Speech by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President and Presidential Aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the Presidential Convention of the APC, at the Teslim BalogunStadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Wednesday 10 December, 2014.
Let me begin by saying thank you to all of you who have travelled from far and near, braving bad roads, traffic jams and delayed airline flights to be here tonight night.
Yes, by the end of this convention we would have elected a Presidential candidate for our party for the 2015 elections. But that’s not the main reason why we are here. We are here because we all see and feel what I have seen and felt travelling the length and breadth of this country for several weeks now: Nigerians want change. And they want change because they are fed up with the PDP led government.
They are tired of the regime of insecurity that sees huge numbers of our people slaughtered everyday by terrorists who have also seized Nigerian territories, with our government seemingly unable to do anything about it. They are tired of the crushing level of unemployment that is destroying this generation of Nigerian youth.
Nigerians want change because they are fed up with paying for electricity and getting darkness which is also destroying our industries and contributing to unemployment and crime.
Nigerians are tired of the dangerous PDP mathematics that is destroying our democracy, the math where 16 is greater than 19 and 7 is greater than 19. I’m of course referring to the Nigerian Governors Forum and recent events in Ekiti State respectively.
Nigerians are tired of the abuse of power, lawlessness and impunity of the PDP government; the type of impunity that sees a court sacked and judges beaten up by thugs under the direction of a party to a litigation, a governor-elect. They are tired and disgusted by the abuse of power exemplified by the siege on our parliament, teargassing of the Speaker, Honourable members and staff of the parliament on the orders of the same Executive that asked him, as Speaker, to reconvene parliament to deliberate on a matter of critical national importance.
Nigerians are tired of the continued embarrassment and humiliation of our national army and police force that had performed gallantly in the past at home and abroad but are now reduced to a butt of jokes in beer parlours and motor parks across Nigeria and indeed around the world. Who has not heard the uncomplimentary comparison with hunters and local vigilantes?
Nigerians are tired of plying the death traps called roads from Enugu to Port Harcourt, Benin toOre Road, Lagos to Ibadan and Lokoja to Abuja, to mention just a few.
And they are tired of the collapse in our public school system and the mass failures being registered year in year out by WAEC, NECO, and JAMB.
These are some of the reasons why Nigerians want change. And they are the main reasons for our being here these two days. Because we can give Nigerians the change they deserve, the change that will save this country!
Thus you are also here because you also have hope. You came here because you believe in what this country can be. You came because you believe in CHANGE, change to a Nigeria for all. You believe that our hopes and dreams can become reality. You believe in a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity. You believe in a government that serves its people with heart and might. You believe that our great country can set a standard for all of Africa to see.
I pray that you will give me the opportunity to lead our party, the All Progressives Congress, in the movement to bring about this CHANGE, change for a better Nigeria, a Nigeria for all. Thus, I stand before you to offer myself for consideration as the candidate of our great party in the presidential election of February 2015.
Today, you will disprove those who say that there is no difference between the PDP and the APC, because today we will demonstrate that every vote counts, and that we are serious about renewing our democracy by democratic means.
Distinguished delegates, fellow Nigerians, the APC is offering something we have not had for a long time – real choice. For the first time in living memory, the Nigerian people will have the opportunity to democratically replace a Party that has lost its way with a Party that knows what to do.
Now, Nigeria needs a leader who understands what it takes to deal with a challenging economic environment, who understands what it takes to create jobs; who understands what it takes to ensure that education should not only be accessible but must deliver the skills that matter; someone who understands what it takes to turn this country around and has the will to defuse tensions and to end conflicts among our peoples.
Today, you should signal your desire for change by making the wise decision to elect a flag bearer that is a proven manager of men and materials, a person who knows that good governance transcends the limits of red tape bureaucracy, and who is a tested bridge-builder. The nominee you are about to elect must be a person trusted across our ethnic and religious divides, a person that is gifted at playing the balancing act when it comes to the sensitivities and sensibilities of our multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation.
Without sounding self-conceited, many of you here gathered, and millions of our compatriots outside this Convention arena, know that for years, I, along with other compatriots, some of who are here present, fought to oust the military and establish democratic structures. Many times, my efforts have earned me the wrath and vengeance of wicked and unreasonable men. Back in 1995, during General Sani Abacha’s reign of terror, my home in Kaduna was attacked in the middle of the night. The assailants overpowered the security guards on duty, gained access to the house, and entered through the bedroom of my first son, Adamu, who was then 20 years old. They beat Adamu up, tied his hands behind his back, and made their way towards the master bedroom. I emerged with my wife, Titi, behind me, and told them: “It’s me you want. Here I am. Leave my son alone.”
One of the men fired a shot that narrowly missed my head. Fortunately, one of my guards had jumped over the fence and alerted the police, who arrived shortly after. Unfortunately, six of the policemen lost their lives in the ensuing gun battle. After the attackers left, Adamu and I picked up the bodies, loaded them in a van and drove to a nearby hospital in the middle of the night. Adamu was so traumatized that he could hardly eat anything for some weeks.
Despite this horror experience – and several other very painful occurrences, which included the murder of my mentor, Shehu Yar’Adua, and the loss of some of my property and major businesses – I continued to speak out against tyranny and dictatorship. I continued to call for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria. I continued to reach out to well-meaning compatriots and sympathetic members of the international community, working with them to liberate Nigeria from the suffocating grip of Abacha’s reign of terror.
I have been a successful entrepreneur, creating jobs and empowering men and women, to generate wealth and improve their material conditions. I was also in the public service of our great country for 20 years, in addition to my service as the Vice President of this country. As Vice President I largely assembled the economic team, pursued the privatization programme of the government and gave direction to the National Economic Council. I vigorously pursued reforms within the limits of the responsibilities assigned to me as Vice President. I played an important role in the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and, in particular, sourced funds within government to enable it to commence operations. Indeed it was my recommendation, after a trip to Brazil, which led to the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, another initiative to reduce corruption in our public life.
These privileged public service positions have adequately equipped me for an exceptional leadership with a thorough knowledge of how to effectively and efficiently run a democratic government.
Also the years I spent in the public service in different locations in the country along with managing my businesses that spread across the nation over the years have provided me with unrivalled understanding of the diversity of our people and have greatly helped me to build a network of enduring friendships and associates across our ethnic and religious divides.
Without doubt, these unique experiences and exposure make me stand out as an aspirant with a sound mix of public and private sector experience and with a wide network of tested and trusted relationships cultivated over a long period of time with different groups in the country.
I therefore implore you, as you go to cast your ballot, to consider this important leadership and team-building attribute. And also ask yourself who among the contestants, if elected President, would likely be the most accessible to you, to listen to your concerns and those of Nigerians. That person would be me.
Distinguished delegates, whatever I have to do, I have always prepared myself well. I have,therefore, prepared a comprehensive Policy Document that identifies our nation’s problems and proffers workable solutions to them. This important document was produced, based on the social democratic ideological posture of our great Party, the APC. The document, a product of wide consultations, has been examined by a panel of more than 50 distinguished experts in an open Summit. It has also been openly discussed and published for public evaluation and reactions. If you give me this mandate it will form the basis of a new deal with the people of Nigeria.
The priority areas identified in that policy document are Employment Generation and Wealth Creation; Infrastructure and Power; Education and Skills Acquisition; Security; Citizenship and Governance; Agriculture and Food Security; Niger Delta and Desert- and Insurgency-Ravaged States.
But I cannot do any of any of these things alone. I need your support. That is our purpose here today. I am aspiring for the presidential ticket of the APC, not just to hold an office, and definitely not to become rich or famous, but to join you to change a nation, our nation.
Distinguished delegates, fellow Nigerians, we have not built the APC simply to replace the PDP. We have built the APC to replace a political system that has been hijacked by a small cabal of anti-democratic forces. We have built the APC to give every Nigerian a choice.
Let me remind us all that the change that this nation so earnestly desires can only be achieved with unwavering unity and oneness in the rank and file of our Party. We must stand united, unshaken and unmoved. We must clearly show the strength represented in one of our party’ssymbols, the broom; and that is to say that when many broom sticks are tied, knotted together, the bunch sweeps faster, better and cleaner. And it cannot be broken.
We must, therefore, stand together no matter the odds, and no matter the outcome of this primary election. To do otherwise is to fail as a party of change and of national rebirth and become a fodder in the insatiable mouth of the PDP cabal that is sucking this nation dry. To fail to unite, is to grind to a halt this great mass movement which is important to provide our people with a formidable alternative to the failing PDP. This must not happen. It must be avoided at all costs.
Let us send a very powerful message to the Nigerian people that we are a party that is serious about defeating the PDP and that is ready to govern. And the best way to do that is by nominating the best candidate tonight and by how we conduct ourselves during and after this Convention.
I believe that you will give me your mandate by nominating me as the APC presidential flag bearer to carry out, with you, the onerous but important task of building A Nigeria for All.
God bless APC!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!