Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his Labour Party (LP) candidate, Peter Obi, yesterday made pledges to address challenges facing the North and the country at large if elected president, come February 25, 2023.
The duo spoke separately during an interactive session with presidential candidates, organised by prominent northern groups including the Arewa Consultative Forum (NEF) and Northern Elders Forum (NEF) under the aegis of Arewa Joint Committee (AJC) at the Arewa House, Kaduna.
After presenting their speeches, the presidential candidates were asked questions by members of the panel, which included the spokesman of NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed.
My pact with North – Tinubu
Appearing before the northern elders, Tinubu who shared his blueprint for Nigeria’s development, promised to ensure the country remains indivisible, achieving greatness together as one. He said his administration will, just like he did upon assumption of office as Lagos State governor; bring out workable policies to ensure that insecurity is nipped in the bud in the North and across the country.
He promised to get the needed funds to complete both the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station and Ajaokuta–Kaduna–Kano Natural Gas Pipeline (AKK) if elected president in 2023.
He said he will seek the right investment from both local and international investors to complete the two projects.
“What is delaying them is financing. Nothing more. We have not been able to create long-term money for long-term projects. We will complete those two projects. We are coming up with an unbreakable team of performers who are dedicated to the future of this country. I am committed to audacious projects that will better the country,” he said.
When completed, the 3,050 MW Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station will be the largest power-generating installation in the country, and one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in Africa while the AKKP is a pipeline planned to transport natural gas from Ajaokuta, in Kogi State to Kano, in Kano State, through several states and urban centers, as part of the Trans Nigeria Gas Pipeline. The former Lagos State governor also hinted at extending the school feeding programme to students of the Almajiri system as well as offering incentives to their teachers as part of ways to address the challenge of out-of-school children in the North.
While maintaining that education is the greatest weapon against poverty, Tinubu promised to collaborate with state governments to address the challenge of out-of-school children in the country, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) put at 20 million.
“I am aware that already the federal government has secured funding from our development partners to support states to address the problem through BESDA, funded by the World Bank, with $750m, Bilingual Education, funded by the Islamic Development Bank, with $100m, Out of School Children Programme, jointly funded by World Bank, UNICEF and Islamic Development Bank, with $500m and AGILE, funded by the World Bank, with $600m.
“These initiatives amount to $2.95 billion of funding secured by the current APC government to assist in a comprehensive solution to the problem of out-of-school children. There is another basket of UBEC funds amounting to N160billion available to support basic education across the country,” he said.
On the issue of climate change, Tinubu, who noted that Nigeria is a poor nation, said the Western world needs to guarantee financing in order for the country to abide by some of its demands.
While noting that he is different from President Muhammadu Buhari, the national leader of the APC, promised to build on the legacy of the former military leader. He said Buhari has done well. “I am different from Buhari. I am Bola, he is Muhammadu. He has laid a foundation; he has done well. How did PDP perform in 16 years? They (PDP) forgot about the railway; they forgot the transmission line for 16 years. Because Buhari is a gentleman, he just absorbs everything. I will not throw away what he has done. I will take the positive out and build on them,” he added.
Obi detained me in 2013, says El-Rufai
Meanwhile the host state governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai beckoned on the Northern leaders to support Tinubu, stressing that the region is known for justice and honour. While applauding Tinubu for honouring the invitation, he opined that it is only fair that power should rotate to the South after President Buhari.
“He (Tinubu) was told that this whole arrangement was to endorse a particular candidate but he insisted that even if the arrangement is to endorse a particular candidate ‘I will come and change their minds’. We thank you for your courage.
“When the Northern APC governors met and took a position that in our party power must rotate to the South, we did so out of our understanding of history. As Northern governors, we asked ourselves: What will Sir Ahmadu Bello do in this circumstance?’ What will Tafawa Balewa do? What will Aminu Kano do? We asked ourselves these questions before we take a position because we are the inheritors of their legacies,” he said.
The Kaduna state governor narrated how he was allegedly detained in Awka during the governorship election in 2013 on the orders of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, who was the then governor of Anambra State. He, however, said, he will not retaliate against the action, though Obi will be the next guest at the Arewa House.
The chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, applauded the organisers for charting a direction for the North ahead of the 2023 poll.
North Nigeria’s greatest asset – Obi
On his part, when he appeared before the elders, Obi said the greatest asset of the country is the vast uncultivated land mass in the Northern part of the country.
The former governor of Anambra State also said he has what it takes to unlock the potential of the country.
He said the problem of the country is institutional weakness and lack of political will to effect genuine change that will change the narrative, promising that he is ready to bring the desired change.
He promised to put measures in place to create employment for the teeming youths, saying that if there are opportunities for the youths, insecurity will be a thing of the past.
“We want to bring a transformative government to the country. The greatest assets of Nigeria are in the north, the greatest assets of Nigeria are vast uncultivated land in the north but this land has been taken over by bandits. We are going to unlock Nigeria.
“We will bring Nigeria back to life. All banks will be shareholders in the Bank of Agriculture where our farmers can directly assess loans to farm,” he said.
Obi also said if elected, poverty will be a thing of the past in Nigeria, “When you pull people out of poverty, the rate of crime in the country will reduce”.
He also promised to fight corruption to a standstill and said that fighting corruption is easy when the leader is not stealing.
“Our past is gone; we are going to face the future. Fighting corruption is easy when one is not stealing, our money is being stolen, and subsidy is organised crime.
“I want to give Nigerians hope. I and my running mate will be in charge, they will not find us wanting, we have the physical strength, I will dialogue with every agitator because it will make us a better and united Nigeria,” he said.
From Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna), Abiodun Alade (Lagos) & Baba Martins (Abuja)