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The 2019 battle for President began in earnest yesterday as the standard bearers of the major parties –President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – threw darts at each other.
Atiku, who floored 11 others at the PDP shadow poll in Port Harcourt yesterday, said Nigerians were yearning for the return to power of the PDP barely four years after it was swept away by the APC.
But APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole said his party was ready for the opposition and that it had done a lot to gain the confidence of Nigerians.
Oshiomhole spoke in Abuja on Saturday night during the affirmation convention of the APC where Buhari’s candidature, which was brought about by direct primaries across all the wards in Nigeria, was ratified.
Accepting his nomination as PDP candidate yesterday, Atuku said: “We cannot afford to fail Nigerians at this very historic moment, because Nigerians are yearning for the return of PDP to power. They have now compared the administration of PDP and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC). They know that under PDP, they had years of prosperity, of unity, of security and of development. They have seen the gross mismanagement of the government of the APC.
“Therefore, we have a wonderful opportunity to return PDP to power in this country. History has beckoned on all of us at this point in time, to make sure that PDP is returned to power.
“We have enumerated a number of challenges facing this country. What we should now do in the next phase of our campaigns is to proffer solutions to these challenges that we have identified to be afflicting our country and its people. I, therefore, implore all participants, whether at local government elections, state elections or national elections, to make sure that we proffer solutions to these challenges that we have identified.
“It is just not enough to say that APC has failed in all ramifications, but we should, as a political party, proffer solutions to the challenges that we have identified. This as a party, is going to make us completely different from the clueless government of the APC. By the time we start electioneering, I believe that Nigerians will yearn for the return of PDP, if we do so.”
Atiku, who was vice president between 1999 and 2007 under President Olusegun Obasanjo, added: “On a personal note, I would not have been standing where I am standing today (yesterday), if my former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, had not made me his vice-president. Under his tutelage, I learnt quite a lot. The experience I got is going to definitely impact on how eventually we govern this country. I wish to pay my personal tribute to him.”
Oshimhole, at the APC convention in Abuja, said “The other party is choosing its candidate in Port-Harcourt. We will look at the records of the opponent; we will look at his pedigree; we will challenge them on their track records,” he said, adding: “We are going to take the records of our opponent and compare them to President Buhari’s record. After today’s convention, we are ready for 2019 electioneering campaign and we believe that we have a lot to disclose to Nigeria.”
President Buhari dismissed the performance of the PDP in office in his acceptance speech at the convention. He charged Nigerians to think of how much the PDP Government earned between 1999 and 2015 that it was in power and what it did with it.
The President recalled that under the PDP government, infrastructure and security was down while 18 Local Government in the Northeast were under control of Boko Haram.
He said under that government, the country’s reserves were depleted and bankruptcy was around the corner, adding that Nigerians should ask the PDP what it did with the national treasury.
Buhari added that Nigeria was now respected internationally, stressing that the international community was very supportive of the APC-Government’s efforts to put the country in order.
President Buhari highlighted the achievements of his administration, saying it checked the slide to anarchy on the security and economic fronts.
He added that Boko Haram under the government had been reduced to attacks on soft targets as normalcy had returned to much of Northeast and neighbouring Northwest states.
The President also noted that the country’s currency had stabilised while its reserves was now $44 billion, a lot higher than it was in 2015 when the APC Government came into power.
“Power generation capacity has reached 8,000 megawatts as against less than 4,600 when we came into office.
“As we invest in new power generation infrastructure, we are strenuously working to address the legacy deficiencies and challenges of transmission and distribution networks across the country.
“We are executing Independent Power Projects in nine Federal Universities to deliver uninterrupted power supply and we intend to expand to a total of 37 universities,” the president said.
Buhari added that the government, through its Anchor Borrowers Programme and other incentives, had empowered more than two million farmers to go back to agriculture.
He explained that the country now produces 80 per cent of its rice requirements as many farmers who nearly lost hope are now millionaires.
Buhari said the APC-led Federal Government had also introduced primary school feeding programmes to encourage attendance and enrollment and had introduced the conditional cash transfer.
This, he said, is to help small and medium businesses, men and women and young people who drove our economy.
He said the government had repaired and was repairing major arterial roads and starting major railway projects with the aim of linking the 36 states with efficient road and rail transportation systems.
The president maintained that the Government was attacking corruption head-on, with international support, saying that it was presently recovering Nigeria’s stolen assets and applying same to infrastructure development.
“Today the corrupt are facing the wrath of the law and leakages have been generally blocked. We can be proud of our achievements, change has come,” President Buhari said.
Oshiomhole dismissed claims by the PDP that the Federal Government was being selective in its anti-graft war, pointing out that if the President was selective in the anti-corruption fight, one of its senators would not be serving a jail term now.
He also said that the complaints by opposition figures that the President Buhari-led administration was being heavy-handed should be ignored.
He also dismissed claims of security breaches against the Buhari government, saying the PDP government was guilty of that accusation as it was used to harassing perceived political opponents.
He said: “A sitting governor then, I was denied the use of a public airport. Mr President, sometimes I feel you are too mild. I was under threat of impeachment. I had to remove the roof of my State House of Assembly in order to survive.
“One of your predecessors used seven people to remove a sitting governor. I am, however, not in anyway suggesting that you do the same.”
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