From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, yesterday said that Nigeria needs a courageous and business-conscious leader to tackle the security and economic challenges facing the country.
Saraki spoke in Asaba, Delta State while addressing PDP’s delegates ahead of the party’s national convention.
He stressed that the country needed to be fixed urgently from its failed and deteriorating state.
According to him, we cannot afford to make the mistake of not putting the right person because the insecurity that we are all suffering today in this country does not know tribe or religion.
He said “both northerners and southerners are suffering the poverty and insecurity; we have highest level of unemployment today at 33 per cent and cost of living is very high.
“With the numerous challenges facing our nation today, we need to find people who have the capacity to lead because leadership is key today in this country; you cannot give what you do not have.
“There are certain qualities that we need today from the next president, and if those qualities are what I have, let us do the right thing and support me.
“We need somebody who can unite Nigeria, who the youths and the old, North and South, can be comfortable with.
“We need somebody who can bring investments, who the private sector would be comfortable with, somebody who would also have the courage to stand for what is right and take bold decisions when that time comes.”
Saraki added that the country needed a president that is business-friendly and understood the private sector and able to change the country’s mono-economy status.
“As you all know as entrepreneurs, money only goes to where it sees safety. A president or that is business-friendly is what we need now, one who understands the private sector.
“I was happy today when I got in to the Asaba Airport and I looked and compared it to about a year ago; you can see the difference and the innovation of the governor in bringing that change.
“We need a president that is bold and courageous to take decisions. It is not going to be easy because the challenges ahead are enormous.
“Devolution of powers is so important; we must be able to restructure this country and give more powers to states.
“You need somebody who has the capacity to do that and you all know that to restructure you need constitutional amendments, so you need somebody with legislative experience that can unite this country.
“Somebody whether in the North or South that will be fair to all and you know that I am that person that can unite this country.
“When the party needed somebody to reconcile our party members, I was brought on board to chair the National Reconciliation Committee of our great party and today many states have come together because of the work we did.
“We need somebody that can bridge the gap between the young and the old. We need somebody that can create jobs and shore up employment and that can only be done through agriculture, through non-reliance on oil.
“I have stated this in my manifesto that within 24 months we will earn the same amount we are earning from 30 billion dollars from non-oil whether it is gas or petrochemical, and unless we do that, if we continue to rely on oil we can’t get away from the current challenges.
“I am a great team player and we were able to hold the National Assembly together because we were able to carry everyone along,” he said.
The presidential hopeful told the delegates that Delta was a key state in the country, and that any aspirant that was serious needed the support of the state.
He commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for his outstanding accomplishments in the health sector, saying that he would replicate Okowa’s antecedents in the country if elected.
“Currently, Nigeria’s Universal Health Coverage is at seven per cent. I promised in my manifesto that within 24 months, 50 per cent of Nigerians must be covered in the National Health Insurance.
“What Governor Okowa is doing here in Delta is what is needed in the entire country and I have the capacity to do that because it is the right policy for the health sector,” he said.
The former Kwara govenor said that if elected, he would give opportunity to every Nigerian to contribute to the country’s development.
In his remarks, Governor Okowa said that Nigerians are facing lots of issues ranging from insecurity and poverty to unemployment, adding that the country truly needed a leader who had what it takes to provide solutions to the myriads of problems bedeviling the country.
He congratulated Saraki for his role in the 8th Senate, describing him as a very bold and courageous leader who stood to defend the independence of the legislature.
“Deltans are very knowledgeable people; they have heard you and I believe that during the time of discussion it is our prayer that you find favour in the sight of the delegates.
“We must congratulate you on the roles you played in the 8th Senate; you showed your capacity and you defended the laws of the land by showing very clearly that you were more interested in Nigeria than yourself as a person.
“I pray that every Nigerian who finds himself in a position of authority will begin to realise that our contributions individually and eventually collectively, is what can truly rescue this nation.
“Unfortunately, we find that many persons do not have the stable mind anymore and, therefore, the right decisions may not be taken.
“However, we are sure in Delta that when we come to the convention, we will come with the right decisions and we pray that other parts of this nation will also understand that it is about Nigeria and it’s not going to be about self,” Okowa stated.
He said that Saraki was eminently qualified having played a very prominent role in the party and country, and prayed for him to succeed.
“All I can say for now is to wish you well because we know you as a friend we can trust, and we also know that you have the right capacity.
“It is in the PDP you can find such quality of persons with the sincerity and the passion to set out there in the interest of Nigeria.
“When we look at the opposing party, we see all manner of things going on and we begin to wonder if they are trying to take Nigeria further down.
“This is because even those who have the capacity in that party to probably do the right things for the country, they will not allow them and they are going to ensure that they are suppressed and pushed away, but in the PDP we are confident that we are going to throw up our best.
“It is our hope that in the last few days to the convention that we will talk to ourselves and to manage the process in such a manner that there will be reduction of rancour and that we will have a convention that is free and fair and that the best person will emerge at that convention.
“We pray that we will work as a united family and we pray that when the chips are down that you find favour in the sight of all the delegates to the National Convention of the PDP,” he stated.
Earlier, Chairman of PDP in Delta, Kingsley Esiso, had said that the party’s hierarchy would meet to take a decision on who to support, and commended Saraki for the visit.