The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Sunday, condemned the murder of Deborah Samuel, a young student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto, by irate Islamic students for alleged blasphemy in May this year.
Atiku spoke when he and his running mate, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, appeared on “The Peoples Town Hall”, organised by Channels Television.
The former vice president was responding to a tweet read on the programme querying the sense in taking down a post on Twitter initially condemning the murder in May.
Atiku said he condemned the murder because it was against the tenets of Islam for anybody to take someone’s life without following due process.
He said, “I have said that I asked that the tweet be deleted because I normally approve every tweet. So, since I didn’t approve it, I said delete it.
“If you read my subsequent statements on that matter, I condemned it. There is nowhere, where it is said or it is an injunction in the Islamic faith that you can go and take somebody’s life. Nowhere! It has to be through due process.”
Samuel, a Year Two student of the school located in Sokoto was murdered and burnt by some irate young Muslim students for allegedly blaspheming against their faith in a post on her class’ WhatsApp group.
However, in a post on twitter, Atiku had initially condemned the incident and called for the arrest of those behind the dastardly act, declaring that all those behind the killing must be brought to book.
“There cannot be a justification for such gruesome murder. Deborah Yakubu was murdered, and all those behind her death must be brought to justice. My condolences to her family and friends,” he had written.
But the post was taken down afterwards, to the surprise of many Nigerians. But Atiku explained then that he did not sign off on the tweet before it was posted, as he usually did.
Atiku relayed his plan to rescue the country if elected in the 2023 general election, promising to undertake critical decisions to tackle insecurity and revamp the dwindling economy.
He vowed to ensure accountability in the spending of the controversial security votes handed down to chief executives at the federal and state levels monthly, but noted that he won’t scrap the practice.
The PDP candidate expressed the hope that by devolving power to the sub-nationals, the agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) will be greatly reduced while strategic negotiations will be embarked upon with those open to talking with government.
He also pledged to end the current multiple exchange rates, remove petrol subsidy and channel the funds to areas of infrastructure where they were desperately needed.
He, again, highlighted the combined “experience” of the PDP team, insisting that the best hands to manage Nigeria given its current precarious state, is the Atiku/Okowa ticket.
Describing Nigeria’s poverty rate as the worst in the world, Atiku stated that unemployment and illiteracy had become critical problems, which only people with a record of performance like him could resolve.
On IPOB, Atiku said, “The IPOB issue, as far as I am concerned, is a fight for the realisation of Biafra. Is it possible for Biafra to be realised today? How will it be achieved? Is it by negotiations or do we need another civil war, which we can’t afford?
“So, I believe we will negotiate with the agitators from the South-east as far as the issue of IPOB is concerned. We believe that what they need is more autonomy as far as their sovereignty is concerned and that’s why we propose the restructuring of the country, which will mean devolution of more powers to the federating units.
“After all, there was Eastern Nigeria in the First Republic and they developed at their own pace and with their own resources, so I see no reason why a middle of the road solution should not solve the agitations.”
He stressed that there was the political part of the agitation, but said that there was no way a part of the country could secure political power without friendship across the Niger.
Atiku also stated that security votes had always existed even before independence, maintaining that he will ensure that it is properly disbursed and well spent.
He stated, “The problem is allowing the federal government, states and local governments to expend the security votes as they like. It has been abused and there’s no doubt about that and we cannot close our eyes to that. Just like you are called to account for your budget, you should be called to account for security vote.”
Atiku said if elected president next year, his government would adopt the Dubai policing strategy, stating that it is rare to see policemen in uniform or soldiers in the streets of that country, yet there is constant monitoring of what is happening all around, with the deployment of technology.
“From the moment you step into the country, you are being monitored,” he noted, adding that the most immediate requirement to curb the crimes in the country is to reform the structure of policing in the country and then work towards the use of technology.
Okowa, in his contribution, stated that politicians as well as civil servants must be on the same page with the security agencies who must have a seamless relationship, rather than what currently obtained. “We must also begin to think about how to get Nigerians gainfully employed,” he stressed.
On the possible return of militancy in the Niger Delta, Okowa stated that the restiveness in the past was because of government neglect, but noted that the Atiku/Okowa government will carry everyone in the region along.
On the economy, Atiku stated that the sale of state assets and removal of fuel subsidy would save as much as $10 billion for government, which will be deployed in revamping small and medium scale businesses. He noted that he would work closely with the National Assembly on the matter.
Atiku stated that he would not scrap the so-called pro-poor programmes of the current administration, including tradermoni and others, but said that they will be institutionalised to remove some of the current problems bedevilling the programmes.
He promised to direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop multiple exchange rates and incentivise foreign investors to bring in foreign exchange into the country.
Atiku described the current multiple exchange rate as corruption-ridden, explaining that the central bank will deploy all the tools available to it to, at least, bring the rates to dual instead of multiple rates.
“We will remove subsidy and establish palliatives and whether we like it or not, by June next year, by law, subsidy will have to stop,” he said on the rising cost of petrol subsidy.
Okowa also said monies recovered from subsidy removal would be deployed to revamping education, health, road infrastructure, among others, describing the current budget as abnormal.
On the lingering disagreement with the governor of Rivers state, Mr. Nyesom Wike, Atiku stated that he had met Wike five times in person in the last few months, stressing that the problem is not from him, but from the Wike team.
“I have met with Wike two times in Port Harcourt, two times in Abuja and one time in London, personally,” he stated.
Atiku also promised to revamp the creative industry by ensuring that government invested in the sector, which he described as one of the biggest employers of labour, aside agriculture.
Chuks Okocha and Emmanuel Addeh