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Saraki says he’s considering running for president

Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki is considering running against President Muhammadu Buhari when Africa’s top oil producer holds elections in February.

“I am consulting and actively considering it,” Saraki, 56, said Tuesday in an interview at his residence in the capital, Abuja. “I believe I can make the change.”

After recently defecting from the ruling All Progressives Congress, Saraki said that if he decided to run, it would be under the banner of the People’s Democratic Party, the main opposition group. He would need to win the party’s ticket during primary elections in October.

At odds with Buhari ever since he emerged as the senate leader against the president’s wishes in 2015, Saraki is a former member of the PDP who despite joining the APC, often went against the party line.

His defection last month back to the PDP came amid a wave of such departures from the APC, including dozens of senators and at least two state governors. After security operatives surrounded Saraki’s home last month for undisclosed reasons, the secret police temporarily blocked access to the National Assembly on Aug. 7, in what Saraki said was an illegal attempt to impeach him. The head of the State Security Services was dismissed over the deployment.

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Confidence Lost
“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,” Saraki said. “We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections.”

Investors and citizens have lost confidence in the president, according to Saraki, the nation’s third ranking official after Buhari and his deputy. Buhari’s election victory in 2015, which marked the first time an opposition party won power at the ballot box and put an end to 16 years of PDP rule, came after he pledged to fix the economy, improve security and fight corruption.

While Buhari’s administration has raised record amounts of money in oversubscribed Eurobond sales and increased revenue to boost investments in roads, rail, ports and power, poverty remains widespread in Nigeria and the nation is still dealing with deadly violence in several regions.

To win the PDP ticket at the party’s primaries on Oct. 5 and 6, Saraki would need to beat another presidential aspirant, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who also defected from the APC last year.

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Saraki said Nigeria needs to be governed by a genuinely pro-business administration that will be able to tackle recurrent security issues. Below are some excerpts from the interview:

On investment:
“Most of the inflows that have come in are 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.”

On the involvement of security forces in political matters:
“There has been a persistent disregard for due process and a lack of neutrality for some of these issues. 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.”

Source: Bloomberg News

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