Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday threw his hat in the ring for the 2019 presidential race, saying he is considering running for president in the forthcoming general elections.
The Senate president who recently defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is currently facing impeachment threat.
While speaking in an interview with Bloomberg in Abuja, Saraki said he has commenced consultations on his ambition and may eventually declare his interest for the highest political office in the land. “I am consulting and actively considering it, I believe I can make the change,” he told the foreign media organisation. The Senate president, who expressed apprehension over the 2019 polls, saying he is afraid that the current government may manipulate the country’s security apparatus to its favour, noted however that he would test his popularity at the polls.
“We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections. If a government can go and lock up an arm of government and it has never happened in our history we should all be very concerned,” Saraki said.
Decrying what he described as movement of security agents for political reasons in the country, he said, “There has been a persistent disregard for due process and a lack of neutrality for some of these issues. For you to have credible elections, you must have safe elections. Security agencies are actively getting involved in the politics. The fundamentals of whatever we are going to develop are going to be based on sound democracy, credible elections, and freedom of choice of Nigerians. If we don’t have that as a foundation, then everything else cannot happen”.
Saraki assured that the opposition PDP has learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015, just as he insisted that the APC did not learn from their victory. The Senate president said if he eventually decides to run, it will be on the platform of the PDP.
While explaining his visions for Nigeria, the Senate president said he hopes to improve investor confidence in the country, even as he observed that investors and citizens have lost confidence in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Saraki noted that President Buhari had during his campaign pledged to fix the economy, improve security and fight corruption. He said Nigeria needed to be governed by a genuinely pro-business administration that will be able to tackle recurrent security issues. “Most of the inflows that have come in are merely hot money, and that is because the oil price has gone up. Investment in the real sector is not seen. The private sector, in my view, has probably taken a position that the confidence is not there in the government. The country requires a government that is truly pro-business, and a president that sees himself as a chief marketing officer.”
He disclosed that, while negotiating his return to the opposition party, a number of issues were considered. His words: “We listed a number of issues. We talked about how to sustain and improve the fight against corruption; the issue of providing more powers to the states; inclusion and having a more nationalistic approach on things we do to continue to improve the environment that will ensure investments. “We listed a number of items during the discussions with the PDP, and there is a written agreement to that. We trust that we can hold them to that.
“We would ensure that the party is strong on security. The APC too have not done well on the issue of security. We have the opportunity with the right kind of presidential candidate and president to provide the leadership for the party. The party has a good opportunity to lead the country in the right direction.”
Saraki had during a World Press Conference he organised last week in Abuja to address last week Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services (DSS) evaded questions about his presidential ambition. While responding to the question, Saraki said, “We are here today about the issue of democracy of this country; that is why we are here. That is more important to me and to all of us who are here, not to those who are seeking any kind of platform. I think when the time is right I will talk on the issue. Today, we are talking about democracy in Nigeria, to ensure the rule of law, to defend those who are oppressed.”
I’m Under Pressure To Run, Says Tambuwal
Meanwhile, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said yesterday that there is mounting pressure on him to declare for the presidency. Tambuwal who noted that the pressure is coming from both within and outside the country, added however that he would make his position on the matter known at the appropriate time. Speaking while addressing different associations, youth groups, students, locals as well as members of resident communities in Sokoto, he said, “I have been receiving advice and encouragement from our leaders, from different peoples across the country and even from abroad to contest for presidency and this pressure is still mounting.
“It is not my making, but there is still a quantum of pressure from everywhere because of the leadership gap in the country. Nigerians however need somebody who will respect the rule of law and who will not be selective in fighting corruption. In days to come, I will make my position public on the matter”. Tambuwal who said he has unreserved love for President Muhammadu Buhari contrary to insinuations by some who do not mean well for Nigeria added however that it is very necessary to speak up when things are not right. While stressing Buhari is a man of integrity, he said the bitter truth however remains that age is no longer on his side to lead a country such as Nigeria any longer. Tambuwal noted that some cabals were able to successfully hijack the government because Buhari is already old.
He stated: “We love President Muhammadu Buhari and that was why we supported him in 2015 unconditionally and while doing that, we were too sure that he will seek reelection after his first term but when things are wrong we have to tell him. “We still believe in his integrity, patriotism and courage but these are not enough for a leader. We all know that there is vacuum in government occasioned by his disposition probably because of his old age or health condition. That is why Nigerians are yearning for younger ones to lead this country”.
The governor said those speaking up against mis-governance are not enemies of President Buhari, adding that rather, they are objective citizens that believe in good governance as promised by the APC in 2015.
My Presidential Ambition Borne Out Of Patriotism – Atiku
Meanwhile, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, explained yesterday that his 2019 presidential ambition is borne out of his desire to contribute more meaningfully in moving the nation forward. The former vice president spoke when he visited an elder statesman and People’s Democratic Party chieftain, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, during his visit to Imo State in continuation of his nationwide presidential consultations. He however regretted that bad governance has taken Nigeria backward and that something urgent needed to be done so as to place the nation among developed nations. Abubakar who arrived in company of his director general and former governor of Ogun State, Otumba Gbenga Daniel and other members of his campaign team said that he has the capacity to resolve the myriads of challenges currently ravaging the country. “Patriotism is the key thing. It is the thing propelling my presidential ambition. I want to move Nigeria forward. Patriotism is needed to move Nigeria forward”, he stated.
He explained that he was in the state to consult the leadership of PDP in the state ahead of the party’s presidential primary. Responding, Iwuanyanywu said he would not retire from politics until Abubakar becomes president of the country. The elder statesman highlighted that the country was in dire need of a leader like Abubakar to develop the country. “I will not retire from politics until Atiku Abubakar becomes president. Atiku is the kind of president Nigeria needs”, he said.
Al-Mustapha Hints On Joining Presidential Race
Meanwhile, Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, hinted yesterday that he might join the presidential race if prevailed upon by Nigerians to do so. Al-Mustapha gave the indication in Kaduna in an interview shortly after a meeting with United Christian Leaders Eagle Eye Forum, which backed him to join the 2019 presidential race. “I am not going to announce myself contesting for a presidential seat, but if people say so, then that is the wishes of the people. I am not a power tasty person, if I am, I would have lost my personality long before now, but when people gather to speak and the decision is by them,then it is a call to serve,” the retired Army Major said. According to him, his focus is the protection of the right of Nigerians as provided under the law.
Al-Mustapha who also spoke on the security situation in the country called for the reintroduction of tollgates, which he described as an effective buffer of uncovering illegal weapons and movement of criminals. He also called for the overhaul of the Police Act to strengthen policing at the local level in the country. Al-Mustapha particularly said local government councils must be allowed to work effectively, so as to tackle local challenges including security.
2019 Presidential Election To Gulp N32bn
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to spend a whopping N32.2billion (N32,244,683,734.59) on the 2019 presidential election alone. This is coming just as Senate President Bukola Saraki hinted yesterday that he is considering running for the 2019 presidential poll. The presidency is one out of the 1,558 constituencies INEC will be conducting elections into in 2019.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the N32.2billion required for the presidential election in 2019 is part of the budget estimates the commission gave to the presidency, which President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly for approval.
In the budget for the stand alone presidential election, about N31,369,302,823.75 (N31.4billion) has been estimated for the election operational cost, while N88,925,210.00 (N88.9million) is earmarked for election administrative cost. In addition, the sum of N786,455,700.84 (N786.4million) is estimated for miscellaneous expenses, puting the summary of the total budget for the 2019 presidential election at N32.2billion. Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday met relevant committees of the National Assembly over the budget for the 2019 general election.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, led national commissioners and directors of INEC to defend the election budget before the House of Representatives committee on Electoral and Political Matters as well as the Senate committee on INEC in separate meetings. Yakubu explained that the 2019 general election budget proposal of about N189 billion is broken down into four components. He said the first component is the Election Operational Cost, which is estimated at N134.4 billion, while the second component is the Election Technology Cost, estimated at N27.5 billion.
The INEC chairman noted that the third and fourth components, which are estimated at N184.5 billion and N4.6 billion are for Election Administrative Cost, and contingency, respectively.
Providing further explanations as to why there was increase in the 2019 general election budget, He said, “Budgets are put together putting into consideration the number of registered voters”.. He stressed that there had been a 17.1 per cent increase in the number of registered voters since the last general election.
“As at the 11th of August, the Commission had registered 12.1 million new voters. If you add this to almost 70 million on the register before the 2015 general election, we have well over 80 million registered voters. As we speak, we have a 17.1 per cent increase in the voter population over and above the register used in the 2015 general election”.
“The Commission is going to conduct elections into more constituencies in 2019 than the 2015 general election, with the FCT Area Council end of tenure elections coinciding with the general election in 2019.
“The Commission would be conducting elections into 1558 constituencies across the country. We are conducting elections into 1 Presidential Constituency, 109 Senatorial, 360 Federal Constituencies, 991 State Constituencies, 29 State governorship elections, and for the first time the general election is coinciding with the Area Council Elections in the FCT, So, we are going to conduct 68 elections in the FCT in addition to elections in other constituencies”.The INEC chairman who also attributed the increase in the commission’s election budget to the increased number of political parties since the last election noted that producing ballot papers for 91 political parties as well as monitoring their conventions, Congresses and primaries would cost more.
His words: “We had a little over 40 political parties in 2015 but as at today we have over 91 political parties in Nigeria and we are still considering applications from 140 associations for registration.
“If half of the political parties field candidates, we are going to process a total of 70,809 nomination forms for the election. If all the 91 political parties present candidates for all the constituencies we will process over 144,000 applications for the election. So, it is really a huge task for the commission”.He listed other reasons for the increase in budget to include increase in the cost of logistics such as the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which is needed to fuel all the commission’s vehicles; increase in exchange rate of foreign currencies as compared to 2015 and increase in the number of voting points due to increase in number of registered voters. Still making his submission before the Senate Committee on INEC, Yakubu said the total sum of N189billion proposed by the commission for the conduct of the elections should be appropriated for at once.
Yakubu’s statement followed an observation raised by a member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan (PDP, Yobe South) on the disparity between the N189billion proposed by the commission and the N143billion requested for by the President in the N242billion virement seeking letter . But Yakubu declared that there was no disparity in the commission’s budgetary proposal for 2019 elections and the request forwarded to that effect by the president. He insisted that while the President in the said letter broke INEC’s budgetary proposal for the 2019 elections into two by requesting N143billion appropriation for it this year and an additional N45billion for it next year, for INEC to be on a sound financial footing for the elections, it needs the entire N189billion to be appropriated for this year.
Yakubu said, “Our proposed budget for the 2019 general elections submitted to the Presidency is N189billion and that is our preference. “This is not to say that there is disparity between our proposal and the one forwarded on our behalf by the president because if you add N143billion the president in the said letter requested for release to us this year to the additional N45billion to be captured for us in the 2019 budget for the same purpose of conduct of the forthcoming general elections, it gives the same figure of N189billion”.
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