The campaign season is in full swing in Nigeria as Africa’s most populous nation prepares for its next general election, scheduled for February 2023.
Political parties and their candidates are criss-crossing the vast country holding rallies and consulting traditional rulers and other key stakeholders to woo voters ahead of the election, which will, among others, lead to the emergence of a new president. President Muhammadu Buhari is finishing his second 4-year term and is no longer eligible to contest.
Even though Nigerians living outside their homeland cannot vote, politicians are not leaving them out of their campaign.
In this interview, Prince Anthony Ekene Onwuka, a Germany-based lawyer and key member of the diaspora campaign team of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), talks about the elections and makes his case for his party’s candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Onwuka, who is an international project management consultant, explains why Abubakar is wooing Nigerians abroad and how they could support the PDP candidate come February 2023.
You accompanied Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to the US during his recent tour of the country. Were you satisfied with the reception Nigerians there gave him?
It is important to set the record straight, HE Atiku Abubakar went to the USA on the invitation of the State Department. The appointments were so tightly schedule that he couldn’t make time to meet with the many Nigerians who came around upon learning that he was in town.
Alhaji Abubakar’s itinerary was strictly managed by the State Department with little or no window for accommodating any extra engagements. I promise my fellow diasporans very humbly that His Excellency Atiku Abubakar will soon be back to the States and will also visit Europe to interact with his supporters and party members.
There is the widely-held impression that Peter Obi is the favourite candidate of the diaspora. Does your candidate have a strong following in the diaspora?
It is not about noise making; note that the supporters of Atiku Abubakar cut across ethnic groups as Nigerians are determined to see the unifier elected to bring them together so that they can collectively tackle the challenges ahead.
You call your candidate a “unifier”, but his critics say his recent statement to Northern leaders that Northerners don’t need Yoruba or Igbo candidates nullifies the reputation of a national-minded leader?
This was one simple issue that has been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in the media to suit the typical desire of political opponents. What my boss explained in his encounter with his Northern audience on the auspicious occasion was simply to tell them that they have a candidate in him who transcends ethnic or religious bigotry, a bridge builder who had cultivated fertile grounds across all the geo-political zones of our dear country, a feat that none of the other contestants can boast of.
HE Abubakar therefore enjoined them to see him as a Pan-Nigerian, an embodiment of all groups in one – be it Yoruba, Igbo, Ibibio etc and stop this tendency to look for a particular candidate with an ethnic garb.
Don’t forget that his first wife is Yoruba with whom he has many children; he was also married to an Igbo woman with children.
Advocates of a third force in Nigerian politics say the PDP and APC are two sides of the same coin. What makes PDP better than the current ruling party?
How can you compare PDP with APC; in what way? How?
Is it the dollar that was 190 naira under the PDP that is now 840? Or rice that has risen from eight thousand naira to 35 thousand per bag? Or the insecurity that now pervades the length and breadth of the country where no one can feel safe travelling on our highways?
What evidence is there that your candidate can better the situation?
Let me refresh your memory; when the PDP government, with Atiku Abubakar as the Vice President, assumed power in 1999, the country was also in a very parlous state. The military had bastardised the country and its economy.
However, instead of indulging in blame game, the PDP as a responsible government never blamed its predecessors like the APC has been doing since 2015, the PDP moved on with governance. And it is on record that President Obasanjo at a time was busy moving from one world capital to another negotiating debt cancellation and he left the economy completely under the leadership of his then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
It’s on record that Alhaji Abubakar superintended the implementation of the policy that brought about the revolution in the telecom industries, which created jobs and helped stabilized our economy at that time. He’s also credited with the management of the privatisation policy of that government.
Moreover, our candidate is on record to have managed the security crises at that time cleverly, curtailing their negative impact on the country.
Opponents also say your candidate belongs to the old generation and that the country needs a younger leader. Isn’t Abubakar too old at 74 for the task of governing a complex country like Nigeria?
Our dear country is at crossroads; the problems we are contending with are not only complex but the very fabric of our existence is under threat. Amongst all the candidates, it is only an experienced, well informed, educated, exposed, non-sectional leader with unifying capacity like Atiku Abubakar can restore our lost glory and unify this troubled nation.
Nigeria’s economy is in dire straits and the country is in the grip of insecurity, imposing hardship on the populace. How would your candidate address these problems if elected?
I can assure you that if elected, my boss will tackle insecurity, economic and other challenges bedevilling this country by restoring our unity through equity, social justice and cooperation. He would also build a strong, resilient, and prosperous economy that creates jobs and lifts people out of poverty.
Moreover, he would promote a true federal system which will allow the federating units to set their own priorities and that grants them a greater latitude in managing their affairs.
Lest I forget, he has vowed to strengthen the institutions responsible for fighting corruption and corrupt practices and promote integrity in governance.
Critics accuse him of being too vague and general in the solutions he’s proposing and that Nigeria needs radical solutions.
No, rather his plans are exactly what Nigerians need to get out of its current socio-economic malaise. Agents of the ruling party are behind this attempt to cast doubt about Alhaji Abubakar’s policies. They have failed and can’t imagine that the country could be run better. Our candidate’s policy priorities are second to none.
Having worked for Alhaji Abubakar and interacted with him closely for some time now. What would you say are the qualities you admire most in him?
His humility, unassuming nature, his open-door policy and respect for all and fatherly care. He is truly the unifier and an epitome of one Nigeria.
Your group has been campaigning in the global Nigerian diaspora community for Alhaji Abubakar. How has your campaign been received so far?
Our campaign has been receiving warm reception all over the globe particularly in the major cities where Nigerians in diaspora reside in large numbers. The diaspora is frustrated with the situation of things at home and are looking for a leader that can turn around the country.
The diaspora cannot vote. How could they support the candidacy of Abubakar at the polls?
Going forward, we are appealing to Nigerians in diaspora to educate and direct their relatives, associates and well-wishers at home to vote right, not tribe, and not to waste their vote. And that is to vote Atiku Abubakar the unifier. Remember, he has promised to make diaspora voting a reality if elected!