Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday threw his hat in the ring for the 2019 presidential race, saying he is considering running for president in the forthcoming general elections. The Senate president who recently defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is currently facing impeachment threat. While speaking in an interview with Bloomberg in Abuja, Saraki said he has commenced consultations on his ambition and may eventually declare his interest for the highest political office in the land. “I am consulting and actively considering it, I believe I can make the change,” he told the foreign media organisation. The Senate president, who expressed apprehension over the 2019 polls, saying he is afraid that the current government may manipulate the country’s security apparatus to its favour, noted however that he would test his popularity at the polls. “We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections. If a government can go and lock up an arm of government and it has never happened in our history we should all be very concerned,” Saraki said. Decrying what he described as movement of security agents for political reasons in the country, he said, “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 are going to be based on sound democracy, credible elections, and freedom of choice of Nigerians. If we don’t have that as a foundation, then everything else cannot happen”. Saraki assured that the opposition PDP has learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015, just as he insisted that the APC did not learn from their victory. The Senate president said if he eventually decides to run, it will be on the platform of the PDP. While explaining his visions for Nigeria, the Senate president said he hopes to improve investor confidence in the country, even as he observed that investors and citizens have lost confidence in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Saraki noted that President Buhari had during his campaign pledged to fix the economy, improve security and fight corruption. He said Nigeria needed to be governed by a genuinely pro-business administration that will be able to tackle recurrent security issues. “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.” He disclosed that, while negotiating his return to the opposition party, a number of issues were considered. His words: “We 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. “We would ensure that the party is strong on security. The APC too have not done well on the issue of 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.” Saraki had during a World Press Conference he organised last week in Abuja to address last week Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services (DSS) evaded questions about his presidential ambition. While responding to the question, Saraki said, “We are here today about the issue of democracy of this country; that is why we are here. That is more important to me and to all of us who are here, not to those who are seeking any kind of platform. I think when the time is right I will talk on the issue. Today, we are talking about democracy in Nigeria, to ensure the rule of law, to defend those who are oppressed.” I’m Under Pressure To Run, Says Tambuwal Meanwhile, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said yesterday that there is mounting pressure on him to declare for the presidency. Tambuwal who noted that the pressure is coming from both within and outside the country, added however that he would make his position on the matter known at the appropriate time. Speaking while addressing different associations, youth groups, students, locals as well as members of resident communities in Sokoto, he said, “I have been receiving advice and encouragement from our leaders, from different peoples across the country and even from abroad to contest for presidency and this pressure is still mounting. “It is not my making, but there is still a quantum of pressure from everywhere because of the leadership gap in the country. Nigerians however need somebody who will respect the rule of law and who will not be selective in fighting corruption. In days to come, I will make my position public on the matter”. Tambuwal who said he has unreserved love for President Muhammadu Buhari contrary to insinuations by some who do not mean well for Nigeria added however that it is very necessary to speak up when things are not right. While stressing Buhari is a man of integrity, he said the bitter truth however remains that age is no longer on his side to lead a country such as Nigeria any longer. Tambuwal noted that some cabals were able to successfully hijack the government because Buhari is already old. He stated: “We love President Muhammadu Buhari and that was why we supported him in 2015 unconditionally and while doing that, we were too sure that he will seek reelection after his first term but when things are wrong we have to tell him. “We still believe in his integrity, patriotism and courage but these are not enough for a leader. We all know that there is vacuum in government occasioned by his disposition probably because of his old age or health condition. That is why Nigerians are yearning for younger ones to lead this country”. The governor said those speaking up against mis-governance are not enemies of President Buhari, adding that rather, they are objective citizens that believe in good governance as promised by the APC in 2015. My Presidential Ambition Borne Out Of Patriotism – Atiku Meanwhile, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, explained yesterday that his 2019 presidential ambition is borne out of his desire to contribute more meaningfully in moving the nation forward. The former vice president spoke when he visited an elder statesman and People’s Democratic Party chieftain, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, during his visit to Imo State in continuation of his nationwide presidential consultations. He however regretted that bad governance has taken Nigeria backward and that something urgent needed to be done so as to place the nation among developed nations. Abubakar who arrived in company of his director general and former governor of Ogun State, Otumba Gbenga Daniel and other members of his campaign team said that he has the capacity to resolve the myriads of challenges currently ravaging the country. “Patriotism is the key thing. It is the thing propelling my presidential ambition. I want to move Nigeria forward. Patriotism is needed to move Nigeria forward”, he stated. He explained that he was in the state to consult the leadership of PDP in the state ahead of the party’s presidential primary. Responding, Iwuanyanywu said he would not retire from politics until Abubakar becomes president of the country. The elder statesman highlighted that the country was in dire need of a leader like Abubakar to develop the country. “I will not retire from politics until Atiku Abubakar becomes president. Atiku is the kind of president Nigeria needs”, he said. Al-Mustapha Hints On Joining Presidential Race Meanwhile, Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, hinted yesterday that he might join the presidential race if prevailed upon by Nigerians to do so. Al-Mustapha gave the indication in Kaduna in an interview shortly after a meeting with United Christian Leaders Eagle Eye Forum, which backed him to join the 2019 presidential race. “I am not going to announce myself contesting for a presidential seat, but if people say so, then that is the wishes of the people. I am not a power tasty person, if I am, I would have lost my personality long before now, but when people gather to speak and the decision is by them,then it is a call to serve,” the retired Army Major said. According to him, his focus is the protection of the right of Nigerians as provided under the law. Al-Mustapha who also spoke on the security situation in the country called for the reintroduction of tollgates, which he described as an effective buffer of uncovering illegal weapons and movement of criminals. He also called for the overhaul of the Police Act to strengthen policing at the local level in the country. Al-Mustapha particularly said local government councils must be allowed to work effectively, so as to tackle local challenges including security.