Let me start this conversation by welcoming and appreciating you all for honouring this invitation.
We have called you to discuss our nation state which is at a very critical condition at the moment and requires not just the correct surgeon to keep her alive but a critical surgery that must be performed quickly.
We have themed today’s discussion “Nation Building: Resetting the Agenda”. There are certain circumstances that make nation building top priority. It is often contemplated after a country has gone through a war, just gained independence or there is a total collapse of its economy.
We are certainly not at war in the conventional sense of it. Neither have we just gained independence. Rather we are almost 58 years as a nation but you will agree with me, that our dear nation, Nigeria is in very dire straits.
Our economy has been under immense pressure especially in the last thirty four months of governance by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Not even during the fratricidal civil war has this country been so divided along ethnic and religious fault lines. When a country is in such precarious situation, nation building becomes absolutely inevitable.
The Economist’s Glossary of Terms describes nation building as ‘Creating a country that works out of one that does not – because the old order has collapsed (as in the former Soviet Union), or been destroyed by war (Iraq), or never really functioned in the first place (Afghanistan)’.
The same Economist explaining further on the goal of nation-building said that it is to unify the people within the country so that it remains politically viable and stable over the long term. But it warned here that “Nation-building is a very difficult and risky undertaking, especially in countries with deep religious, ethnic and/or political divisions within the population.
Soon after independence in 1960, our forefathers set out to build a nation worthy to be proud of, but early internal contradictions engineered by tribe and religion truncated it, using the military. For over 30 years, the military in league with some politicians led this country until 1999 when they were pressurized to return to the barracks through combined democratic effort from both within and outside the country.
For the first 16 years of this milestone political transition, legitimate power rested in the domain of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), a party baked in the nation’s oven of democratic struggle. Its founding fathers set out very lofty dreams for the nation’s economic, social and political emancipation and development.
Within those 16 years, the party which I now have the privilege of leading was able to lay the founding blocks of our nascent democracy by setting up and nurturing vital democratic institutions that will ensure its survival. Ultimately realizing the critical importance of credible elections in the life of any democracy, the PDP government embarked on massive electoral reforms that ensured the conduct of free, fair and credible elections and saw a ruling party loose an election and successfully transited power to the opposition.
This was the first of such in the democratic life of this country and an example for the entire continent. Even though sad about our loss, we as a party are immensely proud of what we consider our most significant achievement of willingly transferring power to opposition when the time came, thus giving a lie to all predictions that Nigeria will break in 2015 . Let me alert the current ruling party, that no less is expected from them.
Only a party like ours truly founded on strong democratic principles and ideals ultimately drawing its inspiration from the people hence its motto- Power to the People, could have submitted to the superior will of the people. This was despite the dire consequences to our continued existence. Prior to the transition under our then leadership, Nigeria emerged as the largest economy on the continent recording notable strides in agriculture and the creative industries. We piloted Nigeria’s banking sector to show resilience, deepening its capitalization and offerings in line with global practice. We also led an encompassing privatization programme which in itself is a reference point.
But three years down the line and about 12 months to the next general elections, what is the state of our country? All gains have been clearly eroded through an acute lack of the understanding of the intricacies of governing a complex state like Nigeria. It has quickly become apparent that propaganda and unrealistic promises that helped the current ruling party to power could not and cannot deliver the much needed dividends of democracy. You need competence and capability to do that!
The three major planks that our opposition sold itself to Nigerians are; combating corruption; tackling insecurity especially the Boko haram terrorist sect, and revamping of the nation’s economy. Today, the scorecard of the ruling party on all scores, is embarrassingly abysmal.
On corruption, I need not go into details except draw your attention to the latest Transparency International Report that shows that the corruption index under the watch of the so called anti-corruption government has worsened.
Today there is often swift action occasioned by extensive media trials when it comes to investigating opposition leaders all in a desperate move to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. But Nigerians are witnesses to this government’s inability to extend same courtesies to its own members. It is a clear case of selective fight against corruption. Feeble attempts to slap accused members of the ruling party on the wrists are engineered through unending probe panels that lack legitimacy or are incompetent to effectively investigate such allegations. In the unlikely event that the panel concludes its work, the reports are never made public.
Our party does not and will not condone corruption in any manner. We wholesomely condemn it in its entirety. As a matter of fact, it is on record that it is only PDP that has willingly given up for prosecution, its members accused of corruption. Furthermore, the EFCC and ICPC are all organs of anti-corruption established by our government. We insist and demand that the fight against corruption cannot and must not be selective. After all, he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands.
On security, Boko Haram has not only remained alive despite several political claims of decimating it but is even now spreading under a new name and nomenclature called herdsmen, that have been tormenting, maiming and killing hundreds of Nigerian children, women and men across the country with the government of the day offering feeble responses. Everyday our media is awash with the staggering number of wanton killings raising questions about the value of human life in Nigeria. It is an endless stream of bloodletting directly or indirectly fueled by incompetent leadership.
Only recently the Federal Government tried to arm twist state governors to take from the common purse, the sum of $1billion dollars about N365b for the tackling of Boko Haram they claimed they defeated two years ago. The climax of the APC government politicking with security was the recent abduction of over 100 School girls from their college premises in Dapchi Girls Science and Technical College in Yobe Statewith government, military and police authorities contradicting each other as to who did and didn’t do what. President Buhari’s response to the distraught parents of the abducted girls and their colleagues when he ostensibly went on a very belated compassionate visit, was to claim that his government’s response was swifter than that of the previous one. How thoroughly embarrassing for this government?
On the state of our economy the story is equally unpalatable. This government has through incoherent and inconsistent policies and actions, dragged us into an unnecessary recession and it is patting itself on the back for getting us out of where we ought not to have been in the first place. The hardship currently faced by Nigerians is unprecedented. Across the length and breadth of this nation, citizens are faced with abject poverty with no clear path of alleviation.
Our currency has been recklessly devalued from N199 in 2015 to nearly N500 a dollar before it came down to about N365 only due to an increase in oil prices and not any significant thing done by this government. Fuel prices rose from N97 to N145 yet the nation experiences unabated scarcity with its attendant long queues and suffering by the Nigerian citizens.
From friends and members of this government, we learnt that while in 16 years PDP government was able to borrow N6trillion and had some projects commissioned for it, in just less than three years, APC regime has borrowed N11trillion and has not commissioned a single project.
Rather than creating jobs as promised, the ruling government has accounted for over four million job loses according to the National Bureau of Statistics. A weak attempt through a faulty and corruption prone social intervention programme which in itself is anchored on an original concept of our party while in government, subsists by this current government.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have not invited you here to regal you with the woes and disaster advented by the ruling party. Things cannot and must not go on like this. We are here to reset the nation building agenda for our dear country.
The renowned American author Richard Norton noted correctly that “Every sunset is an opportunity to reset.” The current situation we find ourselves in has provided us with an ample opportunity to reset the button. If things are not positive and the mindset appears negative, then it’s time to reset. Someone needs to push the reset button and we as the leading opposition party under a new leadership, has chosen to just do that.
Many will expectedly doubt our moral competence and compass to reset this agenda. Since it is said that charity begins at home, I am the very first to admit that our party the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria made many mistakes. Consequently, we were roundly sanctioned by Nigerians occasioning our loss at the polls in 2015. Let me seize this opportunity to apologize to Nigerians unequivocally for the several shortcomings of our party in the near and far past. It was all part of an evolution process without which there can be no maturity. In the words of May Sarton occasions such as this “gives one a chance to look backward and forward; to reset oneself”
Therefore to begin with, under our watch, there will be no imposition of candidates and no impunity. My colleagues and I at the National Working Committee have vowed to uphold the rule of law as enshrined in our party constitution. Power has been devolved to the zonal, state and ward levels. PDP national headquarters at Wadata House will only co-ordinate affairs. There are no votes to be solicited or won at WadataHouse. We are committed to the respect the Rule of Law and assure you that not only will your votes count in our primaries across the land, Iassure you that your voice will be heard.
We are evolving from who we were to who we ought to be. A principled party of avowed democrats who are committed to building a virile strong nation whether we are in government or opposition. As a party, we havebeen through various challenges, ups and downs, good and bad, failure and success, promotion and demotion and yet we are still standing. We are a party that despite our differences possess a strong unity of purpose. We are a party that has lost and won; celebrated and mourned. We spot talent and nurture them and our track record speaks eloquently for us. Our appeal is universal regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, creed or religion. We are a truly democratic party that is not ruled by ‘cabals’ or even a ‘lion’!
Yes, we certainly have our work cut out for us in representing ourselves and our new thinking to Nigerians. But we are most ready to regain your trust, Nigerians. We have heard your cries in Dapchi, Yobe, in Kafanchan, Kaduna, in Lagos, in Ilorin, in Enugu, in Benin, Yola, in Benue, in Taraba, in Ebonyi, on the Plateau and we are morally bound to respond accordingly.
It based on the overwhelming cries that we have actively and purposely activated an aggressive and urgent process of resetting the agenda for nation building in a multi-pronged initiative tagged ‘Rescue Nigeria’ which I present to you today. It’s a collective effort. On our part, PDP will serve as the rallying point for a new socio-political order.
We will lead the charge by using our elected representatives and organs to boldly address critical national issues like restructuring, devolution of power, ‘not to young to run’ gender equality, economic advancement, corruption, insecurity, unity, and good governance to mention but a few.
Over the next few months leading to our party primaries, we will drive the narratives and take actions that will set the framework for a strongvision into which all those seeking elective offices under our party colours must key into. We are rebuilding trust and belief in our party, promoting its supremacy and strengthening it as a vital organ for good governance. We have put in place a robust social listening mechanism to adequately feel the pulse of Nigerians.
But we cannot do it alone. Rather Rescue Nigeria is a collective effort. On your part as responsible and responsive citizens you must do the following inter alia 1. Register to vote 2. Hold all your elected leaders accountable 3. Seek for only candidates that will deliver 4. Vote & vote right 5. Support the Rescue Nigeria initiative in its entirety.
I urge you distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the good people of Nigeria, beloved leaders and members of our great party to join in this vital rescue operation. We extend our hand of fellowship to other political parties, groups and organizations that share in our passion and desire to Rescue Nigeria from inept leadership. Our party being a home for all is open to the idea of working with other stakeholders and those of like minds.
Nigeria needs us now more than ever. We essentially do not have anymore time to waste. The RESCUE NIGERIA train is on the move and Iurge you to get on board. We will embark on a national sensitization programme shortly, so expect us to visit your locality very soon. Should you wish to Volunteer to Rescue Nigeria, please visit …..to register. Or Visit the Rescue Nigeria Registration Desk in the foyer.
As I conclude, I leave you with these golden words that always tugs at my heart. They are found in the second stanza of our national anthem. It goes thus;
O God of creation, direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders’ right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace
And justice shall reign
I do thank you all for listening.