Nigeria Will Develop When its People Are On ‘Good Terms’ – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians to be in good spirit with one another in order to allow for the development of the country.

The President said this on Monday when he received a delegation of religious, political, and traditional leaders who paid him a Christmas homage at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

According to him, people living in unity will lead to resources being reserved which will fast-track the development process of the country.

“If you are in good terms with your neighbour, then you can make some savings for development but if you start fighting your neighbour, I’m afraid the resources you have you’ll waste in trying to be very clever.

“So, I try to be very close to my neighbour individually and nationally. I thank you very much for being good neighbours,” said President Buhari.

In his earlier remarks, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, FCT Chapter, Reverend Jonah Samson, commended the President’s efforts in stabilising Nigeria, especially his anti-corruption drive.

He said: “The (Christian) community has deemed it fit to come and pay this homage to you sir and appreciate your leadership in the entire nation, especially in the aspect of fighting corruption.”

On his part, FCT Minister, Mr Bello Mohammed, commended security personnel in the city for being proactive in keeping the nation’s capital safe.

“I want to place on record our sincere appreciation to the security agencies and the entire security architecture of Abuja, and the FCT at large, which has made the territory very peaceful and conducive.”

Subsequently, the delegation presented President Buhari with cards as a mark of goodwill and support for his administration.

President Buhari was delighted by the gesture and the visit and also made a passionate appeal to the delegation to continue to support his administration.

The delegation was also delighted at the improvement in the President’s health and departed holding unto his optimism that Nigeria and Nigerians would fare better in the coming year.

Support Buhari To Fix Nigeria’s Economic Problems – Tinubu Urges At Christmas

A national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Ahmed Tinubu, has urged Nigerians to support President Muhammadu Buhari to fix Nigeria’s economic problems.

The APC leader made the call in a Christmas message he signed and circulated through his Media Officer, Tunde Rahman in Lagos.

He urged Nigerians to learn from the example of Jesus Christ “who faced and overcame the greatest evil” by uniting to overcome the country ’s various challenges.

“The challenges facing the country are difficult ones. Let us unite to overcome our challenges and keep the hope alive.

“We must support President Buhari and complement his efforts in his resolve to stimulate the economy and reposition the country.

“The president needs our support , understanding and prayers. We must fully break the terrorism of Boko Haram and completely put down the last vestiges of the terrorists.

“We must continue to pray for the men in uniform who risk their lives to keep us safe and to end this scourge on the nation. I commend our troops battling the terrorists . I thank them again for their courage and bravery.

“Let us remember those who have been dispossessed of their homes and traumatised by the evil of these terrorists and pray that they all will be able to return home soon and begin their lives a new and better.

“Yet, we must do more than pray . We all have something to give, something to contribute to the greater good . As Jesus gave of himself that we may live better, we must give of ourselves that others around us may have a better life.

“Christmas Day , is one of the most precious days of the year for it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

“Be you Christian, Muslim or just a human being with a soul that yearns for peace, compassion and hope, Jesus Christ belongs to all of us . His teachings are universal in application and speak of truth eternal.

“He reached out to all. Jesus fed the poor and healed the sick. He spread compassion and charity and preached love and justice . There are no finer aims than these and we can do no better than to do all we can to follow his example.

“We must commit ourselves to peace and unity . Let us eschew all bitterness and bigotry ,” he said

Buhari Apologizes For Lingering Fuel Scarcity

President Muhammadu Buhari spoke for the first time yesterday on the excruciating nationwide fuel scarcity, expressing his sympathy for Nigerians who are enduring weeks of needless queues at filling stations.

In a statement personally signed by him and posted on his twitter handle, @Mbuhari #FuelScarcity, he said the development was regrettable.

“I am being regularly briefed, especially on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC’s) interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period and beyond. The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathize with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues,” he said.

The president said he had the NNPC’s assurance that the situation would improve significantly over the next few days, “as new shipments and supplies are distributed across the country.“I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers.

“Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.”

Struck by the pains following the fuel scarcity, Nigerians have taken to the social media to call on President Buhari, who is also the Minister of Petroleum, to address the issue.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari yesterday came under attack from the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said the nation’s economic hardship was largely caused by “sheer incompetence, gross insensitivity and shambolic policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.”

The PDP said it was disheartening that Nigerians could not merrily celebrate the yuletide due to the biting economic hardship worsened by an acute fuel shortage.It described the nation’s economic situation as a national embarrassment, which “cannot be glossed over with deceit, lies and propaganda.”

The PDP, however, urged Nigerians to overcome the very sordid situation by rallying around one another in true love as epitomised in the birth and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.The party said: “Indeed, this is the worst yuletide ever. There is no way one can sugarcoat the fact that the anguish Nigerians face today is because of the incompetence of the APC Government, which has also amply demonstrated that it does not care about the welfare and happiness of the citizens.”

The opposition party lamented that many families are completely stranded while many more could no longer afford basic needs.“Nigerians have become ravaged by economic hardship because the APC-led Federal Government has abandoned them and refused to channel the abundant resources available in the nation for the good of the people. Instead, they are heartlessly diverting such resources for their selfish political purposes while the people suffer.

FG To Spend N155bn On Kaduna-Kano Road Project

The Federal Government on Wednesday approved a sum of N155.7 billion for the construction of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria to Kano road projects.

The minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola disclosed this while addressing press after a marathon federal executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa in Abuja.

The meeting was also adjourned to today, the first time the council meeting will be holding for two consecutive days.

Fashola also said council approved the completion of Police Service Commission headquarters in Abuja.

According to him, the project was approved for variation to enable its completion over the next six months.
He noted that the initial cost was N3.486 billion and it has been increased to 3.925 billion, a variation of N439.113 million.

He said council also approved Nnamdi Azikiwe Mausoleum in Anambra State. The project was started but not completed by previous administration.

“Council approved the additional funding to complete it from N1.496 billion to N1.953 billion”.

Also approved is Efire-Araromi-Aiyede-Aiyela road to connect Ondo and Ogun states at the cost of N14.4 billion.
He said for the Enugu-Onitsha highway, the Amansia section, council approved the variations of the cost of N38.74 billion to enable the contractor progress with the work.

“Council also approved the awarded part at the Umunya at the cost of N23.4 billion. So if you add that N38.74 billion which was the cost of the Amansea section you will get a total approved cost of N62.06 billion.”

“This contract was first awarded for N24 billion in 2014 but the scale of work done is, to say the least, appalling,” he said.

Fashola said council also approved money for intervention in education and healthcare. It approved the provision of independent power plant in nine universities and one Teaching Hospital as the first phase of the pilot programme to cover 37 universities at the cost of N38.965 billion to provide dedicated power to the universities which include street lighting, workshop to train the students post-completion.

During his briefing, the minister of Water Resources, Suliaman Adamu said, council ratified augmentation of funds to complete Adada dam Igbo-etiti LGA in Enugu State, with the aim to provide water to the university town of Nsukka. It comprises of a dam, some kilometers of pipeline, water supply to some communities along the route and water treatment plant.

The Enugu State government is expected to take the conveyance system from where we stop from the water treatment plant into Nsukka town and provide the necessary distribution, storage and reservoirs.

“The project was started in 2010. This project has been augmented and council approved that the project be completed now at N5.6 billion by the end of 2018.

“Council also approved the augmentation of phase II Galma Dam and irrigation project in Kaduna Zaria. The purpose of the dam is to provide water in Zaria and environs. The phase I dam has already been completed while phase II involves irrigation and some additional structures. So there was an augmentation to raise the project N16.5 billion in favour of Gilmore Nig. Ltd.

“Council also approved the review of construction fee for Uguashi-Ukwu dam project in Delta State. The project is almost 100 per cent completed but because of the extension of time over the years, we have to ratify the need to pay consultants for staying on site to oversee that project. So council approved the sum of N133.6 million.”
The minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, said council approved production and distribution of core text books for early education classes 1-3 and for primary 4-6 in public schools nationwide.

He pointed out that the federal government felt there is a need to support the funding of education not just the instruction but also the individuals who occupy the institution at the cost of N6.9 billion.

He said council also gave approval for Jos Central Library and the construction of the Faculty of Animal Sciences and Engineering.

For ministry of transport, Amaechi said they had approval for two vessels called pilot cutters to escort vessels into the seaport saying “Prior to this time they were hiring, now we have approval for NPA to buy theirs at the cost of N1.9 billion.”

Also, he said council approved another two vessels of 17 meters in the eastern port that will help monitor and assist vessels into the seaport at the cost of N1.2 billion.

“Council also approved the award of contract for direct procurement of installation and commissioning of Wide Area of multilateration for the Gulf of Guinea at the cost of N3.9 billion. This is to help capture that equipment flying below the radar, for us to be able to pick them because it will be dangerous if we cannot because a lot of them use helicopters.

“There was also an approval for the consultancy services to construct a new terminal building at Mallam Aminu Kano Airport. We just want to complete the payment which is at N621 billion.

“Council also approved the purchase of flight calibration inspection at the cost of N111.6 million.”

He said one other key project that was approved is the engagement of consultants for the project management, monitoring and evaluation including media and public relations services of the UNEP report.

“The president has also directed that immediately remediation should start and so the processes for remediation should come to council within the next six months so that we can commence the activities of reclaiming the land from the disastrous stage that it is now. The president reminded the cabinet that he was in Ogoni during campaign and had promised that the UNEP report will be carried out”, he added.

The FCT minister, Mohammed Bello, said council approved the completion of the Goodluck Jonathan Way in the FCT that links traffic from Keffi-Nyanya into the city. “We got an augmentation of an additional N3.8 billion and with the funding the road will be completed any moment from now.”

He explained, “Council also approved a critical project which is the infrastructure development of Wasa resettlement site sitting on about 695 hectares at the cost of N26 billion. The infrastructure development will include the construction of 198 roads within the settlement area totaling about 88.95 kilometers. The project is meant to move about 13 indigenous communities in the FCT in that area.

Source: Leadership

Buhari Sends 9 Names Of INEC RECs For Senate Confirmation

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent nine names to the senate for screening and confirmation as state Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki on Wednesday read Mr President at the plenary.

The letter reads, “In accordance of the Provisions of section 154 (1) of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. I write to forward here with the names of 9 of resident electoral commissioners appointed for the INEC for the consideration of the senate of the federal republic of Nigeria.

“The curriculum vitae of the nominees are attached here with while thanking you immensely in anticipation of the early consideration and confirmation of the above appointment by the senate.”

The nominees are; Monday Tom, Akwa-Ibom; Baba Yusuf, Borno; Eric Olawale, Osun; Lukman Ajidaba, Kwara; and Segun Agbaje, Ekiti.

Others are; Cyril Omoruyi, Edo; Yahaya Bello, Nasarawa; Emmanuel Alex, Rivers; and Mohammed Ibrahim, Gombe.

The Senate had on November 23 rejected the nominee of Zamfara State, Ahmad Mahmud, as a Resident Electoral Commissioner.

Buhari Departs Nigeria For Paris

President Muhammadu Buhari will leave for Paris, France on Monday to join 50 other world leaders to participate in the One Planet Summit on Tuesday.

The President, who will be accompanied by the governors of Adamawa, Kano and Ondo States, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Environment. He will return to Abuja on Thursday.

The summit is jointly organised by the United Nations, the World Bank Group, and the French Government in partnership with non-governmental organisations.

The summit which concerns reversing the negative effects of climate change, will take place at the eco-friendly La Seine Musicale, situated on the picturesque Seguin Island in western Paris.

The theme of the summit is “Climate Change Financing.” .

According to the organisers, the summit will “innovatively pool public and private finance to support and accelerate our common efforts to fight climate change”.

While recognising that all countries are affected by the effects of climate change under “One Planet”, but some are more vulnerable, organisers noted.

The summit seeks for tangible collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A statement by Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), said President Buhari will attend a lunch hosted by President Emmanuel Macron of France for Heads of State and Governments at the Elysee Palace.

President Buhari and other world leaders and participants will make presentations under four sub-themes.

They are Scaling-up Finance for Climate Action; Greening Finance for Sustainable Business; Accelerating Local and Regional Climate Action; and Strengthening Policies for Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

President Buhari signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the side-lines of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 22, 2016.

He noted then that the country’s signature “demonstrated Nigeria’s commitment to global efforts to reverse the effects of the negative trend”.

He followed that significant step by signing the Instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement on March 28, 2017 at the State House, Abuja, making Nigeria the 146th party to the Paris Treaty.

It became binding on the country effective June 15, 2017, one month after the submission of the Ratification instrument to the United Nations on May 16, 2017 by Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande.

The participation of Nigeria’s delegation at the One Planet Summit will reinforce the country’s commitment to realising the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Tinubu Group Asks Buhari To Support Youth, Party

A socio-political group Asiwaju Grassroots Foundation, AGF, has called on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to take youth and party empowerment very seriously to sustain the progressive ideology of the party and membership spread.

The national coordinator of the group, Otunba Adeleye Akintola stated this when he led the delegation of the AGF on a consultation visit to the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu at his office in Abuja.

Adeleye said the mission of the delegation was to express its support for the APC-led federal government and make case for more representation of youth in government and party structure.

He promised that the group would assist the government in propagating its reformation agenda to achieve a working nation.

In her contribution, Hajia Salamatu Bello Jubril, who is the women leader of the group, similarly requested for involvement of more women in political appointment and other relevant places.

In his response, the presidential aide described Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as his benefactor, a great and exceptional leader whose legacy is worth preserving.

Ojudu thanked his visitors for showing interest to join forces with the federal government in her effort to achieve a better Nigeria.

He charged members of the group not to sit on the fence during political activities in their respective states but take part and take charge by contesting for different positions.

Ojudu assured that President Buhari is detribalized and lover of youths and women who would do everything possible to create suitable environment for them to realise their potentials without any form of discriminations.

My Pact With Nigerians Still Stand; ‘I Belong To Everybody, Belong To Nobody’ – Buhari

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday revealed why he said “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody” during his swearing in after he won the 2015 presidential election.

Buhari who spoke at a state dinner organized in his honour by the Kano state Government reiterated his commitment to Nigerians saying they are the primary purpose of his government.

This was contained in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

He said, “My problem is Nigeria and I have been involved in almost all the instability Nigeria experienced – the civil war, the coups and counter- coups.

“That was why I said during my swearing- in that ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’.”

Buhari further congratulated Governor Abdullahi Ganduje on his development strides in the state.

He called on other political office holders to emulate and support the state governor.

He added, “He is a great politician and I am afraid I am still learning.”

The President reaffirmed that his message at his inaugural address would continue to guide his stewardship to Nigerians.

Buhari Frees 500 Inmates In Kano

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has pardoned 500 inmates of the Kurmawa Central Prisons in Kano metropolis as part of Federal Government’s efforts to decongest prisons.

Buhari who was in Kano on a two-day official visit granted the pardon when he arrived at the place in company of the state Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje on Wednesday.

The prisoners include males and females.

The president advised the affected inmates to be of good behaviour and shun anything that could bring them back to prison.

He charged them to engage in lawful ventures to enable them to become useful members of the society.

The president also gave the inmates an undisclosed amount of money to transport themselves to their respective homes.

In his remarks, Ganduje also advised the inmates to conduct themselves well and contribute meaningfully to societal development.

Buhari earlier visited the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II.

EDITORIAL: Workers And Paris Club Refunds

At a time several states are nearly at a tipping point financially, the prospect of an imminent cash rain ought to stoke some excitement. So it was on Monday when President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, Minister of Economic Planning and Budget, Udoma Udo Udoma and Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun to negotiate with the governors, with a view to settling their outstanding Paris Club refunds. For long-suffering workers across the states of the federation and the governors most of who have been (sometimes) needlessly maligned over a crisis that was not their making, it comes as a soothing balm to their pains.

Yet again, it is a season of great expectations – and potentially one of restiveness, particularly of workers and pensioners. Indeed, there are, already, countless proposals on what the funds should be used for. A somewhat preponderant position would appear to suggest that the refunds should be deployed to clear the arrears of wages and pensions in the states – as if that is all there is to the business of governance.

Just like the last previous interventions, we must again warn at the temptation to substitute a palliative or placebo for therapy. Clearly, if there are any lessons to be taken from the earlier interventions, it is the fact that the problems facing the states as a whole are far deeper, in fact, more complex, than any superficial interventions – no matter how many multiple times – can solve.

Fact is – the states aren’t getting anything that they should not ordinarily be entitled to were to be a truly functional federation. Whether it is the so-called bailout or refund of the overpayment on the Paris Club loans, the states should ordinarily be able to enjoy such fiscal leeway as befitting their status as federating entities – drawing upon the federal support only in situations of grave emergencies. To the extent that the latest crisis is itself a derivative of dysfunctions of our federalism, it seems only inevitable that the federal government will be called up when necessary to solve the structural mess – until such a time the basis of the problem is dealt with.

This of course takes us to the perennial restiveness of the workers.

Clearly, while the workers in particular may have been badly hit by the current crisis, the idea that the entire cash be handed out to them to clear the arrears of wages seems, quite frankly, ludicrous. Agreed, the workers deserve their due; but so does the rest of the citizens – farmers, artisans, market men and women and non-wage workers – deserve to be served from the same pot not just because their welfare also depend on that, but because the ability of the state to renew itself as a way to guarantee its future prosperity is assured only when portion of that cash is invested in physical infrastructure. That is the way to go.

What the times therefore call for is proper understanding. Neither the time to raise unnecessary expectations nor should it be an occasion for blackmail or needless stoking of tensions. With good faith on the side of the workers and the state governments, it should be possible to forge necessary compromises to ensure that the states move forward. To the extent that the current challenges tug at the heart of the lopsided federal practice which deny the states of their just dues as one would expect in a true federation, it has become inevitable to re-balance the Nigerian federation by devolving both economic and political powers to the states, to ensure that they are less beholden to the centre, and to make them truly productive as against sharing entities.

One On One Session With Atiku Abubakar

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I’ve always wondered what drives or propels the man, former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. For real, I have never seen a man so fastidious about his dream and so obstinate about achieving a lifelong ambition to be the number one Nigerian Citizen. I’ve followed his trajectory with keen interest since 1993 when he took on both Chief Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, in an epic Presidential primary, that Chief Abiola ultimately won. His formidability we were told was a result of the influence of his godfather and political colossus, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, now of blessed memory. Chief Abiola actually reached out to the General, as he was fondly called, to prevail on Atiku to pull out of the race and support him. A deal was subsequently struck, between Abiola and Yar’Adua, for Atiku to be Abiola’s running-mate. Everything looked good on paper until the powerful and influential Social Democratic Party (SDP) Governors threw spanners in the works, forcing Abiola to renege on his word. Whilst Abiola wanted Atiku, the Governors led by the irrepressible Olusegun Osoba, from Abiola’s home State of Ogun, insisted on Abiola picking Kingibe. They convinced Abiola that it was dangerous to pick Atiku who would have been more loyal and too submissive to his godfather.

I have no doubt that from that moment onwards, the June 12 Presidential election was already threatened and endangered. According to insiders, the General was so miffed and enraged that he swore Abiola would not be President for dumping his godson. Efforts were made by different personages to settle the matter, but it seemed the camaraderie was over between Abiola and Yar’Adua who, once upon a time, were successful business partners at African Ocean Lines.

Anyway, Atiku was kicked out of the race to fight another day. Abiola won the Presidential election eventually but was never allowed to assume power. The June 12 election fallout led to a cataclysmic eruption that consumed many of the big players, including Abiola, his wife, Alhaja Kudirat, Major-General Yar’Adua and General Sani Abacha. The boss of bosses, General Olusegun Obasanjo, escaped only by the whiskers. He was jailed but came back to be President. Ironically, the same Atiku who was not allowed to be the Vice-Presidential candidate in 1993 became the substantive Vice President in 1999, when he ran, and won, with Obasanjo. Whilst Obasanjo emerged, in a bid to assuage the betrayed and wounded Yoruba, Atiku’s choice appears to have been predicated on the sense of injustice that he had suffered as a result of being dumped by Abiola.

Everything initially ran smoothly between Obasanjo and Atiku in their first term in office, from 1999 to 2003. However, the relationship collapsed when Atiku started showing interest in the number one position. I will not bore you with the rest of that fiasco, including the anecdotal humbling of Obasanjo who allegedly had to beg his deputy, Atiku, to allow him a second term. My mission was to provide some background to Atiku’s uncommon trajectory. He has pursued his dream since 1993 and has never given up. That was 24 years ago. Indeed, Atiku has been in partisan politics for 28 years but only served in government for eight years. He has criss-crossed different political parties in search of that magic wand that could give him his heart’s desire. It has been a painful journey. He’s been dissed and lampooned as a serial “decampee” famed for wandering endlessly in the wilderness of Nigerian politics. That, for many people, is a major weakness which signals integrity issues. There are other minuses weighing on him like an albatross. How does he deal with these very serious issues of perception or misperception?

The opportunity came for me to engage him very critically, and very privately, yesterday afternoon in Lagos. A mutual friend had called to arrange the meeting at Atiku’s behest. I gladly accepted not only as I was anxious to bombard him with many nagging questions, but also because by some quirk of fate, the political gladiators for the number one hot seat in Nigeria seem to feel that a session with me is a sine qua non for their aspiration. I’m deeply humbled by that trust.

The meeting was arranged for Lagos. Atiku had arrived on Thursday. I arrived in Lagos yesterday afternoon from Abuja where I had been the Chief Presenter of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi’s book, On a Platter of Gold, chronicling President Goodluck Jonathan’s twilight days as President. I checked into my hotel just before 12 noon and put a call through to his room. He told me to give him a short time to freshen up and invite me over. He’s obviously been doing a lot of consultations and was working well into the early mornings. I dozed off. Suddenly, I was awoken from my slumber by banging on my door. I stood up to look through the peephole and was pleasantly surprised to see the most-talked about politician of the moment at my door. I opened the door and Atiku immediately apologised for the intrusion. He came without any aide, so we were both comfortable to talk frankly.

I thanked him for the honour of actually coming to me and asked if he won’t mind me asking some tough questions. He said that was fine and I should feel free. My first shot was about his moving from Party to Party. Does this not make him look desperate and unserious? He must have answered this question a thousand times because he wasted no time in answering very calmly and confidently:

“There is nothing wrong with it. Ours is a fledgling democracy of barely two decades since the end of the last military regime. What it means is that the political parties are yet to mature and are going through constant transformations and changes. That is why even President Buhari has been able to move from party to party, including ANPP, CPC and now APC. And for those who read about world history and political books like I do, they will know that Abraham Lincoln, Sir Winston Churchill and others went through so much before achieving their dreams…”

He went further: “I’m not different. I know what I want for my country. I’ve served Nigeria in different capacities and I am one of the most experienced leaders around today. There is no part of Nigeria I’m not familiar with. I have friends everywhere. They know me and I know them. The benefit of being around for so long is that they have come to know me for certain principles and know that I have a rich knowledge of Nigeria and what it would take to move us to the height of greatness. They can also trust me that I’m not coming to government to steal their money. God has blessed me with business acumen. How can you run a nation if you cannot run your own business? I run my businesses to international standards. Let any of those who want to compete with me show what they have managed successfully. I’ve lifted over 45,000 families out of joblessness and poverty through my microfinance company in my State Adamawa and we’ve have empowered mostly women. The good news is these women have been very honest. Returns on our loans have been about 98 percent. They have not disappeared with the loans given then. We plan to replicate this nationwide…”

I asked if he was obsessed with being President at all costs. His answer was an emphatic, No! He asked rhetorically why he should not give back some of his experience and exposure to a country that has given him so much? Why should he allow incompetent people to run down the country when God has given him the talent and wherewithal to lift up Nigeria?

I told him the belief out there is that he is a corrupt man and that the stain won’t be easy to remove. His former boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has sold us that line, and would stop at nothing to regale the world that Atiku is a thief who nobody should vote for. Atiku’s response was very concise and assertive: “I have the highest regards for my boss. He gave me eight years to serve Nigeria under him. We had our differences but we both tried our best. But on the issue of corruption, I have challenged anyone, anywhere, who has any evidence of corruption against me to come forward. I’m sure they would have combed everywhere trying to find anything incriminating against me, but they have not found it, or they are still searching. Dele, I’m throwing that challenge again, let them bring out whatever they have on me…”

I followed with a bazooka and asked him “how come you are running away from the United States of America? What offence have you committed to warrant not being able to visit, since all this time?” Atiku fired back at me: “It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America. I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa. However, they did not decline me categorically either. They’ve only said my application is going through administrative process. This is not peculiar to me. For about 15 years, Buhari could not enter America on account of religious considerations. The current Indian Prime Minister, Modi, suffered the same fate for years. Today, he is being treated to red carpet treatment in America.. I fly to different parts of the world, including Europe, if America wanted me, it would be so easy for them to reach out to their allies…”

We soon dovetailed to the nitty-gritty of politics. Why did he not wait to contest the primaries in APC first and see the outcome before running away? I felt this was defeatist! His response: “After Buhari won the election, he was no longer interested in the Party that made him President. Every activity stopped and not even the Party Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, could take any decision. I called Chief Oyegun a few times to tell him our Party was dying slowly but he told me he would not do anything unless he got clearance from the President. At a stage, I gathered about 18 prominent members and began to meet in the hope that we can re-energise Party activities, but some people lied to the President that I wanted to use the forum to launch my Presidential campaign. That forum became simply dead on arrival. No BOT, no NEC meetings, as stipulated in our Constitution. The Party became a one-man property. Everyone grumbles behind the President’s back but they are too timid to raise a voice against the illegalities being perpetuated. I should be bold enough to know what I want, and can do so at my age, so I decided to leave…”

So, where is he going from here? He says he hasn’t formally declared for any Party, but is sure PDP is waiting to welcome him back into the Party he co-founded with others at the end of military rule. I asked if he has any guarantee of getting the PDP ticket. He told me why he should get it: “Nothing is absolutely certain in this life, but PDP needs a candidate with the brightest chance and that can only come from someone who has major experience, exposure, knowledge about running an economy, who is a Nationalist and not a sectionalist and whose brand cannot be intimidated in anyway by that of the current President. If PDP picks a weak candidate, then the Party is doomed. Some of those whose names are being touted and bandied about have not grown beyond their immediate domains.”

If he gets the PDP ticket, is he confident he can beat a sitting President and Buhari for that matter? “I will definitely beat him this time. He has wasted a lot of his massive goodwill. A lot of people are disgruntled but keeping quiet and lying low. Our youths are suffering terribly and now they are being sold into slavery. Everyone knows my track record of inviting and attracting a good team and giving them the opportunity to work professionally. Nigerians are tired of leaders who cannot think big and work big. Dele, I will be ready from day one…”

Is he not afraid of Buhari? “No, definitely not. Buhari is free to contest and I’m free to contest. And Nigerians will make their choice.” I could see that glow in his eyes. He sounded determined and more prepared at this time, than at any other time.

Will Atiku play a joker as his last card in 2019? Time will tell.