Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has laid bare his programme for universities under the control of the federal government if elected to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in February’s general election.
Atiku’s unveiling of the new-turn the federal universities would take under his projected government was at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Annual General Conference in Lagos, while speaking on other reforms he has in place.
The ex-Vice President said he was of the view that the federal government is lacking in resources and is currently biting more than he could chew, adding that the way he would go, is that his government would partner with the private sectors and let go so many things, including universities.
His word, “One of the fundamental reforms I have in my policy document is to encourage the private sector as far as the development of the country is concerned — both foreign and local. It is very essential because the federal government does not have the resources to do all the things that they want to do.
“The only way is to make sure that a conducive environment is available for the local and foreign investors to participate in the development of our country, whether it is infrastructure, education and healthcare.
“I had an argument with a university professor from Federal University, Lokoja. He said he read in my policy document that I intend to devolve, in other words, to return education to the states. How dare I do that?
“I said: ‘Mr professor, do you realise that the first set of our universities belongs to the regional governments?’ He said, ‘yes’. I said ‘who are the successors of the regional government?’ He said: ‘the states’.
“I said the children you send to America or England, who own those universities? Mostly the private sector. So, why is it that you think we cannot do it here? We don’t have the money.”
Commenting on the state of the nation, Atiku said, Atiku said since 1999, Nigeria had never experienced this level of poverty, insecurity and unemployment.
“Since the return of democracy in 1998/99, Nigeria has never found itself in such a very very critical point in our history.
“Today, we have had all the negative indices. Today, we are all disunited in the nation. We have never experienced this level of poverty. We have never experienced this state of insecurity. We have never experienced this level of unemployment. We have recognised all these negative development in our history.
“This is where history and experience beckon on us to make sure that we don’t get it wrong at this point in time otherwise if we get it wrong. I don’t know when we will ever get it right. I have been involved in the struggle to return this country to democracy to this country in the time of military days. In fact, I can even say I was even lucky to be alive because so many of my contemporaries have been killed in this struggle but by the grace of God I have survived till this point in time,” he said.