Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said President Muhammadu Buhari has scored a “pass mark” after one year in office.
Explaining the reason for scoring Buhari a pass mark, Abubakar, who spoke at the launch of “We Are All Biafrans”, a book of essays written by Chido Onumah, said the President had fulfilled two out of the five major election promises he made to Nigerians within his first year in office.
He said Buhari promised to fight corruption, tackle insurgency, provide employment, improve economy and power, but has succeeded in delivering on the first two.
“If someone has delivered on two out of five promises within the first year in office I think he deserves a pass mark,” he said, warning however that it may be difficult for the administration to deliver on power due to a reliance by the nation on gas.
“Power is a tricky issue. We cannot get power on gas unless and until we resolve the Niger Delta issue because they will continue to bomb the pipelines. The solution is to find alternative sources of power in different parts of the country and build captive power stations,” he explained.
Speaking on the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region, the former vice president advocated for a “stick and carrot” strategy and warned against applying a full scale military option. He urged President Buhari to learn from history.
Abubakar, who disclosed that he had fashioned a blueprint for solving the Niger Delta problem since he decided to run for president in 2003, said late President Umaru Yar’Adua administration got it wrong by citing the Ministry of Niger Delta in Abuja instead of the Niger Delta area.
He said the militancy could be resolved more quickly if the government sold 10% of its holdings in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and used the proceeds to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
“If you sell 10 percent of NNPC, it will give you about $20 billion and that will help build infrastructure and develop the Niger Delta region,” he said.
In his remarks as chairman of the occasion, Abubakar said the title of the book was a “metaphor” for all marginalised groups in the country, stressing that the feeling of marginalisation expressed by different groups in the country is legitimate.
Going back in history, the former Vice President traced the source of the distortion of Nigeria’s federalism to military rule and the civil war which brought about over centralisation of power at the centre.
He said the current structure of the country and the corrupt practices it has encouraged were serious impediments to its development and economic prosperity.
He repeated calls for the restructuring of the country as a way of addressing the current economic challenges and advised government not to view calls for restructuring as tantamount to advocating a break- up of the country.
“Nigeria must remain one, but we must not make the mistake of thinking that everyone is content with the way things are. That is why we need to renegotiate our unity.”
He said the way to national prosperity is to have a smaller, leaner federal government that allowed states to control their resources but generates its own revenue through taxation. He said this would reduce political tension generated by struggle for power at the centre. He also called for an end to indigene/settler dichotomy and the establishment of state police.
The reviewer of the book, Chidi Odinkalu, described the author as a patriotic Nigerian who believed in the unity of the country. He said the 214 page book is a “passionate argument for what can be done to safe Nigeria” from sleepwalking into disaster.