The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, on Monday, expressed interest about how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, planned to address the country’s seemingly overwhelming security, economic, and development challenges if elected into office next year.
The feeling of enthusiasm came as Atiku sought increased collaboration between the governments of Nigeria and the United Kingdom in the search for solution to issues that affect both countries.
In another development, the embittered camp of the opposition PDP led by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, allegedly, gave conditions for peace, which included being considered equal stakeholders in the party.
Wike was poised to win the PDP presidential ticket during the primaries in May in Abuja, until a last-minute withdrawal from the race by his erstwhile close ally, Sokoto State Governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, turned the table in Atiku’s favour. Tambuwal’s decision to step down, which Wike viewed as premeditated betrayal, triggered a chain of resentment and division that PDP is still trying to resolve.
The PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, after setting up a committee to discuss how to resolve the post-presidential nomination disagreements in the party.
Laing, after a meeting with Atiku at his residence in Abuja, the nation’s capital, took to her Twitter account and wrote, “Good to meet the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar @atiku today.
“Interesting to hear his ideas on the economic, security and development priorities for #Nigeria ahead of #2023elections.”
The high commissioner stated that the meeting with the former vice president was part of an ongoing engagement by the UK government to enhance democracy and ensure credible elections in Nigeria next year.
Laing was accompanied to the meeting by the Deputy High commissioner, Gill Atkinson; Head of Political Section, Aneesah Islam; Senior Economic Adviser, Stuart Tibbs; and Second Secretary, Political, Max Lindon.
Atiku, in a statement, said the meeting with Laing discussed a wide range of issues bordering on security, education, agriculture, economy, and Nigerian unity. He thanked the UK delegation for the meeting, stating, “The bilateral ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom have a rich history and it was important for both countries to leverage that to promote issues that are of mutual concern.”
The presidential hopeful stressed that he expected the United Kingdom to play a more active role for the survival of democracy in Nigeria. He said he was confident that the 2023 presidential election would be free and fair.
Atiku decried the poor security situation in the country and solicited UK’s assistance, especially, in the areas of training and intelligence sharing.
He said if given the opportunity to lead Nigeria, he would, among other things, abolish the multiple exchange rate regimes and reduce tax to encourage genuine manufacturers and promote investment.
The PDP presidential candidate promised to boost agriculture in order to create employment for the country’s teeming population.
He expressed concern about the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the crisis in the education sector, and promised to carry out reforms in the sector, including the reinvigoration of financial loan schemes to Nigerian students.
Meanwhile, an insider at Sunday’s meeting of the Wike camp told THISDAY that defection was not considered an option by the Rivers State governor, who, however, insisted there must be a meeting to discuss inclusivity in PDP.
The source stated, “Atiku Abubakar supported General Muhammadu Buhari. When he eventually won the election in 2015, what did he get? He was subsequently victimised.
“It is part of our position to ensure that what happened in 2015 does not repeat itself again. We are PDP members, but cannot be taken for granted. When they are ready for talks we are ready.
“As far as we are concerned, we are open for discussion. We want everything to be put on the table. We remain in the party. We are not going anywhere, we want to be seen as equal stakeholders.”
It was against that background that the chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin, said the board would meet Wednesday to discuss how to resolve the post-presidential nomination crisis.
According to a statement, Jubrin said, “Interestingly, the BoT, the highest advisory body and the conscience of the party, is meeting on Wednesday, August 3, to discuss the issues accordingly by coming up with strong recommendations with the special committee for the special reconciliation of aggrieved members especially, Governor Wike.
“After the BoT meeting, we will meet with Wike and all aggrieved members and all past presidential aspirants. It is my prayer as Chairman of BoT that the PDP will remain strongest and win all elections in 2023.”
The BoT chairman also stated, “I notice with great concern that the PDP primary election of Atiku Abubakar and the appointment of the Delta State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Okowa, as vice president is unnecessarily causing confusion among some PDP members.
“May I point out very strongly that there is no problem, as being envisaged by some people in our great party, the PDP.
“I want to assure everyone that all plans are on ground to bring all members together as one and united, as what is happening in PDP can never be compared with the situation in APC, especially, their plans in trying to bring religious issues of Muslim-Muslim president and vice president.
“I have also noted that some groups are coming up, trying to solve the issues of Governor Okowa as vice president. The latest group include some former governors of the party and the current governors, some BoT members and elders, including Professor Jerry Gana, the chief spokesman of the group of governors, Wike, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Governors of Enugu and Abia states, former governor of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris. The aim of the group is to reconcile the aggrieved especially, Governor Nyesom Wike.”