On April 25, 2018, Atiku Abubakar spoke at the Chatham House: Royal Institute of International Affairs. Abubakar served as Vice-President of Nigeria from 1999 – 2007 under President Olusegun Obasanjo and has indefatigably pursued the position of President of Nigeria since the early 90s. His detractors feel that he is “desperate” to be president.” This is a claim that Abubakar denies, but one cannot deny that his tenacity does appear to be a bit obsessive; whether that is a good thing or bad thing, I do not know. But it could be viewed as having a sincere vision and purpose.
In his speech at the Chatham House, Abubakar laid out the problems that Nigeria faces, some problems that Bill Gates has also noted among his causes for concern in hindering the growth of Nigeria. But Atiku, as he is often referred, listed things that the felt the country could do in order to prosper. The similarities of what is referred to as True Federalism and what we are dealing with in America, some of his solutions seem very progressive, and stood out as notable to me and how similar issues may have universal solutions.
Before I go any further, I’m not ignoring some of the problematic things that I see in his language that smacks of colonialism or his possibly environmentally unsound policies, but I’m also taking into account that this language may not have the same implications, in another country that may be in a different state of progress than America. I also did not miss his nod to Mike Pompeo. This could be a sign of future problematic behavior, or it could be nothing more than social media diplomacy. Who truly knows where a politician stands until they are tested? But I try to keep in mind that sound ideas are sound no matter where they come from, just as all things from politicians must be taken with a grain of salt.
Problem: Promoting, tolerating, and celebrating a defective political structure
Solution: “Beyond institutional and administrative reforms to improve operational efficiency of the revenue agencies the [states/cities]* will be challenged to double their efforts in rebuilding the fiscal-social contract by enhancing service delivery in key areas such as health, education, water supply, and infrastructural development […] I want to add that beyond the healthy competition among the [states/cites] which a restructured [America] would engender, is the unique opportunity for the retooling of the leadership recruitment process in the country […] The attraction to power would no longer be a chance to stumble upon privileges not worked for.”
Problem: Allowing crude oil to ‘crowd out’ the non-oil sectors
Solution: “The bigger and more diversified the better […] Indeed, achieving diversification is central to our economic development strategy. Let us being to visualize [America] without oil or one not predominantly dependent on hydrocarbon.”
Problem: Lack of opportunities in poorer and less endowed [states/cities]
Solution: “Matching Grants to be taken from the revenue accruable to the Federal Government for the purpose of matching the Internally Generated Revenue of each state in order to encourage states to become self-reliant […] the Federal Government will continue to offer support (in the form of intervention programmes) for states that rank below the average development index, until such time as they are able to become self-sufficient and sustaining […] What is lacking is the leadership with the required capacity and vision to tap and manage the wealth on behalf of all.”
Problem: Failing Infrastructure
Solution: “We would have a budget heavy on capital expenditure. Roads will be built in every state. Mass housing schemes would pop up in every local government area. Railways will be extended to every state capital. Rivers would be dredged to open up the hinterlands of the North […] When citizens are working, especially in construction and the service sector, the economy benefits because they pay more taxes, they utilize their increased purchasing power on buying goods and services,…”
Problem: Not enough investment in the future through education
Solution: And beyond this speech, Atiku Abubakar has frequently expounded the necessity to educate and empower the youth of Nigeria. To that end, it seems he has ‘put his money where his mouth is’ as they say. He founded the American University Nigeria Academy and awarded scholarships to fifteen of the 250 of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram. In 2012, he also donated $750,000 to The National Peace Corps Association to fund a new initiative featuring global leaders who will discuss the Peace Corps impact. And he published How jobs, stronger economy can unite Nigerians, stem sectarian strife in Medium.com where he opines:
“To build a truly united nation, we must address the issues which lead to insecurity at their roots. We must pay more than lip service to “poverty alleviation”, and truly get Nigerians working again. A person who has a job has less time for ethnic bickering.”
“As people get better quality of life, they begin to place more value on life and wellbeing of others.This obviously means that if our people have better lives all-round, there will be fewer suspicion and confrontations between groups of people.”
After reading what Atiku Abubakar has had to say (and a bit of cherry-picking) I’ll be looking forward to the 2019 Nigerian elections. If Mr. Abubakar is successful, and he is able to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors, he could possibly prove to be an inspiration for America.
* Editor’s Note: Brackets are used to show where author altered statements to make a correlation with American politics.