Speech by Abubakar Atiku, GCON, Vice-President, Federal Republic Of Nigeria, on the occasion of his declaration for the presidency of Nigeria in the 2007 election, at the old parade ground, area 10, Garki, Abuja.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I would like to sincerely thank you all for honouring our invitation to this ceremony, which marks the first step into the future of our dear country. I would like to thank my family for their love, understanding and encouragement. My gratitude also goes to my campaign team, my teeming supporters and well-wishers across Nigeria and beyond for their support and prayers.
I am overwhelmed by such an unprecedented outpouring of love and goodwill as we are witnessing here today. This is indeed one of the happiest days of my life. Your support has further emboldened me to rededicate the rest of my life to the service of our people and to the protection of our democracy. I stand before you today as one made sensitive by a tough childhood. I have been tested by adversity, especially in the last few years. But the challenges of life have only made me stronger and more determined to commit myself to the principled struggle to deepen our democracy and improve the living conditions of our people. I have been poor and I know what it feels like to be poor.
Today, we are embarking on a long and challenging journey to create a united, stable, safe, free and prosperous country. With your support and hard work, I am confident that we shall get there.
A little over eight years ago, we had reason to thank God for having rescued our beloved nation from the jaws of tyranny and autocratic rule and for putting our country on the path of democracy where the people would be king. This process culminated in the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo on 29th of May 1999 and his re-election to that exalted office in 2003. As you are all aware, this term of office shall terminate on the 29th of May 2007 when a newly elected President shall be sworn in. Our experience has not been without its frustrations and disappointments as anti-democratic forces continue to pose a serious threat to the very survival of our young democracy. Vigilance, eternal vigilance, is needed to grow and nurture this hard-earned democracy.
We are fortunate to operate a democratic system of government which is based upon the simple, yet noble, idea that the validity and legitimacy of a government derive from the consent of the people. But, democracy itself requires that this consent be periodically renewed. Today, we begin the journey to seek that consent, as prescribed under our Constitution. And that journey begins right here in Abuja at this very moment.
It is with the greatest pleasure and utmost humility, therefore, that I, Atiku Abubakar, stand before you today to declare my intention to offer myself as a candidate in the 2007 Presidential Election.
For me, this election is a contest for the future of our beloved country!
It is a contest for and about uplifting the lives of the forgotten millions of our fellow citizens who work very hard but get very little! It is a contest for and about the millions of our people who have no work at all! It is a contest for and about the millions of hard-working middle class families in Nigeria whose standard of living is progressively being eroded! It is a contest for and about the transformation of the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria ! It is a contest for and about the enthronement of a more just and equitable society!
It is about giving the people of Nigeria a government that they deserve - a government that puts their interests first!
IT IS A CAMPAIGN FOR A NEW NIGERIA !
Fellow citizens, make no mistake about the importance of the coming election. It would be the first transition from one civilian President to another. This election is about change – change not only in our national leadership, but also change in how the rest of the world will see Nigeria from now on. Change not only in our party politics and politicking, but also change in our country itself. As that election approaches, Nigerians have a critical choice to make. They can choose to continue with our frighteningly depressing present or they can choose change. It is clear to me that our people want change, change for reforms that work for the people; change for reforms that create jobs; change that provides adequate electricity, good roads, security of life and property; change for a genuine and sincere fight against corruption; and above all, change for the rule of law, real democracy and greater freedoms for individual Nigerians and the states of the federation. I am the candidate for change. Please join me and let us work together to bring about the change that we desperately need.
Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new era, it is my belief that we require a new kind of leadership, a leadership that is committed to this process of change, a leadership that is neither all-knowing nor constrained by the regressive politics of the past. I represent a proven, committed, and experienced leadership that can reinvent government to help solve the real problems facing our people today.
Ours will be a leadership that will provide more opportunities for the citizens of Nigeria , and create a greater sense of community for this country.
Ours will be a leadership that tackles, headlong, the problems of today while laying a better foundation for our future.
We shall offer you a leadership that sets a vision and then inspires its citizens to work towards the attainment of that vision. But we shall not micro-manage the affairs of this vast and complex country. We shall set high moral standards, lead by example and learn from our mistakes. Ours will be an inclusive leadership that brings people together to work for our common goal. It will be a leadership that understands that its power flows from the people and not the other way round. It will be one that understands that leadership is a relationship, a dialogue, and not a monologue.
With your blessings, consent and support we shall transform this country and realize our dreams and the full potentials of this nation.
Nigeria deserves a president who understands the sufferings of people; a president who will work relentlessly to create opportunities for our people to fulfill themselves. I intend to be that kind of president!!
The advent of democracy in 1999 brought with it great expectations of a dramatic improvement in the living standards of our people. But, as you know, the vast majority of our people still wallow in abject poverty and misery while unemployment and underemployment remain unacceptably high. For example, despite the huge increase in our foreign exchange earnings and external reserves and our vast human and natural resources, approximately 75 million Nigerians continue to live in absolute poverty; one in five children dies before reaching the age of five; over 12 million children are not in school; our schools and hospitals lack necessary facilities; and millions of our people die of AIDS, malaria and other preventable diseases.
We still have so much to do to bring succor to our people. In spite of our rich natural endowments, Nigeria remains a net importer of food products; our country is one of the least industrialized countries in the world; and our country’s infrastructure is grossly inadequate and embarrassingly dilapidated.
This is a chilling reality and it shows very clearly the huge challenges that lie ahead of us. Yet, challenges exist to be surmounted. And we shall surmount them.
The current administration has embarked upon reforms geared towards revamping the fundamentals of our economy. These reforms have led to relative macro-economic stability. However, this re-engineering process has had very little impact on the basic living conditions of the average Nigerian. Rather, it has made a few people extremely rich. This is unacceptable. This is immoral. This is dangerous. We shall reform the reforms to ensure that they benefit the vast majority of our people. Nigeria ’s wealth must be for all Nigerians.
Our economic policy will be driven by a “people first” philosophy, which seeks to place the interests of Nigerians first before some abstract economic performance indicators that have little or no bearing on bread and butter issues.
This new philosophy does not mean a return to the past of recklessness, planlessness and the squandering of our riches, thereby mortgaging the future of our children. It also does not mean the adoption of populist programmes aimed at winning votes at the expense of pragmatic and well thought out ones.
The policies and programmes of government must be rooted in the needs and aspirations of the ordinary people, particularly the most vulnerable segments of our population. This is our Covenant with the Nigerian people.
Our government will not try to solve all problems. The priority of our government will be our people. The people of Nigeria must be empowered to think, act and solve their own problems. We shall concentrate on policy formulation and implementation with the firm belief that once policy issues have been largely resolved, other problems will become more manageable and less debilitating to national progress.
We are going to talk honestly with the Nigerian people, in plain and simple language, about the nature of the challenges ahead and our efforts to meet these challenges head-on. We are going to speak frankly with the people because we are accountable to them. We are going to partner with the people to bring development to where it matters: in their homes and on their food plates. We have identified five emergencies where immediate interventions are required. Let me briefly address them.
Employment Generation and Wealth Creation
The single most important issue for most Nigerians today is job creation. In spite of the economic growth recorded in recent years, the economy is simply not growing quickly enough to absorb the numbers joining the labour market each year. Furthermore, economic growth recorded in the last five years is yet to lead to the creation of sustainable jobs, and this is largely responsible for the lack of enthusiastic public support for much needed economic reforms. The problem is made more acute by the fact that a significant number of seemingly employed individuals are under-employed and, therefore, not operating to their maximum potential.
We shall, directly or through public private partnership and in partnership with the other tiers of government, provide an enabling environment for the development of entrepreneurs through high impact job creation initiatives, who will in turn employ others. We shall also embark on labour-intensive infrastructure development and accelerate the growth/opening up other service sectors that are labour intensive. I believe that the resuscitation of industrial activity as a fall out of the improved infrastructure will also lead to the creation of millions of jobs. Our economic policy will be to make the private sector the engine of growth while government acts as the catalyst, enabler and regulator. We shall continue with the privatization programme because I believe that it is an effective tool for rapid socio-economic development. It helps to free up resources that would otherwise be channeled into inefficient government-owned enterprises. I strongly believe that government should not occupy the centre-stage of business. It must, therefore, divest itself of its interests in those sectors of the economy that are better handled by the private sector in a fair and transparent manner.
Security, War Against Corruption, Democracy and Good Governance
We shall take urgent steps to secure the lives and property of our people by adequately equipping the law enforcement agencies, improving their conditions of service and tackling the social causes of crime, such as unemployment. Our policy will be to improve the ability of the law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect and combat crime and to prosecute criminals. Our administration will attack corruption by sufficiently funding the anti-corruption agencies and guaranteeing their independence from political pressure. Also, we shall address the causes of corruption in our society, such as low wages, lack of credit and abuses of office.
We intend to strengthen the relationship between communities and law enforcement agencies, strengthen the judicial arm of government and ensure the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. In so doing, our government will ensure that every public officer obeys all judicial orders.
It is my belief that people will only invest in a country where they are confident that their property and property rights will be protected. We shall, therefore, ensure the protection of all real, personal and intellectual property, whether owned by a citizen or by a foreigner.
Our watch-word will be justice for all. In this regard, every person in Nigeria , no matter how poor, must have guaranteed access to dispute resolution methods and redress when he or she believes his or her rights have been infringed upon. Justice for all will also extend to the rights of a citizen to seek redress against the government. We shall promote peace and harmony amongst the various ethnic and religious groups and cultures that make up Nigeria . We can only develop when there is peace and stability.
We shall also put in place a genuine, accountable, transparent, equitable, inclusive, and responsive governance system and process. It will be driven by excellence in service delivery and performance and anchored on justice, due process and the rule of law.
Energy and Infrastructural Development
Our goal is to make electricity available to the generality of Nigerians. Currently, our available capacity of electricity on a daily basis is only between 3000 and 4000MW. This is grossly inadequate for a country the size of Nigeria with a population of about 150 million. We believe that the lack of regular, adequate and qualitative electricity supply is one of the most critical factors holding back growth and development in our economy today. We saw what happened when we deregulated the airline and the telecommunications sectors of our economy. It is our firm belief that once we apply the same concepts to the energy sector, the impact on the economy will be enormous.
We shall embark on institutional and organizational restructuring of the energy sector to encourage private sector participation and investment. Also, we shall ensure that the highest level of co-ordination will be put in place to ensure that the policy is not only adhered to but is also expeditiously and diligently implemented.
We shall put in place a 25-year strategic energy plan for the country which will ensure a reliable power supply at an affordable price.
Education and Social Services
We intend to build a sustainable, locally relevant and internationally competitive education system that will be accessible, egalitarian, equitable, qualitative as well as imparting functional and life-long skills. It should foster the worth and development of the individual for his or her sake and for the general development of the society. It should be geared towards self-realization, better human relationship, individual and national efficiency and effective citizenship.
We shall encourage private participation in education development by way of incentives and concessions to willing private sector participants. We shall ensure that more technical colleges, trade schools and vocational training centres are established all over the country. Like in other emerging economies, such technical colleges must develop a close working relationship with industry to impart practical skills to their products.
We shall encourage private participation in the establishment of Information Communication Technology Education Centres in order to transform the economy into a knowledge-based one.
The crisis in the Niger Delta has become an open sore in our collective conscience and a national embarrassment. We shall initiate a strong, bottom-up policy dialogue with stakeholders and local communities with a view to drawing up and implementing a comprehensive, participatory programme for the development of the Niger Delta. This will address age-long neglect of the region through immediate and massive joint federal and state intervention to deliver roads, electricity, water transportation, higher and vocational education and ICT-based employment.
We shall also initiate an aggressive environmental clean-up of all oil polluted areas in partnership with oil companies, development partners and the three tiers of government in line with international standards. Efforts will be made to evolve a community-based security plan for the region; to strengthen accountability in matters concerning the region, and to put the peoples of the region to be at the centre of all efforts aimed at addressing their development problems.
This is our vision for a new Nigeria ; a new National Partnership between government and the people for the transformation of our dear country. We are convinced that Nigeria will experience sustainable economic growth and development. This partnership is a call on all of us to play our part.
I believe with all my heart that together, we can make this country greater than it has ever been. We can usher in a new era of progress, prosperity and renewal. We can – we must. I need your support. I need your prayers. I ask for your trust. I invite you to join me on this journey, this quest, to redefine the very essence of what it means to be a Nigerian. Let us build a better Nigeria for all Nigerians.
Thank you. May God bless us all.