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By Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
Nigerians must enter the New Year determined to succeed although much around us signals failure. As a nation, we are destined to be better than we now are. Today, we slump in a low place but that is only for now. Our nation is crippled but not broken, confused but not lost. Given into the hands of enlightened progressive leadership, this nation can become a fertile land of prosperity, of law, of peace and dignity for us all.
The coming year shall be one of decision. To be for change or against change? To want more of the same or to join the team that desires change? Shall we continue as we now are? If so, failure will be our sole destination and darkness our only compass. As for me, I reject this end as well as the means that lead to it. We have gone far enough down the unlit road. We want no further part of it.
The advent of a new year is time for people and nations to resolve themselves to a greater future. As a people, let us resolve no longer to live in a land that functions as its inferior self. Let us resolve that we no longer dwell in a society of unfair advantage, excessive poverty and parochial divisions that threaten to distract us from the common goal of our common good. Let us resolve that we shall no longer tolerate a government more interested in its longevity and welfare than in yours.
Let us resolve to create a Nigeria based on justice, democracy, fair opportunity and decent living conditions for all regardless of ethnic origin, religion, region or social station. Let us devote our hands to reshaping Nigeria into a place where no one is excluded and all are seated at the national table. Let us turn Nigeria from its present condition of a plantation owned by the few and worked by the many into a humane community of shared responsibility and shared benefit.
2013 proved we cannot pretend nothing is wrong when most things are wrong. If we allow things to continue in this shoddy way, we shall find ourselves walking toward the open jaws of national disaster.
We must resist this ugly fate by substituting it with a renewed faith that we can improve our nation. I feel the storm of change building up. If you listen closely, you hear a faint and distant sound. This distance sound means us well, and, I tell you, this sound will not always be distant or soft. Inevitably, it approaches. The closer it gets, the louder and stronger it will become until no other sound will be heard in the public square. This happy noise has been held from us far too long. Pray for its timely arrival; it is the din of political and economic change.
This is why we formed the APC. The APC is a vehicle to generate and accelerate the process of change towards the most beneficial end for the greatest number of our people. We are not here to mimic the PDP. Why would a living being mimic a ghost or water mimic mud? We may not be perfect but we are dedicated to wellbeing of something far greater and more important than ourselves. We seek a better Nigeria for all Nigerians. Thus, we are no more like the PDP than a broom is like the dirt it sweeps away. We do not copy the deafness of the ruling party. We shall orchestrate a new music of enlightenment, progress and hope for this country.
As it moves nearer, the sound of imminent change will become music to the many. Those in power will dread it because the tune they want to hear comes not of the people’s happiness but from their misery.
This is why the strange government that resides in Abuja can applaud itself for economic growth when the majority of people suffer caustic poverty. The growth they commend is restricted to them and their cronies. The rest of the nation stagnates. Children’s bellies swell not from feast but from near famine. Schools close. Businesses are shuttered. Jobs evaporate. The streets fill with the frustration of the unemployed and hopeless. Homes, stores and factories are dark. There is no light. Yet, these people commend themselves for steering the economy to pleasant waters. They are mean captains who care not for the conditions of the workmen below deck.
In effect, they think they have done their job by making themselves richer at the expense of the rest of the people. Then, they have the nerve to ask that we applaud this misdeed. They believe they have already taken Nigeria to the promise land. This means they intend to keep things as they now are. They believe the economy should be permanently structured in a way the vast majority of Nigerians squirm under the boot of poverty while they relax in the nectar of luxury. This is an unfair, crooked deal. We reject it and, as the drumbeat of change marches closer, it will drown out their lame excuses to make way for a fairer economy.
Two recent events demonstrate how low we have sunk and why 2014 must be the year of change. Recently the media published reports of a letter from the CBN governor alleging a $50 billion dollar shortfall in revenues NNPC deposited into the federation account. After a frenzied dash to reconcile the irreconcilable accounting books keep by this government, it was reported that only approximately $11 billion was unaccounted! We have dropped so far that somehow losing $11 billion is now a sign of fiscal rectitude! This is tragic.
In an atmosphere of good governance, this amount would never grow legs and walk away unnoticed. If it did, senior officials would have been duly escorted to the police station for criminal investigation. Under this administration, the matter is swept aside as if a minor thing, like a broken tea cup on the floor. If this government can treat a missing 11 billion dollars like a minor accounting infraction, much more than a teacup needs to be swept away. This robber government needs to feel the broom and the sweep of change as well.
Regarding Boko Haram and our challenges of domestic security, President Jonathan gave a recent statement that showed no urgency or initiative. Instead, he told Nigerians to be happy because things could be worse. At least, we are not like Syria or other war-ravaged lands, he said. In the face of the nation’s greatest security challenge since the Civil War, this is the presidential policy: to lay low and measure your failure relative to the failure of other nations. As long as other nations suffer conditions worse than ours, we should accept our fate and commend government for allowing only one of our legs to be amputated and not both. Jonathan’s hands-off, laissez faire approach to civil insurrect does not commend itself to national greatness or wise statecraft. It is a lazy and dangerous policy he promotes. This nation will not improve simply by being content that we are not as bad as other nations. That is not way of improvement. It is the excuse of a leader grown too comfortable with failure.
The coming year will present Nigerians a stark choice. The APC is a new party. It offers a chance to return Nigeria to her best path. We realize the Nigerian public has been stung so many times by false promises that the people will not give their trust quickly. Given our political history, this is only wise and prudent.
Beginning this new year, the APC will show the people the vast difference between us and the PDP. They are a conservative and elite network of under-the-table deals and backroom governance. We are its open and progressive alternative. We mean the people well and do not work to keep them in the dark. We will show the comparative differences in several ways. First, we shall demonstrate our commitment to democracy by exercising internal democracy and transparence on our party deliberations. Second, we shall communicate to the people at the grassroots level as well as the national level. You will see and hear from APC members and leaders at the local, state and national levels. We will create venues and platforms that you may communicate your concerns to us as well.
Third, and most importantly, we will highlight the ideological and substantive policy differences between the progressive us and the elitist them. Where the PDP has imposed trickle-down economics reminiscent of a 1980’s Reagan-Thatcher-IMF road show, we seek an economy of genuine and broadly shared growth where the laboring wage earner and small businessperson benefits proportionally to the powerful financier and big corporate power. We will draw clear distinctions between how this administration conducts itself and what we see as the correct national government stance on fiscal and monetary policy, agriculture, national security, human rights, jobs and labor, housing, infrastructure, education and health. By the end of the year, you will know the APC stands in a different place than the PDP. The PDP is selfish; thus, it stands by itself. The APC stands with and for the people.
Thus, we look forward to the approaching year. It will be a turning point in Nigeria’s political history. The people will be given a clear choice between the types of politics and policies they can follow. The people will be given two competing visions for the nation: The PDP’s vision of stumbling along as we are or a progressive vision where the people have greater input in their own governance and, thus, derive more benefit from that governance. The choice will be yours.
2014 also will be the year of an even greater change foretold. For it shall set the stage for year after. May 2015 be the fateful year when we affirm and empower into the actual governance of this land the change Nigeria so deservedly needs.
To all Nigerians, I pray for God’s blessing and a most productive and historic New Year.
Senator Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a two-term governor in Lagos, is one of the party leaders of the APC.
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