Five takeaways from Okowa’s BBC Pidgin interview

By Biodun D. Ajayi

Since Okowa’s BBC Pidgin interview of Delta State Governor and People’s Democratic Party Vice presidential candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, there has been an effort to create needless controversy out of what was a substantial and positive outing. Okowa’s factual comment that Labor Party candidate Peter Obi is comparatively less experienced than Atiku has attracted some negative reactions which is laughable. Ordinarily, this observation should not elicit any controversy.

Atiku, a former VP, successful entrepreneur, manager of international class companies has been a prominent and respected part of the political landscape since the 1990s. Besides, in terms of the substance of his policy proposals, and strong ideas for uniting the country and growing the economy, after the eight locust years of the Buhari administration, the PDP presidential ticket also stands out. This was a strong point by the PDP vice presidential candidate, which may have been obscured by attempts to sensationalize the interview, or lost in translation.

Below are five strong highlights from the interview.

1. ATIKU WHO WAS NUMBER 2 IN THE OBASANJO GOVT THAT SALVAGED A STRUGGLING ECONOMY IS NIGERIA’S BEST BET AFTER EIGHT DISASTROUS YEARS OF BUHARI
As Okowa pointed out, Atiku has the relevant experience to rescue Nigeria from its current economic crises, because he served as Vice President in an administration that worked hard to salvage a struggling economy and a divided country. Among other challenges, the country was labouring under a huge debt burden. Against great odds, that government succeeded brilliantly as Nigerians have testified. Therefore, based on his experience as VP under an administration that met serious challenges and yet managed to deliver, Atiku has what it takes to lead an economic rescue mission in 2023 after eight years of awful economic management under Buhari.

2. BUHARI HAS BALOONED NIGERIA’S DEBT WHICH THE OBASANJO-ATIKU GOVT REDUCED SIGNIFICANTLY
Okowa stated that the Obasanjo administration hired the right people and created an enabling environment for them, which led to a significant reduction of Nigeria’s debt. Under the Obasanjo administration, the debt level of the federal government decreased from N3.55 trillion in 1999 to N2.42 trillion at the end of 2007. Records show that, external debt decreased from $28.04 billion by 1999 to $2.11 billion at the end of 2007.

The historic efforts of the Obasanjo/Atiku administration to reduce Nigeria’s debt are especially noteworthy now, as Nigerians continue to cringe at the unabated borrowing of the Buhari administration, which portends a major challenge for whomever takes over in 2023. The Buhari administration incurred N7.63 trillion in domestic debt from June 2015 to December 2020, according to the Budget Office’s medium-term expenditure framework and fiscal strategy paper from 2015. President Buhari also increased external debt from $7.3 billion in 2015 to $28.57 billion as of December 2020, an increase of $21.27 billion in foreign loans.

Okowa pointed out that Atiku had invaluable experience that would be useful in rescuing the country’s economy from its precarious and worsening state, having played a key role in the government that achieved monumental economic progress.

3. OKOWA HAS PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE WHICH WILL BE AN ASSET IF HE BECOMES VICE PRESIDENT
In the course of the interview, Okowa highlighted the public service experience he brings to the Atiku ticket, having held various public service positions, in addition to his stint as a medical doctor in the private sector. In addition to being a second term governor, he has had wide ranging experience at the local, state and federal government levels. Okowa’s previous roles include, Local Government Secretary, Local Government Council Chairman, Commissioner, and Senator.

He was first appointed the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1999 to 2001 and was redeployed to the Ministry of Water Resources where he was until 2003 when he was reassigned to the Ministry of Health.

After serving as Secretary to the Delta State Government under former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Okowa would later serve as a Senator, and eventually, Governor.

4. ATIKU IS PREPARED
Okowa stated that PDP has many good people adding that some of those contesting for the presidency in rival parties including Peter Obi were long-time members of the PDP until recently. He added that Atiku stands out as a candidate that has already developed a policy document which contains details of his vision for Nigeria, as well as how he plans to govern the country. The Atiku-Okowa ticket knows what it needs to do to lead Nigeria out of its current challenges and take her into a brighter future.

5. NIGERIANS SHOULD VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WITH CLEAR STRENGTHS LIKE ATIKU
Okowa urged Nigerians to base their voting decisions on the clear strengths of the candidates not sentiments such as tribe, religion, or displeasure with older politicians because they could end up voting the wrong people into office. He revealed that to this end, the PDP has begun consultations with youths, recognizing their voting power, and their strong voice, particularly on social media. He added that Atiku was a unifier who has demonstrated a capacity to bring Nigerians together, regardless of tribe and religion.

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