Mr. Charles Aniagwu is the spokesman of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation and Commissioner for Information in Delta State. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks on the recent economic blueprint of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and other national issues
How potent do you think the economic blueprint presented by your presidential candidate, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar last Tuesday?
One major unique thing about Atiku’s philosophy ahead of the 2023 general elections is the fact that he is not just identifying the problems, which is the hallmark of other candidates.
They would tell you the economy is bad, Nigerians already know that. They would tell you there is mismanagement of our diversity, Nigerians know. What Atiku has done is to proceed to say ‘these are my solutions to these things that are very well known to Nigerians.’ He clearly understands like most Nigerians that there is a challenge with our energy sector and so he is not coming out to say there is a problem with energy.
He is saying ‘these are things I am going to do. I will collaborate with the private sector for us to be able to rejig our energy generating capacity.’ For us to be able to take a second look at our ability to transmit and distribute and that there would be massive infrastructure funding in that direction.
He said there is no need wasting the government’s resources on bailing industries that you are not likely to be able to revive. Instead of doing that, hand that kind of industry to private sectors like we have done in the telecom sector and you now free the funds you are pumping into that sector into other sectors that are of critical nature, that we need to be able to give strength to.
There are a whole lot of things he wants to do in the economic sector. He says number one in a major number of areas the private sectors play critical roles, that his government will create an enabling environment, including granting low tax regime to encourage foreign direct investment.
So that investment in that sector, whatever we are going to be losing by not collecting high tax we will gain by the number of persons who we will now give employment to once these companies come on stream. There are lots of modern ideas in Atiku’s economic principles which are going to evolve. Of course do not forget that he has been a wonderful operator in that sector.
The difference between Atiku and others is that why others are involved in consumption sector, buying foreign goods and stocking their malls, Atiku is into manufacturing, in which case he is helping the agro industries in Nigeria to be able to thrive because the raw materials for those industries he has opened in Nigeria are from our country.
But when you import daily products and other products, you make it difficult for those in the country to strive. Those are some of the things Nigerians need to look at.
Atiku is working the talk, not just talking the talk because talk is cheap. That is why we say that Atiku has got what it takes to bring jobs back to our people and return our economy to such a level that we can begin to have hope once again with our standard of living improving.
One argument overtime is that he has never been a chief executive either as a governor or as president. How do you see this argument?
Well, that is the poorest argument anybody can put forward. Under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration for eight years, Aniagwu who was the chief executive of the National Economic Council?
He was the head of the economic council. One good thing about Atiku is that he knows how to identify talents. You would recall the poster boys and girls of Obasanjo’s administration, go and dig deep and find out how they came into that administration.
They were not involved in the campaign in 1999 but when the administration came on stream through the effort of Atiku, that administration was able to recognize that there are Nigerians who are not politicians but have got what it takes to be able to add value to our developmental needs.
Nobody will say that they did not recognize the role played by the likes of Chukwuma Soludo, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, Nasir El-Rufai and many other persons who were very instrumental to the successes recorded by the administration in the economic sector.
The privatization of the telecom sector which today has become the greatest employer of labour in Nigeria was made possible through the supervision of Atiku who was very much responsible for the privatization council.
So when individuals say he has never been a chief executive, do not forget that this same individual apart from having so many companies that are not only surviving or thriving but are generating thousands of jobs for Nigerians and paying taxes to the Nigerian government.
How can somebody say he has never been a chief executive? Those said to have been chief executives. It is either they were busy thinking of how to use time to corner state resources or they were very busy building their private enterprise rather than creating enterprises in the states where they had the opportunity to govern.
How does your principal see the current level of indebtedness of the country?
He is very much disturbed by the level of indebtedness; he has made it very clear that he is not going to be involved in borrowing to finance consumption.
That first just like he and Obasanjo did in their administration to approach the debtor club and debtor companies, the creditor council and countries to say ‘please this is where we are’, and he has said that he is going to block the loopholes, so that even the borrowed monies will not end up in people’s pockets. He does not have any problem with the country borrowing but he said if we must borrow let it be put into the productive sectors.
That if you must borrow, you will not just go back and loot what you have borrowed, in which case you are not going to derive the benefit of such credit which eventually becomes debt on the part of our country.
He said effective and genuine ways must be brought on board to manage our debt profile so that servicing of such debts does not become a major burden that will mitigate his ability to revive the economy.
He is very much disturbed about the profligacy in the system today and he is worried about the way the present APC led administration has gone about borrowing funds without channeling the funds specifically to strategic areas such as boosting our power sector, insuring that infrastructures are improved so that at the end of the day it will be able to generate jobs, the much needed jobs.
Atiku understands that the reason why youths are very much aggrieved today, is because there has been a whole lot of failure in the system and there is need for us to not only guarantee the future of our youths but to guarantee even their present.
But some people would say that was the way APC came with fantastic plans in 2014 with its anti-corruption mantra, the plan to address the economy and insecurity?
APC only came to talk the talk without working the talk. Secondly, when Atiku discovered that the APC was not able to keep faith with the promises they made he left them in 2017. He realised that the things they promised to do, that they did not have the capacity and that they were not taking steps to bring in any other person that could help them.
Atiku realises that a president does not need to be a medical doctor to be able to equip the health sector. What the president needs to add value to the health sector is to recognize those who have got knowledge in that field.
He is a talent hunter; he brings those who know what to do in the engineering sector and puts them, in which case we are talking about putting square pegs in square holes and putting round pegs in round holes. The major challenge of the APC administration is that they do not even know how to identify talents. They have a circle of friends who at the end of the day do not have knowledge of the issues that at the moment affects us.
What makes Atiku to stand tall above every other person is that he has got the ability to assemble capacity and he recognizes them without regard to the issue of ethnocentric consideration. What we want to do is to deal with the problems and reverse the ugly situation, so that we have a country that functions.
If APC wants to continue what they did in 2015 and 2014, Nigerians have already known to them that the corruption they claimed they were going to tackle has now quadrupled.
That the economy they said they were going to fix has now collapsed, that the corruption they claim they will deal with, has become something else. The only democratic dividend that APC has democratized is insecurity.
When they came it was largely restricted to the North-East, but the APC government has so democratized it that every geopolitical zone now has a fair share. That tells you that their talk is not only cheap but terribly cheap. What we want to do is to work the talk. Atiku said he does not want to tell you the problems because the problems are already well known, what he wants to do is bring solutions to bear
Your party instead of forging ahead very strongly is contending with an internal crisis. What do you make of this current crisis?
PDP is not having an internal crisis, we are only having internal disagreement on issues and it is the ability to manage that disagreement that makes the PDP unique. PDP has been so democratic that individuals are allowed to voice both their views and grievances and that is what is happening.
The party has continued to take steps to resolve it. My principal was in Oyo State to meet with Governor Seyi Makinde and other leaders of the South-West and a whole lot of ground has been covered in that direction.
We are quite convinced that by the time we are done crossing with the current efforts, we would have ended up repositioning the party to perform this daunting task of rescuing our country from where we are at the moment.
The PDP is the only party that is properly positioned to galvanize all the energy that exists across the length and breadth of this country. You could have individuals in other parties that may be strong individuals but in terms of structure to be able to make a difference, the PDP is the party that has it and can bring everybody on board.
For you to be able to reposition our country today you need all players to come on board across the geopolitical divides. Do not forget, the major reason APC failed woefully is their inability to manage our diversity and that is where PDP stands shoulder above any other political party.
Ability to bring everybody to be able to play their role, because we have got very intelligent people from all parts of this country, so when you now take a decision that the food that is meant for everybody is only given to a segment of the society you end up not having the kind of result that you anticipate. But PDP knows how to bring everybody to the decision table.
That is why we say that the PDP, particularly led by a competent driver in the person of Atiku and competent conductor in the person of Okowa will be able to take this vehicle to drive the passengers which are Nigerians to the right destination.
Every other person is free to participate but what we are talking about is the challenges on ground are not for boys. It is for men who understand the issue.
Did you see what happened when it was time for people to bring in their running mate? Because the other ones are not prepared, because they don’t have the reach, all they did was to introduce a new language into our lexicon. They called it ‘place hold’ because they were not prepared so they did not even know how to nominate a running mate. At that moment you already know those who are not prepared.
Let’s look at INEC, recently some representatives were appointed and many of them are believed to be members of APC. What dangers do you think this poses to the credibility of our election?
A lot of individuals including the civil society and political parties have raised the issue in respect to the appointment of individuals that are perceived to be card carrying members of the APC. I want to believe that the president will listen but in the event that he fails to listen just as in the case of Loreta Onochie we do hope that the Nigerian Senate will be able to take a decision in the interest of posterity.
This is because the law is very clear that card carrying members of political parties are not supposed to be the umpire, just like when you want to have a football match between Chelsea and Arsenal and it turns out that the referee used to be a former coach of Arsenal. You know what that means, the match is already won before the whistle is blown.
So, the best thing that anybody has to do and particularly for a president that is a sitting president is to leave a legacy that Nigerians will continue to remember him for, he has failed in so many areas it would be good for him to pass in this particular one and to pass means that he must do the right thing so that he does not offend the spirit and intent of the electoral act.
I am convinced that the president will have to listen but in the event that he fails to, the national assembly should be able to do the needful. That needful is for them to clear anybody that is said to have had any link with any of the political parties, so that at the end of the day Nigerians must be able to see that fairness, justice, will become the hallmark of that electoral process.
Otherwise, even those who may have genuinely lost may come and claim that because of the presence of one party man that is why they lost.
We do not want people to go and blame the instrument as the reason why they were not able to grow their crops in their farm. It is better we give them the right instrument so that when they plant, if they are not able to do well we will know that they are lazy, not that the instrument is not good enough.
INEC said recently that there were two attempts at hacking into its , especially its IRV network, how do you see this particular effort?
If you ask me, I must commend INEC starting from the time of Attahiru Jega, and now to the time of Mahmood Yakubu, because there have been a whole lot of innovations, findings and how to add value to our electoral process. Nigerians must understand that these things come gradually.
Today with the issues of BIVAS and many other innovations that have been brought to the electoral process. You could see that election related litigations have also reduced. You could see that individuals when they emerge now, people now believe that this thing even if it is not perfect but at least it is closer to the thinking of the people.
Do not forget, the law says that elections must be seen to be reasonably a reflection of the desires and intent of the voters. It does not mean that once in a while you will not have one or two things but if it is not that justifiable you let it go. I want to believe INEC will do all it can to protect its website as far as the cyber processes they have put in place so that at the end of the day these hackers who may want to do one funny thing or the other do not come in.
Apart from some lazy political parties who want to do that, there may be some individuals who may be interested in causing confusion in the system. Anything they can do to protect the backbone of their internal facilities they should be able to do so that at the end of the day whatever electronic processes they introduce, the electoral management system is fully proved.