.
The two candidates unanimously agreed that 2023 is Nigeria’s decisive year, noting that the election is critical to the country’s existence.
Atiku and Obi spoke at the ongoing 62nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos.
Also at the event was the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Kashim Shettima, who represented his principal, Bola Tinubu.
He urged Nigerians to vote for their joint ticket because of their achievements as governors in Lagos and Borno states.
Governors Solomon Lalong and Godwin Obaseki of Plateau and Edo states, respectively, equally attended the conference.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and a popular author, Chimamanda Adichie and other speakers advocated the reform of the Nigerian judiciary in order to position the country on the path of transformational change.
In his remarks, Atiku observed that the country is more disunited today than it had ever been since democracy took root in 1999, noting that Nigeria had never found itself in such a very critical situation in its history.
Speaking on the theme: ’Bold transitions in the 21st century as far as our country is concerned,’ he submitted that Nigeria had all the negative indices, adding that the nation had never experienced the current level of poverty, insecurity and unemployment.
He stated, “Since the return of democracy in 1998/99, Nigeria has never found itself in such a very very critical point in our history.
“Today, we have had all the negative indices. Today, we are all disunited in the nation. We have never experienced this level of poverty. We have never experienced this state of insecurity. We have never experienced this level of unemployment. We have recognised all these negative development in our history.”
He added that the important thing was to tackle the challenges.
“This is where history and experience beckon to us that we don’t get it wrong at this point in time. If we get it wrong, I don’t know when we will get it right,’’ he noted.
An online newspaper, The Cable reported that ex-vice-president revealed that he would hand over the federal universities to states if he was elected president.
According to the report, Atiku said his administration’s reform would involve creating an enabling environment for foreign and local investors.
The reforms, he further explained, would include healthcare and education ‘’because the government alone cannot bring about development.’’
He stated, ‘’One of the fundamental reforms I have in my policy document is to encourage the private sector as far as the development of the country is concerned — both foreign and local. It is very essential because the federal government does not have the resources to do all the things that they want to do,” he said.
Shedding more light on his plans, he stated, “The only way is to make sure that a conducive environment is available for the local and foreign investors to participate in the development of our country, whether it is infrastructure, education and healthcare.
“I had an argument with a university professor from Federal University, Lokoja. He said he read in my policy document that I intend to devolve, in other words, to return education to the states. How dare I do that?
‘’I said: ‘Mr professor, do you realise that the first set of our universities belongs to the regional governments?’ He said, ‘yes’. I said ‘who are the successors of the regional government?’ He said: ‘the states’.
“I said the children you send to America or England; who owns those universities? Mostly, the private sector. So, why is it that you think we cannot do it here? We don’t have the money.”
Atiku posted on his Twitter page on Monday, that he was at the NBA conference to give lawyers insights into his bold policy which he said embodies unity, security, economy, education and devolution of power to states and local governments.
The Labour Party presidential candidate, Obi in his remarks said ‘’the election will not be about tribe, religion, connection, entitlement, but it must be about competence capacity and commitment to deliver.”
Obi said that Nigeria needs urgent transition from being a highly insecure country to a secured one and from a disunited country to a united one.
He added, “Nigeria has qualified to be a failed state. We have the two or three biggest characteristics of a failed state. One is when you are no longer in charge of your territory.
“Today, we are among the top terrorised countries in the world; we are among the top kidnapping countries in the world. Banditry has taken over part of the country and Nigerians are being killed.”
He called on Nigerians to elect the candidate with the capacity to rescue the nation from its current mess.
“Nigeria is in a mess. We got here simply because of the accumulative effects of bad leadership. The coming election is not about tribe or religion but about character and competence. We need a bold transition from a highly insecure state to a highly secured state,’’ he noted.
The APC running mate, Shettima pointed out that his principal would replicate at the federal level the feats he recorded in Lagos when he was the governor.
Shettima said they would hit the ground running if elected into office in 2023.
In his speech entitled, ‘Democratic Transitions In 21st Century Nigeria: 2023 and Beyond,’’ the APC vice-presidential candidate stressed that Tinubu is the man to beat because of his skill-set.
“I aligned with the APC candidate because of his competence and performance,’’ he affirmed.
The vice-presidential candidate said as governor of Borno state, he facilitated the construction of the best schools in the country.
“Nigerians have the capability to see through the worn-out rhetoric and sophistry of pretentious politicians,” he said in a veiled attack on his opponents.
“Nigerians should ‘follow the man wey know the road.’ From day one, we will hit the ground running. We’ll promptly address the issue of the economy, ecology, and security.
“And we have the antecedents. I built some of the best schools in Nigeria. Go to Borno and see wonders; you will never believe that it is a state in a state of war. So, we are going to replicate our achievements in Lagos, in Borno and some of the frontline states so that our nation will be a better place.’’
Shettima asked the NBA delegates to make an informed decision in changing the narrative of leadership in the 2023 general elections, saying his principal is the man to beat.
He urged lawyers to choose a leader that has established records, stating that he had mentored men and women.
Adichie speaks on heroes
The guest speaker at the conference, Adichie in her keynote address said the country was in disarray and needed heroes to save it.
She said, “Nigeria is in disarray; things are hard and getting harder by the day. We can’t be safe when there is no rule of law. Nigerians are starved of heroes to look up to.
“Late Dora Akunyili and Gani Gawehimmi were heroes that Nigerians looked up to before now. Unfortunately, that era has gone. I believe that NBA is in a position to give the nation heroes that we can look up to lead the nation.’’
Stressing the imperative of justice, the author of Half of a Yellow Sun and other books, further said, “As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults.’’
She submitted that many people who have abused their positions in Nigeria would regard the NBA as troublesome.
Adichie called for an incorruptible judicial system and advised the NBA to leverage technology in the judicial process and the administration of justice in the country.
“As the NBA continues to fight the abuse of power, it must also look inward not to be corrupted,’’ the award winning author admonished.
The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Adewole Adebayo lamented that the country’s crude oil was being stolen by the government.
Adebayo advised the conference participants to be suspicious of every statistic being given.
The presidential candidates of the African Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu and retired Justice Peter Umeadi also spoke at the conference.
Earlier Justice Ariwoola, who was represented by the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, said the bar and bench must return to the days when the ethics of the legal profession was upheld and enforced.
He said that the justice sector is very important to the survival of Nigeria so all stakeholders must ensure that it is protected and improved upon so it can continue to provide hope for the masses.
Also speaking at the conference, which has over 13,000 delegates in attendance, Sanwo-Olu said the state’s judicial system had upheld the legacies of the past administration in the improvement of the legal practice.
The governor, who was represented by the state’s Attorney-General, Moyosore Onigbanjo, stated “We have continually transformed our structures, building new courtrooms, renovating existing ones, to create a more conducive environment for our judges and to efficiently administer justice.’’
“I can boldly say that no state takes the funding of the judiciary as seriously as Lagos State, and this is a legacy that has been sustained by successive administrations since 1999,” he said.
The NBA president Mr Olumide Akpata in his welcome address said it was the greatest privilege of his life to have piloted the association.
Meanwhile, efforts to get reactions from the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka to Atiku and Obi’s statements failed as he did not respond to calls but the Director -General of Asiwaju Tinubu-Shettima Coalition for Good Governance, Adebayo Shittu, expressed optimism that their allegations won’t prevent his principal from winning the 2023 presidential election.
He stated, “If we have to go by past records, were they not the ones who laid the foundation for where we are today? Were they not a precursor to it? If not true, let them tell us why the PDP was kicked out from power in 2015. There is no way they can rationalize the situation.
“The only thing Obi and Atiku are saying is because they are in a desperate situation. Obviously, when you look at their political credentials, what can we say Atiku has going for him in terms of past records that can recommend him for the office he is vying for?
“The only recommendation he got from his former boss, Obasanjo, who swore that Atiku cannot be trusted because he is a kleptomaniac, politically and financially. Is it not on record?
“Even in a recent video, a former governor of Ondo State, Olabode George, was pleading that Atiku is no longer a thief and won’t steal again. We all heard him clearly. Is that the person we can recommend for president?
“Obi, on the other hand, is yet to address the accusation by his people in Anambra that he put the state’s money into his family business.”
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, did not respond to calls made to his mobile line.
In a related development, some Nigerians criticised Atiku over his plans to hand over federal universities to states.
A facebook user Olabisi Kolawole said, “The proprietor of the most expensive University is simply telling us that universities is not meant for children of the masses but for rich alone.”
Another facebook user said, “Alabi Olayiwola Even though I don’t like Atiku to be president, he’s right that Federal Government shouldn’t be running universities, but handing it over to the state will create another problem in the sector.”
Chukwuemeka Oge, stated, “Many of the states can’t even pay minimum wage to teachers. Many states are handing over teaching hospitals to FG because, they cannot fund them. How do you then run to who is running to you?”