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The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Tuesday took a swipe at the ruling All Progressives Congress, saying its decision to run on a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2023 presidential election was the most insensitive decision to make in a diversified nation like Nigeria.
They also carpeted the Buhari-led APC government for running the economy aground and making Nigerians poorer than they were eight years ago.
Atiku and Okowa, who described the ruling party’s choice of same faith ticket as the most insensitive political step, spoke in two separate political events organised in Abuja and Lagos.
Okowa, who was in the company of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchi Ayu, at an event in Abuja, said “I personally do not believe in the Muslim-Muslim ticket. The reason is that there is diversity when it comes to that. Therefore, sticking to one faith is not a good thing to do particularly in a troubled nation as we are in today. It’s almost like going on to having the presidential candidate from the North and picking the vice presidential candidate also from the North.”
As a result of the ruling party’s action, the Delta State governor said it would be difficult for the APC to win the presidential poll.
“So, the only ticket that can work for Nigeria is the ticket that doe not tie election victory to either the Muslim or Christian faith,” he stressed.
The summit was organised by the Northern Christian Youth Assembly with the theme, “Unifying Nigeria: The role of Northern Christian youths and women.”
Okowa told the youth that with their support, the party would win the 2023 elections.
He said the PDP had been receiving several defectors, adding that more people were joining the Atiku/Okowa project.
While commending the group for organising the meeting to discuss Nigeria’s challenges and the pathways to finding solutions, he advised everyone to prepare to vote in the coming poll.
“The PDP will win the election because many people have keyed into this project. We are receiving defectors in droves. When we say that the future is for the youth, it is actually from today. But the real truth is, our youths, particularly the youth leaders must be in a position to have a clear understanding so that they are able to guide others aright. This is because if you have a leadership that is not able to provide that true leadership of guiding people alright and people begin to think in the wrong way, you create further problems rather than finding solutions; and we go the wrong path.
“We are going to see bullying in the cyberspace of our country. I think that everybody should have his space and time to be able to think and make comments without being bullied. We need to do critical thinking and that is why we are gathered here today.
“The topic for the event is key because it talks about unifying Nigeria. This is instructive because there is strength in our diversity but that will only be when we are able to unite ourselves.
Also, Atiku, who spoke at the Private Sector Economic Forum on the 2023 Presidential Elections organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lagos, stated that the APC-led administration had overseen a regime that had been responsible for a massive and regrettable level of unemployment in the country.
Delivering a scathing assessment of the Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s economic performance in a speech titled “Nigeria dresses in borrowed robes,” Atiku said Nigeria had been consistently running on budget deficits since it came to power in 2015.
He noted that the budget deficits were often above the three per cent threshold permissible under the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
Atiku said for the first time in Nigeria’s history, the Federal Government paid more in debt service than it earned by spending more than 100 per cent of its revenue on debt service.
He said job losses, declining purchasing power, per capita income and lack of citizens’ access to basic amenities had pushed more than 90 million people below the poverty line and created more misery for the poor in towns and villages.
He said, “On Nigeria’s current unemployment rate, the PDP presidential candidate said, “More than 23 million people are out of jobs, and that 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 year, around 12 per cent of the world population in extreme poverty, with the poverty threshold at 1.90 US dollars a day, live in Nigeria.
Basic commodities are now beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. A loaf of bread costs 100 per cent more today than it did in 2020. Farmers now pay more for a bag of fertiliser- if they see it- than they did in 2020.”
Noting that Nigeria could not overcome its economic challenges without significant reforms to restructure the economy and support the private sector to unleash its growth potential, the former VP said Nigerian businesses were significantly impacted by business environment constraints and could not realise their full potential.
“This government has failed to demonstrate a strong commitment to private sector development,” Atiku said.
On Nigeria’s economic growth under the APC government, the former Vice President said Nigeria’s economy was crawling rather than growing.
According to him, Nigeria’s GDP had grown at an average rate of less than one per cent since the APC assumed power in 2015, compared to average growth of 6.5 per cent in the earlier seven years.
Stating that capital had taken flight, Atiku said policy incoherence and flip-flops combined with internal security had continued to pose a significant risk to investment and output growth.
“Foreign Direct Investment has progressively declined since 2019. It fell sharply from $8.5bn in Q1 2019 to $5.8bn in Q1 2020 and $1.9bn I’m Q1 2021.
“The failure of leadership by the APC-led government is staring every Nigerian in the face as the country’s economic, social, political and security challenges persist and assume frightening dimensions,” Atiku stated.
Shittu replies attack
As of the time of filing this report, the Director of Media and Publicity for APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga and the National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, could not be reached for reaction on Atiku and Okowa’s comments.
But Director-General of the Asiwaju Tinubu-Shettima Coalition for Good Governance, Adebayo Shittu, hit out at Atiku and his running mate, describing them as ‘’unrepentant PDP leaders that deserve to cover their faces in shame.”
He said, “They have nothing else to say. The antecedents of Tinubu, who is known to be fishers of men has seen him choose the very best brain; somebody who is articulate, brilliant and ruled Borno State in a war-situation and did exceedingly well. This has unsettled them. Tell me, who could have been a better APC candidate to choose from the North-East?
On the 54 per cent unemployment rate, the former Communications Minister said the situation was not peculiar to only Nigeria.
“Is it peculiar to us alone? We should be able to compare with other nations before drawing a conclusion. Even in Britain and the US, what is the situation like? Are you aware that Britain is currently experiencing increment in prices of bread and other essentials?
Atiku meets Jandour
Meanwhile, the former VP at earlier programme with stakeholders in Lagos, said he was marvelled by the level of mobilisation of party members in Lagos State ahead of the 2023 general elections, according to a News Agency of Nigeria report.
“Now, in all my political career, we are the people who established the PDP, I have never seen Lagos state so mobilised like this.
“This makes me believe that this electoral time, PDP is going to win Lagos. I believe you are going to win Lagos state this time around,” the PDP presidential candidate said.
In his remarks, Olajide Adediran (Jandor), the governorship candidate of PDP in Lagos state, said the people of the state had never been so hopeful with Atiku.
Adediran said the party members in the state had spoken to themselves and had decided to focus only on Abubakar as “the Project 2023.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Atiku was accompanied by former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, Sen. Dino Maleye, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, party stalwarts and some other members of the National Assembly from the party.