Dear Compatriots,

As you are all aware, the 2011 general election is gradually approaching the corner. Already, we have begun to witness some crop of politicians; both retired military and civilian personnel are getting ready to compete for the number one seat of this great Nigeria. It is also our collective knowledge of the various trials and tribulations this country has undergone in the last 50 years of our nationhood. It is however appalling to all of us that at 50; we are yet to discover ourselves and our mission.

We are supposed to be the giant of Africa in every aspect of human endeavour, be it education, power and energy, agriculture, health, security, transport, employment generation, etc. In spite of the different measures adopted by various leaders in actualizing all of the above areas, the story has been the same as nothing has been achieved. I have been to hamlets, villages and towns in both northern and southern parts of the country; the story of suffering has been the same.

Today, Nigeria has no national carrier of her own airline. What happened to Nigerian Airways? The oil God dashed us for our benefit has been cornered by few individuals and their cronies. It is just recently we are told that our foreign reserves stand at a peanut of $5.5 billion and that only three states would be in position to survive the deficit since the federal allocation to the three tiers of government in Nigeria would no longer be forthcoming. All these are as a result of deep seated corruption, nepotism, animosity and greediness that have been pervading the system.

Dear Compatriots, corruption is so high in my country that it appears that the agencies charged to fight the menace are getting defeated. The poverty rate is getting high on daily basis. What about the religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism that have some times disrupted our peace and still remains a cankerworm to our nation building? Most of our industries that offer employment opportunity to our teaming youths are now ghost of their former selves because it seems the government has no plan for industrial development. Thus, our agile and employable youths have now been thrown into the life of hopelessness. This has made them vulnerable to social convulsion in the society.

Many of these frustrated youths have no choice but to serve as political thugs just to keep body and soul together. Some of these youths are further lured into armed robbery and other social miscreants. As a result of the government flip-flop policies, the people that are still very lucky to be working in the few remaining private industries are not finding it easy as they have become slaves in their motherland.

My dear Compatriots, for how long shall we continue with all these as a result of bad but wicked leadership and its maladministration? Some people might think that they are not affected because they gain from the spoil of office, but what about the majority of the people that live in squalor and from hand to mouth? What about those who cannot afford two square meals? Are they not also fit to survive?

By May 2011, the national ruling party, PDP will be twelve years in governance. What do we have to show case or justify this long stay? Apart from the religious and ethnic manipulations that have caused the nation more harm than good, what has the ruling party achieved for the common man, I mean the down trodden and the have-nots? Is it the GSM, the tariff of which is at cutthroat and can only be afforded by bourgeois class and its fellow travelers?

Look at our federal roads, highly dilapidated and causing accidents and deaths. What about the educational system that is in state of hopelessness? Look at the performances of our children in schools and their final exams. If the teachers and students cannot afford two square meals, how can they teach and learn? Yet, billions of the country's resources have gone to private pockets who are mostly government functionaries. Why are some people desperate to be in government today? It is because they are not going there to serve but they feel that to be in government is the only sure way to siphon public funds. This is why we have reported cases of corruption in the government circle.

The performances of PHCN are nothing to write about. Every home, office and business centre is powered by Chinese generators. Still, the noises and heavy smokes these generators exhume have been endangering lives. At present, both the government and the captains of industries do short cut to survive. They have both engaged in operation No Mercy. Unfortunately, the masses that are trampled upon pretend that all is well as a mark of survival strategy. What do we do and what is the alternative to all these ills that are seriously affecting our advancement, bearing in mind that countries like China, India and Korea have changed for good? Nigeria can also make such change. It is easy if we have determination and are ready to sacrifice.

My dear Compatriots, change cannot effect itself until we effect the change. The time has come to make the change unless we want to continue pretending and suffering. We have honourable men and women that can serve as alternative remedy for the country. If we really want to move out of the quagmire and woes the present national leadership has visited Nigerians in the last eleven years of our democracy, we should rely on the man of hard work and integrity whose seven years of purposeful leadership in the political volatile state of Kano has brought succour, peace and tranquility to the good people of the state.

I am referring to Atun nuse of Ede land in Oshogbo, the “Onwa Na-Etiri Oha I” of Eha in Enugu and the Sardaunan Kano, Malam (Dr) Ibrahim Shekarau. He is one good person both in character and integrity that can change the ugly statusquo. I noted with nostalgia the reduction in the crime rate and social convulsions. I am impressed how he put checks on the bastardisation of the society values that are fast being eroded by alien culture. I am happy that he knows what it means to be educated. So, he invested heavily and paid high premium on education by providing enabling environment for learning.

Health, as we know, is wealth. To enable the people have access to basic health care, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State abolished hospital cards and employed qualified medical personnel. He ensures that drugs are provided for both in and out patients. There has been a relative stability in power supplies as some villages in Kano State are provided with electricity and connected to the national grid. He provided electricity transformers and distributed them among the villages and towns. Teachers in the state came to realize that their reward is not only in heaven but also on earth because they are well treated under Shekarau administration. Road rehabilitations and construction of link roads to decongest the ever increasing traffic are other areas of his achievements. He ensured high level of accountability and transparency through the establishment of anti-corruption agency. His administration, on monthly basis publishes all incomes and expenditures of the government to give room for public checks and balances. As a detribalized man of impeccable substance, he accommodates people of divergent ethno-religious affiliations in his administration. His unprecedented achievements have attracted and greeted with public acceptance through awards and conferment of prestigious titles across the country.

In the areas of stability and peaceful co-habitation, there has been relative peace in the state and this in particular gave impetus to the various progress and developments that have been taking place in Kano State for the past seven years. As a democrat, Shekarau knows the dynamics of power and what democracy stands to achieve. It is in this retrospect that his people and the progressive people of Nigeria want this man to be entrusted with the leadership of the country, having tested and trusted his capabilities. They want Governor Ibrahim Shekarau to contest for the 2011 Presidential election because they know that he will be in position to move the country from her present baggage of hopelessness to development, progress and sanity.

Dear Compatriots, some political pundits have agreed that Shekarau's performance credential qualifies him to contest for the 2011 presidential election, they are however skeptical about the opposition party (ANPP) that may present him, which they argued might not be strong enough to make him win the election unless he cross-carpets to the so called big party of PDP. In the valid belief of Governor Shekarau, it amounts to betrayal of trust for a politician to be given mandate in one political party and later jump to another party with other party's mandate. This type of action, he says, has a serious moral burden on the politician, and therefore, he, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau would not be part of such bandwagon device. This explains why he has remained the only man standing in his north-west geo-political zone.

Most of our Politicians and office seekers are being stimulated in their political participation by their desire to project and some times, promote their selfish goals and values and not by a sense of civic duty to serve the interest of the community. Their desire is to gain reward through political participation. They are never interested in the service to the people but how to amass wealth to the detriment of the people they pledge to serve.

The essence of any leadership position is to use one's experience to create enabling environment for the survival and development of a just and balance society, a society devoid of rancour and unwholesome practices. In order to create this type of good atmosphere, every leader uses guiding principle as a basis of carrying out political, economic, social and cultural responsibilities. The guiding principle emanates from lofty ideas and ideals that are translated into manifesto for the purpose of governance. The manifesto is made up of blueprints that are religiously followed by any serious minded leader in his art of governance. It is also based on the ideas and principles that political parties are formed and aligned.

In this type of system, one becomes a member of a party on the basis of principle, ideas and ideal the party seeks to achieve for the betterment of the community. Party participation is not based on allocation of fund or how much one hopes to be given as a means of settlement. Party supremacy and loyalty of members take precedence over and above any parochial interest. This type of arrangement does not tolerate political prostitution or cross carpeting of any kind. If the party sinks, every member of the party follows accordingly.

The voting pattern is also based on well-articulated party manifesto and not on an individual sugar coated mouth. If any elected leader fails to deliver his party manifesto at the end of his tenure, his party would not be allowed to win for the second term. These are the basic foundation upon which the people are allowed to participate in the art of governance. But today, the situation is completely different. Our present day politicians are no longer operating on principle. Party formation and loyalty are equally no longer based on ideological inclinations but on mutual conspiracy to loot the government treasury dry.

Past experiences have shown that those who dumped one political party for another on the ground of failure to realize their personal interest rather than the interest of the party have always have cause to regret their action. The lesson I think this has for the politicians that move from one political party to another is that no matter powerful a politician appears to be, principle and party loyalty matter in politics. One does not just abandon one's party simply because one wants to undermine another man somewhere else or simply because the person has not realize his selfish political ambition in his party.

Just imagine a politician that had had enough political fortune in his party for three good years turns round to join another party and begins to castigate the party that shot him to limelight of recognition. Unfortunately, the activities of this type of people are very dangerous to our nascent democracy. They are capable of causing artificial political violence in the society. More tragically too is the fact that whenever a politician decamps from one political party to another, his followers hail him like a King whereas; he is supposed to be abandoned and treated like a political traitor that has nothing to offer to the generality of the people. But for the fact that people want money not minding how it comes, they have relegated political morality to the background and even thrown it to the dog.

The masses believe that whenever they hear that a political figure is decamping from one party to another, they are always happy because they know that such person has made enough money to cause confusion. The masses would naturally like to have some share in the looted fund. This is why every political rally organized for decamped politicians, the same individual or group of individuals are always in attendance for no other reason but money.

At a time when politics has become a 'do or die' affair, where desperation to win election at all costs becomes the dominant paradigm, only an extremely few politicians would assume the posture of not joining the bandwagon device. This is one reason why some politicians leave their party in search of greener pasture in another party. It therefore beholds that if the Nigerian electorates really believe in what Governor Ibrahim Shekarau can offer to them in terms of socio-economic advancement of the country, it does not really matter what platform of the political parties he seeks the people's mandate. It happened in the north-central of the former Kwara State in 1983 when a certain Pious Lasisi won the House of Assembly Seat on the banner of GNPP, a place where NPN and UPN were the bandwagon and domineering parties before the military junta rudely intervened in December 1983.

In any case, there is no state of the federation where ANPP the party that brought Shekarau to the lime light has not got base, no matter how weak or powerful. If for instance, Shekarau gets the nod of his party to fly her flag for 2011 presidential election, the 774 chapters in each local government including ANPP members and well wishers in the Diaspora should be able to effectively coordinate and mobile the local people in support of Shekarau's candidature for 2011 contest. One is also convinced that from the good record of Governor Shekarau, there are many lovers of Shekarau across the breadth and wide of the country that are in other political parties and who are ever ready to cast their precious votes for Shekarau as President of Nigeria by 2011.

Having done with the above, the next issue the political pundits would raise is the issue of whether or not Shekarau has the money to win the 2011 presidential election in view of the fact that “Nigerian politics” has been seriously monetized, in which only the highest bidder carries the day. Although, money politics has really eaten down the fibre of our national political psyche, this factor alone contributed immensely to the endemic corrupt practices that have invaded our society and has in turn caused serious havoc and disaster to the country's progress and development. We must however and in all sincerity of purpose try to stop this ugly political trend that has caused us more harm than good. It is in realization of this fact that no one should expect money from Shekarau or his agents to exercise his civic responsibility. This is because any thing built on corruption would certainly crumble and does not last. This is particularly why our ten years of democracy has been in a state of rancor, hopelessness and disaster.

We should therefore be able to make change by casting our powerful votes for Governor Shekarau because of his ability, strength of character, goodwill and integrity. It is by exercising this civic responsibility that our leaders can be responsible enough to give the country the desired dividends of democracy, progress and advancement. It is also by doing so that the electorate can honestly assess and evaluate their leaders and in the event of none performance, they would have the moral rectitude to condemn and use the same powerful votes to remove such none performing leader.

But if we continue to think in line with how much one gets to be able to exercise one's voting right, then we should not expect our leaders to live up to our expectations because we could not simply had our cake and would still want to eat it. One is however not unmindful of the fact that as a result of the chronic poverty pervading the nation, there is the implication of people being susceptible to money- politics. It was in realization of the high level of poverty among the people due to diversion of public fund meant for development that made the embattled national Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor to feel that his party would rule for 60 years or take over Kano and Lagos in 2011 at all costs, knowing full well how much of public fund his party has diverted to purchase the electorates preparatory to 2011 election. Now that Ogbulafor and his cohorts in pdp are facing corruption charges for enriching themselves with public money, is it the kind of leadership they want to bequeath to our future generation?

Essentially, what PDP leadership requires from the masses is just votes and not their welfare. This is why we must not allow this type of anti-masses show of shame to happen again as the 2011 beckons. As a matter of fact, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau is a good example of how absence of money-politics can spur a leader to perform creditably for the interest of the masses. In 2003, PDP deployed and distributed huge sums of money so that Shekarau could be defeated. This was in addition to deployment of the federal might against the humble man, but all these went in vain as the Kano people massively voted and defended such votes in favour of Shekarau. In 2007, similar thing happened. There was internal conspiracy by some powerful party men who were jealous and envious of Shekarau's marvelous mass oriented achievements. They jacked up the cost of the governorship form, believing that Shekarau being a transparent and God-fearing leader who deprive them of the desire to loot the public fund, would not get money to purchase his second term governorship form.

As a result of the many good things Shekarau did for the Kano masses, the Kano Pensioners in particular contributed money to purchase the second term governorship form for Shekarau to contest. In spite of all sorts of blackmails by some of his party caucus and the PDP to cripple the second term ambition of Shekarau, he went, saw and conquered at the poll. This was how he broke the Kano political jinx.

No one can therefore pull down any person God has exalted. Whether or not Shekarau can win the presidency of this country is a matter of divine decision. If ANPP decides to choose Shekarau as her flag bearer for 2011and heaven backs it up, no mortal can do otherwise. As a Nigerian and a humble servant to his people, Shekarau has the track record that qualifies him for any political position in this country. No individual or group of people, no mater how highly placed and powerful they are, should think that they can take decision(s) against the wish and desire of the entire populace. In view of this, Shekarau stands a good chance of winning the election of 2011 as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria if his party nominates him since he is healthy, energetic, project and human oriented, and prudent in financial management as well as enviably transparent in all his dealings. Nigerians need nothing less than these qualities.

My Dear Compatriots, this is your chance to dethrone the bad guys who had been making life extremely difficult and miserable in Nigeria. We must abhor our defeatist tendencies where we always think that bad leaders with connection can always carry the day. This is not true because by thinking such, we tend to compromise our existence and that of the future generation. The journey is not going to be easy if truth must win. We are bound to be called all sorts of names for even making attempt to support a just and sincere person. Don't mind them, it is part of their strategy to make one feels guilty of sins one has not committed so that one would leave the good cause.

Since Governor Shekarau came to power through the ballot box in 2003, we have been able to debunk all fictitious allegations against him by the desperate oppositions. We are still ready to do the same any time they come back again with their subterfuge. Dear compatriots, this struggle to ensure Governor Shekarau's success for 2011 presidency is neither for Shekarau nor his political party. It is for the emancipation of the people and their future generation. So, we should not care about what the opposition would say about us. As Shekarau clocks seven years of purposeful and dynamic leadership as Governor of Kano state, we salute his courage, determination and doggedness in his governance. We are hoping to see that these attributes of good leadership is transformed to national integration and governance. My dear compatriots, please, communicate these messages to every one that is interested in progress, stability and development of the country, knowing full well that with all these in place under Governor Shekarau as the president of Nigeria come 2011, Nigeria will be a safe heaven for both present and future generations. With God, nothing is impossible and we strongly believe that the Almighty God is on our side.

Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: [email protected]

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