As the dust raised by the alleged hiring of clergymen to endorse the unveiling of Senator Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to settle, torchbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has spoken on various issues, carpeting his main rivals, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Mr. Peter Obi.
He specifically revealed how he parted ways politically with Tinubu, the APC 2023 presidential candidate, in 2007 over single religion ticket.
He deplored the foisting of a single religion leadership ticket on Nigerians. He stressed that the Muslim-Muslim ticket was an unfair treatment for a secular nation like Nigeria.
The former vice president spoke Friday morning while featuring on Arise TV, Morning Show programme.
As a Nigerian believer of the Islamic faith, he said he has been very careful about the sensitive issue of religion and has always been avoiding playing politics with religion.
This, he said, informed his decision in 2007 to oppose Tinubu on the issue of the same faith ticket when the latter was contesting for the presidency then.
“The diversity in the nation was from the APC-led government. My fundamental disagreement and departure from Asiwaju politically was in 2007 on the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“Remember I came out of PDP on the issue of zoning and together with him we formed ACN and I was given a ticket in Lagos and he insisted to be my running mate and I said no, I am not going to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket. So, he switched his support to the late Umaru Yar’Adua. That was the departing point.”
Also, the PDP presidential candidate has expressed worries over the slipping trend in the Nigerian economy.
He lamented the rising profile of the nation’s debt which he said is slipping from medium to high risk of distress.
Atiku said this on Friday while responding to a statement credited to Nigeria’s finance minister, Hajia Zainab Ahmed that the nation’s debt servicing exceeds revenue.
He said Thursday’s revelation by Nigeria’s Finance Minister that the cost of servicing Nigeria’s debt has surpassed the Federal Government’s retained revenue by N310 billion in the first quarter of the year is very worrisome.
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“First, this action must be in breach of all known reasonable debt-sustainability thresholds. Second, it puts a big question mark on the capacity of the government to manage its rising debt profile without endangering macroeconomic stability. Indeed, I am concerned that this action is already exposing Nigeria to financial stability issues as we slip from a medium risk of debt distress to a high risk of debt distress.
“I had on several occasions warned that not only is the fiscal cost of government’s indiscriminate borrowing so enormous but has even greater opportunity costs as we sacrifice investments in critical areas, including education, health, and other basic services. This is certainly detrimental to Nigeria’s long-term growth.
“I urge the government to as a matter of urgency take immediate steps to slow down the rate of debt accumulation by promoting more Public Private Partnerships in critical infrastructure funding and identifying more innovative funding options.
“Review the current utilization of all borrowed funds and ensure that they are deployed more judiciously. Specifically, the government must ensure that all borrowed funds are for priority infrastructure projects that would generate income, boost output, and put the economy on the path of sustainable growth.
“Review the country’s debt strategy by focusing on concessional and semi-concessional sources with lower interest rates and relatively long-term maturity. The government must reduce the issuance of short-dated debt instruments”.
Atiku also charged the Federal Government to take steps to improve its spending efficiency and drastically cut unnecessary and wasteful expenditures.
In the same interview with Arise Television, Atiku addressed a wide range of issues including the economy, insecurity, his chances at the poll, and those affecting Tinubu and Obi.
On President Muhammadu Buhari’s lopsided appointments, Atiku said: “First and foremost, you have to give every part of this country a sense of belonging…we have 17 security outfits in this country and all of them being headed by one section of the country, that’s a very serious imbalance.”
He spoke about Tinubu, his long-time friend and former political associate whose presidential interest now clashes with his. He said: “My fundamental disagreement with Asiwaju since 2007 was on the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which led to my political departure from him.”
Recall that Atiku contested the 2007 presidential election on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) formed by Tinubu after he (Tinubu) fell out with the leadership of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
When asked about the threat posed by Peter Obi with his Obidient movement, he said: “It will take a miracle for the Labour Party with no structure in the grassroots to win the presidency. In the north 90% of our people are not in tune to Social media.” He advised Nigerians not to expect a miracle to happen on the basis that Peter Obi joined the Labour Party to contest the presidency in 2023.
On his choice of Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate, and his rejection of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Atiku said: “I didn’t reject Wike. I picked who can deliver. Wike is brilliant and tenacious. Going by history, I had picked an Igbo as running mate in 2007, in 2019. I still picked an Igbo for 2023.
“The committee that presented the three nominees was chaired by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. They recommended three people, so I picked one. People should be fair to me and state the facts.”
Admitting that some members were not happy with his vice presidential candidate pick, particularly Wike, Atiku said, “We are reaching out to Wike and talking to him, very soon, we will resolve our internal crises.”
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