Nigeria cannot and must not be allowed to go down this path. We are already witnessing the gradual destruction of the ability of the State to hold society together, and an increasing tendency for Nigerians to resort to self-help remedies. Imagine, therefore, if a debilitating crisis were to occur as a result of the willful refusal to allow our citizens to freely express themselves in the choice of their leaders. Imagine the devastating consequences of a refugee crisis in the West African region arising from the internal displacement of a huge number of people out of a population of over 140 million. Imagine the consequences of a further conflagration in the Niger Delta area in the event of controversial elections, or of no elections at all. Consider the resultant significant increase in the disruptions to oil flows and oil exports, and the continued reduction of Nigeria’s ability to produce its OPEC allotted quota of oil. This, of course, will further lead to a drastic downturn in Nigeria’s economy as a whole, the return of economic stagnation, and a reversal of the much touted economic reform programme.
An unstable Nigeria will mean the loss of Nigeria’s ability to continue to act as a mediating influence in the West African region and the Gulf of Guinea, in particular, and the rest of Africa, in general. It will also limit the ability of Nigeria to continue to contribute to, and participate in, significant peace-keeping efforts on the African continent – which have helped bring peace to Liberia and Sierra Leone, for example.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about the importance of the coming elections. It is the first election in our 47-year history that contemplates the handing over of the baton of office from one civilian president to another civilian president. This election is about change – change not only in our national leadership, but also change in how the rest of the world will view Nigeria from here on. Change not only in our party politics and politicking, but also change in our very country itself. As president, I will lead this change process.
I will offer Nigeria a new kind of leadership. A leadership that is neither hampered nor constrained by the regressive politics of the past, nor the unproductive ideologies of the present. I am proven, committed, and experienced, and I know how to reinvent government to help solve the real problems facing our people today.
I have been humbled by the ravages of debilitating poverty and I know what it means to go hungry. I have diligently served my country in the public sector for over 20 years before successfully venturing into private business and professional politics. I have over 20 years of cognate experience as a tested and committed democrat and politician, the last 8 years of which I have served as Vice-President of our country sometimes, even, under the most harrowing and trying of circumstances.
I will provide more opportunity for the citizens of Nigeria, and create a greater sense of community for our country. I will be a leader that understands that power flows from the people and not the other way round; that leadership is a relationship, a partnership, a dialogue, not a monologue.
Nigeria deserves a president who understands the vagaries, difficulties and hardships of the lives of the people of our country; a president who will work for the people of this country, and who will be relentless in his pursuit of creating opportunity for the majority of the people of this country. A leader who understands what democracy entails and will heal the wounds left by the militarism, intolerance and arrogance that have been the lot of our politics in the recent past. I intend to be that kind of president.
I shall, in the very shortest possible time, address the power supply and other infrastructure deficiencies our country has been experiencing over the last several years that has seen our production of power dwindle to levels lower than when this administration took over the reins of power in 1999 and has led to the closure of thousands of businesses and the relocation from Nigeria of numerous enterprises, the latest been the French giant, Michelin.
I am the leader that will soothe the Niger Delta. I will lead a collaborative effort involving the Federal, State and Local governments and other stakeholders to implement a region wide solution that is different from past approaches; I will appoint a cabinet level Minister for the Niger Delta to directly oversee and implement all Federal Government initiatives in the region including the development of a region wide master-plan, the floating of a Niger Delta Bond issue to increase the amount of funding available, the development of critical infrastructure such as township roads, water supply and additional housing in key urban centres in the region; the development of Training and Vocational Centres, the implementation of an Arms Amnesty Programme to encourage the voluntary handover of weapons and the creation of a Niger Delta Coast Guard under the Naval High Command specially trained to patrol the creeks, secure the pipelines and tackle illegal bunkering.
As the main force behind the conceptualisation, establishment and initial funding of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), my government will be a strong advocate of the adherence to law and order. It is my belief that if we strengthen the adherence to law and order in our country, we will not only live better and more productive lives, we will also attract people and resources from other countries to invest in our economy. It is clear that investments will only flow into areas where there is peace and law and order. Accordingly, we shall attack corruption head-on by adequately funding the EFCC, the ICPC and all other anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies and will guarantee their independence from political pressure and undue influence, including pressure from the presidency.
We will also address the root causes of corruption and abuse of office in our society, commit the much needed resources to revitalising the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies, strengthen our judicial arm of government and guarantee judicial autonomy, independence and effectiveness. Finally, we will ensure the protection of all real, personal and intellectual property, whether owned by a citizen or by a foreigner. It is our belief that people will only invest in a country where they are confident that their property and property rights will be protected.
In closing, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I re-iterate that the only hope that Nigeria has for long-term stability and development depends on our ability to remain transparently democratic and be adjudged to be so by our citizens and our friends across the world. Our hope to remain democratic and stable, and to remain on the path of sustainable development, depends on how we conduct the April elections. And the only hope for the April elections to be free and fair lies in the vigilance of Nigerians and the help that the international community can render in monitoring them closely. It is therefore important for the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, not only to pay attention to these elections but to also actively support the electoral processes leading to the elections, and help bring about free, fair, and credible elections in April.
Finally, it is critically important that, the United Kingdom, in conjunction with the rest of the international community, must prevail upon our president to respect the dignity and inviolability of the Nigerian constitution and to allow the rule of law to prevail. We must all respect and help assure the enforcement of the right of all Nigerians to choose the leaders they wish to govern them. The persistent persecution and harass
ment of vast numbers of Nigerians currently going on, simply because they do not subscribe to someone’s desire to succeed himself, either in fact through a third term in office, or through the back door by foisting on Nigerians of weak and unpopular candidates, must be halted forthwith. The United Kingdom and the international community must help ensure that a new, freely elected, government is sworn-in on the 29 May.
I thank you for your attention.
Oyeyemi Olodo, Director/Publisher, The Integrity Magazine. www.theintegritymagazine.org.uk
*Courtesy of The Integrity Magazine (UK) and Chatham House