By Paul Ibe
Last Thursday, Atiku Abubakar silenced his critics by travelling to America for the first time in 12 years, thus proving false their speculations about his reasons for not visiting the country. Contrary to their cooked up tales and dementia induced narratives that he feared arrest and would be immediately incarcerated by American security personnel if he dared set foot there, Atiku arrived in Washington D. C., spent the next two days meeting with American Congress men and women and officials of US State Department and the US Chamber of Commerce. The PDP presidential candidate also met with officials of Institute of Peace, the business community and the Nigerian community in and around the Washington D. C. area, before returning to Abuja on Saturday afternoon.
Over the years, Atiku had maintained that his reason for staying away from America was administrative: he would go to America if he was granted a visa. And that is exactly what he did. However, Atiku’s visit to America last week was more than just about travelling to prove the naysayers and rumour mongers wrong. These are my five takeaways from his brief but essential trip.
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Atiku’s presidential campaign has revolved around his policy framework of JOBS: (J)obs, (O)pportunity, (B)eing United, and (S)ecurity. During his visit to America, he met with congressmen and women, US State department, US chamber of commerce, US Institute of Peace, members of the business community in America, and Nigerians in the Diaspora. With each of these groups, he discussed the relevant aspect of his policy framework, to better understand how they could help him achieve these goals after he is elected president of Nigeria.
Over the nearly four years of the current APC administration, Nigeria’s relationship with foreign allies has grown limp, with many of President Muhammadu Buhari’s trips abroad notorious for blunders and embarrassments and his most recent visit to the US better remembered for descriptions of his “lifelessness” than for any significant achievements. By his trip and during his meetings, Atiku has shown America, a key ally, that Nigeria can offer a more lively and vibrant leadership. They need not fear about dealing again with any form of “lifelessness”.
For the average Nigerian, the severe damage done to our country’s economy by the current administration’s policies, has been felt most painfully in the plunging rate of the naira to the dollar. However, these disastrous economic policies have had even more damaging consequences to us all. They have forced foreign businesses and investments to flee our country. During his trip to America, Atiku assured American investors that the economic atmosphere in Nigeria would change once the current administration is thrown out. Nigeria would once again be open for foreign direct investments as it was before the current administration came in and put a stop to that with its archaic policies.
Many see Nigeria’s bloated youth population as a disadvantage, but this disadvantage can be turned into an advantage. If our teeming youth population is employed, if they have their hands and minds busy, the entire country will benefit from their honest labour, and Nigeria can indeed stand tall in her place as the giant of Africa. If more US firms invest in Nigeria, millions of new jobs will be created for our millions of youth. Atiku knows this, thus his meetings with the business community in America. Atiku understands the enormity of the task that is ahead of him to reverse the negatives (21 million people unemployed and 90 million people made extremely poor with Nigeria being adjudged the poverty capital of the world) that has been enthroned by the Buhari administration and Get Nigeria Working Again.
Atiku believes that trading with foreign allies, like America, should go both ways. As he held discussions to open the doors of investment from America to Nigeria, so also did he do for trade from Nigeria to America. In his own words, “I am also eager to find a market in the US for some of the half a million shoes manufactured in Nigeria’s cities of Kano and Aba everyday.”
In nearly four years of the current administration, Nigeria has been presented to the world by her own leader, as a country of corrupt people and lazy youths. This is not the true picture of Nigeria, a country of 182 million hardworking people, each desperate for opportunities to shine. Atiku’s trip to America is just the beginning of the world hearing about a new Nigeria. This is just the beginning of the story. And, for the world to hear the rest of that great story, we must all unite to cast our votes for Atiku Abubakar in the forthcoming elections.
Mazi Paul Ibe is Media Adviser to HE Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of the PDP and former Vice President of Nigeria.