Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has insisted on the restructuring of Nigeria’s governance system with devolution of powers, the opening up of the economy for private sector participation, the encouragement of commercial agriculture, more inclusiveness of the youth and women in governance, the pursuit of justice and equity, among other solutions towards the attainment of the collective aspiration of Nigerians for a more productive, self sufficient, better secured and happier society.
The presidential hopeful in the forthcoming 2019 elections, disclosed this on Wednesday at an interactive session with a cross section of his enthusiasts at a workshop on “Deepening Understanding of the Nigerian Political Environment” organised by the Political Academy in Sagamu, Ogun State.
Restating his commitment to the Nigerian project, Atiku pointed out that he has been preaching about the need for restructuring since 2004 as a matter of “vision and belief that it will take Nigeria to greater heights for the achievement of the aspiration of our country.”
“The issue can be viewed from two perspectives: like I said during my Chatham House speech, https://www.chathamhouse.org/file/next-generation-nigeria-importance-strengthening-states-economic-management our constitution provides for exclusive legislative and concurrent lists. The items in the exclusive list controlled by the Federal Government are too many. The concurrent list has such issues as health, education, agriculture and others which any of the tiers of government can handle.
As the head of government, I am prepared to surrender some of the items on the concurrent list to the states and local governments. I don’t believe the Federal Government should have more than ten to twelve areas on its exclusive list. We must be prepared to let go on items like mineral resources, let states run them while the Federal Government can collect taxes from the states. The US has more oil than Nigeria but they don’t have a ministry of petroleum resources. Whatever resources you have you exploit. Every state has resources, let them develop at their own pace.”
According to him, part of his restructuring plan, is also to open up the economy to greater private sector participation with which he targets to resolve the problems of infrastructure deficits and spiraling unemployment.
“When I decided to contest for the presidency, one of the first things I did was to study the needs and difficulties of our youth population and it was clear that the major need of the youth is jobs. Many of them are engaged in different not-too-productive things because they don’t have jobs. When they have jobs, they will have less time for play. The best way to create jobs is to open up the economy to the private sector. It is the private sector that provides jobs not government. Government opens up the economy and there are 1001 ways to open up the economy. This also includes the development of infrastructure. The private sector can, for instance, invest in building the rails, manage and recoup their investment and profit through long leases with government guarantees while the facilities are available to serve the people.”
Further on job creation, Atiku informed that he is a firm believer in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises as he has demonstrated this through his private business life and while in service as Vice President and he intends to revive institutional support for the sector for meaningful growth.
“My boss (Obasanjo) and I were responsible for setting up the SME agency which they are using today. We established it because we know the value on the economy and job creation. If it is not working well today it is because they have mismanaged it. In my private business, I set up a micro finance company and instructed the management to reserve eighty percent of the loans for women. Through that we succeeded in pulling out over 45,000 households from poverty group.”
Also primary in his consideration for the revival and repositioning of the economy is the encouragement of commercial agriculture alongside support for small scale subsistence farming.
“Most of our agricultural economy has been subsistence, small scale farming. The highest potential we recorded was during the First Republic. It was a mix between subsistence and commercial farming. We must go back to this dual system. We will encourage and provide support for commercial farming. It is only when you engage in commercial agriculture that you can produce enough for food, processing and export to meaningfully add to national revenue. This will also serve as catalyst for the processing industry and create more jobs. Importantly however, we must continue to support small scale farming and provide short, medium and long term loans through the banks.”
Wondering why there has been no clear government policy and concerted support for the entertainment industry, Atiku revealed that the sector is an important part of his economic development plan given its job generation and revenue yielding potentials.
“I have sat down with young people in the entertainment industry. One major concern that they express is the lack of strong regulation against intellectual property theft. This is an area that I am going to focus on, if I have the opportunity. Nigeria’s entertainment industry is a booming enterprise which will create thousands of new jobs but the problem is that there has been no clear government policy and programme for the development of the sector. I believe we should have a policy and put up a programme for them to have access to funding while we regulate it.”
He assured of his commitment to protecting intellectual property rights so the young actors, and indeed all those engaged in the creative industry, among others get the money they deserve for working so hard.
He restated his vision to get Nigeria working again by creating jobs, increasing opportunity, uniting its people and making the country safe for all.