President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said he was considering running against President Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming presidential election scheduled to hold in February 2019.
Buhari has expressed intent to seek re-election on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Saraki, who disclosed this in an interview with Bloomberg, said that if he decided to run, it would be on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He recently defected from APC to PDP and would have to win the party’s ticket during primary elections in October to challenge Buhari in the presidential race.
Saraki would need to beat a host of other presidential aspirants, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governors Aminu Tambuwa (Sokoto) an Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), among others to win the PDP ticket.
“I am consulting and actively considering it. I believe I can make the change,” he said.
Saraki had been at odds with Buhari ever since he emerged as the Senate President against the wishes of the President and the ruling party.
His defection last month back to the PDP came amidst a wave of several other defections from the APC, including dozens of senators and three state governors.
In the interview, Saraki expressed concerns at recent developments in the polity, particularly his brush with security operatives who barricaded his house and the subsequent siege to the National Assembly.
According to Saraki, investors and citizens have lost confidence in the government of the day.
Nigeria, he said, needs to be governed by a genuinely pro-business administration that would be able to tackle recurrent security issues.
“If a government can go and lock up an arm of government – and it’s never happened in our history – we should all be very concerned. We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections,” he said.
Saraki expressed optimism at the possibility of the PDP bouncing back and reclaiming power at the centre, saying the party had learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015 while the APC did not learn from its victory.
He said that while negotiating with the PDP for a return to the party, he and his colleagues 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.
“The APC too have not done well on the issue of security. We would ensure that the party is strong on 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,” he said.
Saraki frowned at the involvement of security forces in political matters, insisting that there has been a persistent disregard for due process and a lack of neutrality on the part of security agencies in the country.
“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 is going to be based on sound democracy, credible elections, freedom of choice of Nigerians. If we don’t have that as a foundation, then everything else cannot happen,” he said.
On investments, he said that most of the inflows were 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 said.
Saraki also took a swipe at the Buhari’s administration for re-introducing subsidies on petroleum products through the backdoor and failing to make provisions for it in the national budget for transparency and accountability.
“If we are going to have a subsidy, we should have a budget for it. Because once we have a budget for it, the private sector can also play a role in the importation of petroleum products.
“And if the private sector plays a role, definitely the cost of the subsidy will go down and there will be more efficiency in the delivery of products. But in the environment we are in today, where it’s only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that’s doing that, it’s going to be inefficient, it’s not going to be transparent,” he said.