I welcome you all to this special gathering. I feel truly honoured by your presence. That you could attend this event despite the security and healthcare challenges facing this country at the moment is all the more gratifying. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
We are all here because we believe that our country can be made better. We want to see Nigeria develop, prosper and become the pride of Africa and the Black race. We are here because we know that change must come and that change will come because of you.
As I move around this country interacting with regular Nigerians, I listen to their concerns about unfulfilled expectations, frustrations and sometimes disillusionment. Yet I still see the excitement, determination and hope on their faces.
In spite of the many challenges we face, it is quite remarkable that our people have refused to give up on Nigeria. It is inspiring that amidst difficulties and growing anxiety over the future of our country, our people have refused to succumb to despair and hopelessness. This never-say-die attitude gives me immense hope and it is one of the reasons why I can never give up on Nigeria.
The glaring mismatch between our potentials and our achievements has become for many a frustrating puzzle; for others it is a topic for national debate; and yet for another group, it is doomsday lament. But as a progressive and open-minded Nigerian, I consider it a golden opportunity and a bittersweet chance to display our courage, rekindle our innovative instinct, showcase our character and turn the Nigerian dream into reality.
The future of Nigeria is represented here. Nigerians of my generation, who work tireless to earn a living, striving to make Nigeria a better place for themselves and their families, and who are entitled to retire in comfort, are here. Our youth are represented here. (Please join me in giving three gbozaas for our youth: Gbozaa! Gbozaa! Gbozaa!). You, the youth – endowed with fresh ideas, bubbling energy and a passionate desire for change – you are the hope of this nation. Without you, we really can’t talk of a future with hope and confidence.
That is why the 2015 election is about you. It is about how to ensure that you live safe and secured lives. It is about making sure that you feed well, receive quality and affordable education and training, secure good jobs, support your own families and contribute positively to the development of our country. This is what a responsive and responsible government owes its citizens. This is what our generation owes upcoming generations. This is what we must do to guarantee our country’s future. This is what democracy promises. This is what our party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), seeks to actualize.
Our party, the APC, at its inception in July 2013, offered a great hope for many Nigerians as a potent alternative to the ruling PDP. We have in our fold selfless leaders who cherish democratic principles and practice and who have demonstrated their patriotism in deepening democracy.
Regardless of the loud and lavish political propaganda, deceit, official impunity and unjust applications of powers of patronage and sanctions by the PDP administrations, let me assure you that our party remains strong and capable of fulfilling the nation’s thirst for change. And we shall do so united across regions, religions and generations.
I am particularly proud that our party has adopted the innovative Modified Open Primaries in selecting its flag bearers at all levels. This will ensure the emergence of candidates whose mandate will be informed by the popular will of the members of our party.
Some people have argued for a generational shift to younger leaders without much experience. However, I believe that it is the responsibility of my generation to offer our political shoulders to the new generation to climb upon, improve their vision and expand their horizon. It is this trans-generational collaboration and partnership that represents the best model to create the future that we desire and deserve. This is a well-tested model; the future of this nation should never again be subjected to leadership experimentation or learning on the job.
My story is similar to the story of many of my generation. I was born in a southern Adamawa village to a nomadic trader and his wife who was a farmer. I grew up as a shepherd and a farm boy. I was the only child of my parents. My father had to be imprisoned by Local Council authorities before he could allow me to go to school.
At 11, I lost my father and my whole world fell apart. With the help of my mother, other relatives and friends of my father, I pulled myself up from this doldrums and despair. I faced the future with uncommon confidence, hope and faith in God. I am where I am today because I did not give up. I struggled to acquire a good education because the opportunity was made available. Most people never had a chance and their potentials were never discovered and their contributions to national development thus curtailed. I worry today that too many of our young people who could have improved their lives and that of this nation have not been getting the opportunities to do so.
In the 20 years that I spent in the Nigerian public service, I built a solid reputation for myself as a diligent, honest, hardworking and innovative staff. I retired as an accomplished and fulfilled public servant. That is what every Nigerian who had diligently served this country deserves and not dehumanization, humiliation and neglect.
I became politically active in 1987 because my imagination was captured by a leader, Late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who started with persistent determination and diligence to construct bridges of understanding and love across the ethno-religious divides inherent in our society. He convinced all of us who were bold to defy the status quo to participate in his noble passion. We were convinced that it was the only way to preserve our national unity and establish a structure of peace necessary for national development. Even after his death, we have continued with renewed vigour to pursue this dream.
My politics have always been guided by the enduring values of fairness and justice, honesty of purpose, the pursuit of excellence, selflessness and the love for my country. These values also characterize my conduct in business.
As Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, I worked closely with my boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also a passionate defender of Nigerian unity. We re-integrated our country into the international community following years of isolation; we professionalized our armed forces; we embarked on fundamental economic reforms articulated by an Economic Team, which I had the honour to chair. We focused on macro-economic stability and transforming critical areas such as banking, insurance, oil and gas, telecommunication, pension and the Civil Service. We created novel institutions that should lay the foundation for good governance and accountability such as the Bureau of Procurement (Due Process), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), SERVICOM, whose Golden rule is “Serve others as you would like to be served.” Sadly, most of these institutions are now mere shadows of themselves.
We also paid off nearly all of our foreign debt which was crippling the country; we stabilized the exchange rate of the naira as well as interest rates, and reduced inflation. What needed to follow was for these macro-economic gains to be further translated into improved welfare for our people.
With the reforms in the telecommunications sector we increased the number of functioning telephone lines from 200,000 at the inception of our administration to over 70 million by the time we left. Our reforms also led to an increase in the market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange from N400 billion to over N8 trillion by 2007 and to nearly N13 trillion by 2008.
We also handed over well-articulated master Plans for the development of multi-modal transportation system, including a contract for the modernization of the railways. We also commenced the implementation of the Gas to Power Master Plan, with a target of 26,000 megawatts of electricity expected to be delivered by 2015.
This is the story of the service of an administration, which I am proud to have been a part of. These achievements were made possible because of the vision, commitment and dedication of leadership. Good leadership is what it takes to make good things happen. Did we resolve all of Nigeria’s challenges? Of course not! But no one would say that there was leadership vacuum or a lack of commitment, plan and execution.
We know the story today. Rather than continuing to pay down our debts, our borrowing has actually been increasing even though the price of oil has consistently been above $100 per barrel since the inception of the current administration. The percentage of our budget that is implemented has diminished significantly since capital projects are poorly cash-backed.
A number of major manufacturers have divested from Nigeria and relocated to neighbouring countries while those that remain operate at far below their installed capacity due mainly to poor infrastructure. The environment for doing business, and our ranking in world competitiveness index have worsened. Therefore, job opportunities for our teeming youth have become harder to come by. We recall with sadness the avoidable deaths of job seekers during the poorly organized so-called Immigration Service recruitment exam just last year. Up to this moment no one has been held accountable for those needless deaths.
On human development, our infant and maternal mortality, and poverty and illiteracy levels continue to be embarrassingly high. Thus, while countries such as Ghana, Gabon and Botswana are classified by the UNDP as being at the Medium Human Development Level, Nigeria is grouped with those at the Low Human Development Level.
This situation reinforces the urgent need for change. We cannot continue down this path of national decline.
Resentment, disillusionment and hopelessness are the emotions on which insecurity and disharmony thrive. Our country is more divided today than at any other time since the civil war. There is a disturbing rise in ethnic nationalism and religious bigotry. This is promoting social tension and mutual distrust amongst the people of Nigeria. All over the country, there are daily breaches of security resulting in loss of lives and properties. Armed robbery, kidnappings and human trafficking continue to ravage many parts of the country. A bunch of extremist insurgents are hoisting strange flags on large areas of our territory that they claim to have conquered. Unspeakable horrors are now being committed daily against our people by anti-social elements in the name of religion and other causes.
Government has a responsibility to do everything possible to halt the on-going dehumanization of Nigerians. Unfortunately what we have is a serious governance deficit. To put it bluntly, our country seems to be on auto pilot with no one in charge.
We need a strong, dynamic, decisive, competent and visionary leadership that can halt the current drift of the ship of state, fight corruption, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, provide social services and tackle insecurity in a decisive, robust multi-pronged way. This is the change we want and deserve and this is the change the APC is primed to offer. And that is why I am a proud member of this platform for change.
To fix Nigeria, an APC government will promote a new socio-political order which will compel the leadership to always balance power and authority with service and accountability.
I have been asked why I am always seeking to become the president of this country. My passion for governance is that of a man who wants to do more because there is so much more to be done in fixing Nigeria. This passion continues to grow as long as this government is not really doing the fixing. I have what it takes to bring people together and turn things around for the better. Therefore, I want to play a leading role in the trans-generational efforts to save this country and improve the lives of our people.
With the support of the millions of Nigerians desirous of change and the hard work by all of us, the APC shall form the next government of this great nation.
I have, therefore, decided that I will, along with other respected leaders of our party, seek nomination as a candidate of the APC to contest the Presidential election of 2015.
I want to lead a government that will invest in its people because people constitute the wealth of any nation. I want to lead a government that will create “A Nigeria for All”. A Nigeria that is not about North or South, Christian or Muslim, but about a better tomorrow where every citizen will feel secure, act with patriotism, having assurance of the fulfilment of his or her aspirations.
I want to lead a government that will rebuild the institutions of governance with zero tolerance for corruption and nepotism, where hard work and dedication are adequately rewarded.
I want to assemble the best brains in the land and provide the political will and commitment so that jointly, and with the cooperation of all of you, build a Nigeria of our dreams.
Nigeria must rise to retake its leadership place in Africa and earn the respect of other nations. This places on us the responsibility of stewardship. It is the consciousness of this national responsibility that has guided my political adventures; and it is this call to serve that I have come to answer once again.
Nigeria must and will be great. With your support and prayers, we will change this country for good. We will create a country that will truly be the pride of the black race. We will create a new Nigeria for all Nigerians.
Thank you and God bless Nigeria.
Speech by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the occasion of his Declaration of Intent to seek the Nomination of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to Contest the 2015 Presidential Election, at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
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