The urgent need to empower the Nigerian youth through massive creation of employment opportunities was the focus a speech delivered by Atiku Abubakar when the former vice president formally returned to the Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday.
“I have found in my travels across the country that whenever I get into conversationswith young people their number one concern is whether they will be able to get a job for without a job they have no means of sustaining themselves or begin a family,” Mr. Atiku stated in his official move to the PDP which was streamed live on Facebook.
Mr. Abubakar touted his credentials as a business owner with a long history of creating jobs not just in his home state of Adamawa but elsewhere across the country.
“Creating jobs is something I know about as I have created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect jobs in my own state of Adamawa,” he said.
The speech, which was announced to a live audience on Facebook shortly after 4:00 p.m. on Sunday came a little over a week after Mr. Abubakar dissociated himself from Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Mr. Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari of abandoning most of the promises of the APC during the 2015 election, including assurances that three million jobs would be created per year.
Instead, the Nigerian economy has been haemorrhaging jobs and the youth are particularly hard hit.
Nigerian youth unemployment rate reached an all time high at 25.20 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, and it has not significantly eased since then.
“Without the security of a job we cannot have security in our country,” Mr. Abubakar said. “So without jobs there is no future for you or for Nigeria.”
Mr. Abubakar is expected to be a major challenger to President Buhari in 2019.
“A typical, cynical Nigerian would mock him, but the facts are there to play in his favour,” said Gbola Oba, a journalist and CEO of Automedics Limited. “When we look at his private sector exploits relative to the incumbent, he has a clear record to show.”
Mr. Abubakar established the American University of Nigeria and is a co-founder of Intels Nigeria, the multi-billion naira oil servicing firm now in trouble with the Nigerian government.
Mr. Oba said Mr. Abubakar has managed to keep himself in the headlines, a tactical approach he said would be fundamental to his fortunes at the ballot box.
“Within the last one week, he’d managed to accuse the president of running a gerontocracy, make reference to how he was (allegedly) banned from entering the United States for some years and taking the leadership role in interacting with citizens,” Mr. Oba added.
“We all saw how he took the lead in congratulating WizKid and Davido for their success at the MOBO Awards before President Buhari followed him with his own messages,” he said.
Yet, Mr. Oba said Mr. Abubakar should be ready to expend a lot of political energy on his public image as a man allegedly rooted in corrupt practices.
“He has the stigma of corruption to contend with,” Mr. Oba said. He’s largely seen as a kleptomaniac and now he’s running under the PDP which is widely seen as a party of plutocrats.”
Mr. Abubakar has been dogged with allegations of corruption since he left office as Nigeria’s vice president in 2007.
He was accused of participating in the iGate bribery scandal which saw a former U.S. lawmaker jailed for offering cash rewards to Nigerian officials in exchange for approving a contract.
Williams Jefferson, said to be a political associate of Mr. Abubakar, was sentenced to prison in 2009 after the FBI successfully prosecuted him for corruption.
Mr. Jefferson alleged that Mr. Abubakar was slated to receive up to $500,000 as bribe for the contract, which Olusegun Obasanjo administration awarded to iGate to expand broadband Internet in Nigeria.
Mr. Abubakar has maintained his innocence and challenges anyone to bring evidence forward.
Mr. Abubakar’s critics have theorised that the former vice-president’s failure to visit the United States for many years could be linked to the scandal.
He has, however, denied the allegations, telling a magazine in a recent interview that he actually applied for U.S. visa but was declined on the basis of administrative review.
“Since he has openly stated that he applied for visa but was not given, the claim that he’s wanted in America is unlikely to take hold,” said Liborous Oshoma, a legal practitioner.
“Nigerians would be more interested in who is stronger on the economy and I strongly doubt that a man like President Buhari who could not increase the number of his cows from 150 after many years would be able to articulate any economic solutions that Nigerians would buy into,” Mr. Oshoma added.
Mr. Oshoma said President Buhari should focus on improving the economic hardship across the country rather than energising Mr. Abubakar by attacking his business interests or comments.
“The former vice-president’s business interests have been targeted over alleged corruption, but the president himself has not been able to rein in his inner circle where corruption has taken a room and parlour,” he added. “The president should focus on improving the economy, lest he plays into the hands of Mr. Abubakar, whom Nigerians are now seeing as their saviour at an ever-increasing rate.
Mr. Abubakar has said he would be spending the coming months criss-crossing the country as part of his political consultations.
Today’s return makes it the third time Mr. Atiku would sign up with the PDP, a party he helped form in 1998.
He left the party in 2007 while still a sitting vice president to run for president under the defunct Action Congress. He rejoined the PDP in 2011 to seek the party’s presidential ticket at the primary, but lost to Goodluck Jonathan.
He abandoned the party yet again in 2014 to align with the then newly-formed APC. He contested the party’s presidential ticket but lost to Mr. Buhari.
He is expected to participate at the PDP annual convention scheduled for December 9 in Abuja.