PRESIDENCY 2011: WHY I'M IN THE RACE
Nobody in Nigeria or beyond the shores of this great nation is in any doubt that I am a candidate for the 2011 presidential elections on the platform of the Progressive Peoples' Alliance (PPA). Probably, what some people might not have known is that I am very serious with my aspiration to lead this country. Those who know me very well would confirm that I hardly shy away from anything I fix my mind to achieve, no matter the obstacles in my way. By the grace of the almighty God, I am where I am today because He has designed it ever before I was formed in my mother's womb. This is why all efforts to scuttle my destiny at different times had always failed.
It took me a long time of deep reflection and prayer, including wide consultations, to arrive at the decision to offer myself for the presidency in 2011. I must confess that the greatest motivation to throw my hat into the ring was the lacklustre leadership our people have witnessed in the past 11 years. Worst still, there is nothing on ground to show that the situation is about to change. I have wondered who will salvage us from this hopeless and helpless situation if everybody is afraid of facing the challenges that lie ahead.
I have never hidden my desire to be a part of the process that will bring about the desired change in our nation. Since I left the University of Maiduguri over two decades ago, I have been in the front burner of the struggle to liberate our country from the shackles of internal colonialism. I have also been a visible player in the economic sector, where I have made remarkable contributions. I became the youngest bank chairman in Nigeria at a tender age of 27 years. I have businesses scattered across the globe with over 10,000 workers in our employ. I have successfully grown a company that has risen meteorically into a conglomerate, with tentacles in shipping, aviation, publishing, real estate, banking, manufacturing, oil and gas, agro-allied business, etc. If building personal fortunes is a sign of success, then I can humbly claim I have succeeded.
On the political scene, I have made visible contributions also, having been elected member of the House of Representatives in 1992 and governor in 1999 and served for two terms, which terminated in 2007.
Another reason I have for choosing to aspire to the office of president in 2011 is the plight of my people, Igbo. Before I declared interest to contest, there was no Igbo man or woman aspirant. All of them had been intimidated out of the race. Let me ask: How could a tribe of over 48 million people be so belittled and cowed to the point of chickening out from a very important aspect of our national development? Right now, almost every major tribe in Nigeria is working assiduously to assert itself more visibly and forcefully on the nation's political turf. But this is not so with Igbo. It seems they are satisfied with the subservient role they play at the moment. Even their leaders have since abdicated their responsibility to provide quality leadership for them.
Think about this: why is that no reasonable Igbo, except me, has offered himself for the office of president of Nigeria after Ekwueme did so in 1999? In 2007, I traversed every nook and cranny of this country canvassing support for my presidential aspiration. The response I received, wherever I visited, was unimaginably very high. The young and old, rich and poor, all embraced my message of change. My performance in that election was above average. Out of a legion of presidential candidates that participated in the election, I came fourth, after the Action Congress (AC) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president at the time.
It is not an exaggeration if I should claim that I would have performed better if not for the antagonistic disposition of the powers-that-be towards me at the time. Diligent observers of political events in 2007 would also agree that the incumbent president then did everything humanly possible to stop me from participating in the election. Remember that he was still licking the wounds of the loss of his third term bid then. Up till date, he still bears grudges against me for working against the bid.
The election of 2007 opened my eyes to the intrigues that surround major elections in Nigeria. Even though some persons saw my effort as time-wasting and unrealistic the majority supported it, going by the wide support I received from every geo-political zone in the country. Maybe it was as a result of my growing popularity that some powerful persons opposed the granting of waiver to me by the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) when I returned to the party. Curiously, some of those opposed to my return were not even there when we used our time and resources to found and nurture Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I can claim, without sounding immodest, that I was in the first four of the biggest funders of PDP at inception. But today they see some of us as strangers. But what they forget to appreciate is that God is the ultimate decider of every human's fate. Our lives and what we will become in life exclusively belong to him.
Deep inside me I know I have all what it will take to transform Nigeria. I had written in this column once about my vision for Nigeria and how I plan to rewrite the chequered history of our fatherland. What I have done here is to do some recapitulation in order to refresh your mind.
Apart from the burning desire to change Nigeria, I am a team player. I have never believed we can fix Nigeria without pulling resources. This is where I intend to assemble the best brains and minds to help me in this rescue mission. It surprises me that most of those that man sensitive political offices lack the will and experience needed to make the difference.
What this means is that appointment was based on clannish, parochial considerations. This time I will pick round pegs and put them in round holes. As much as we will strive to maintain the federal character principle in the distribution of elective and appointive political offices; we will not sacrifice quality and experience. There are many qualified Nigerian technocrats living outside of this country where they offer their expertise and acuity for the development of those countries. We plan to create the enabling environment to attract them to return. Nigerian is such a beautiful country to be so abandoned. I know that Nigerians in Diaspora have the eagerness to return once the conditions are right.
Some mediocrities that stride the corridors of power at present may not have a place in our government. The rot in our social system is also partially attributable to the populating of sensitive government and political positions by people who, ab intio, are not qualified to occupy them. What you get in the process is a disjointed and severely disoriented system. Our nation is where it is today because we have failed to reward excellence and banish nepotism and favouritism, which have been at the centre of our overall development initiative.
We cannot achieve a functional social system without building strong and autonomous federating units with less power at the centre. Some of the obnoxious contents of our present Constitution are largely responsible for the chaotic and tense situations we have in the country today. The amendment of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2006 has not produced the desired result because our lawmakers and some other interested persons have vowed not to make it work. In fact, constitution amendment can work only when those in leadership positions behave responsibly and selflessly. Everybody at present seems to be interested more in second term rather than work for the good of the majority of the people.
This is why we will initiate a true and people-oriented constitution-making that will set the tone for the development and growth of our dear country. The current constitution, which was a making of the military, does not meet the yearning and aspiration of the majority of Nigerians. Indeed, no meaningful development will take place until we have put in place a standard and generally acceptable federal constitution. And to attain this noble objective requires courage, tact and diplomacy. And we are ready to dish it out at the right time, because our government will be dictated by the wishes of the people in line with the vision of our forbears.
As we work on the emergence of a new constitution, we will also be engaging in a national campaign to reorient our people. It is not enough to pontificate on the evils of corruption without commensurate measures to entrench morality and the fear of God in our people. Corruption stems from a morbid and debased mind, including those angrily fighting for justice and fairness. Injustice can breed disenchantment and restiveness as we have in the Niger Delta Region. By fairly distributing our national wealth we will be laying a solid foundation for the survival of our nascent democracy.
Our national life at present has no space for justice and fair play. It is a winner-takes-it-all system in which the poor and oppressed have no say. Even some of those that engage in militancy and other crimes against the nation do so out of frustration. This is where the fight to entrench equality and transparency will take the front burner.
I believe strongly that if the emphasis shifts from distribution of national wealth to wealth-creation our nation will be better for it. What is happening at present is that almost every Nigerian is interested in only what he will get from Nigeria and thinks less about what he will give to Nigeria.
This attitude is at the root of our national malaise, where might is right. Our administration will de-emphasize the current dependence on oil and channel our resources to other aspects of the national economy. We have sufficient resources apart from oil that will boost the national economy and reposition our country in the comity of nations. Emphasis will shift to agriculture and manufacturing, as was the case before and immediately after independence. The groundnut pyramids in the North, cocoa in the West, palm oil and cashew nuts in the East and rubber in the Midwest will return. The idea of concentrating on importation of goods to the detriment of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors has remained at the centre of the downturn in our economy. No nation can survive when all that it does is consume without producing. It is pitiable that only less than five percent of manufacturing firms are still engaged in business. Many of them had either folded up or relocated to neighbouring countries due to the inclement business climate in Nigeria. We will change all that within the first year in office and lay a solid foundation for industrialisation.
Agriculture is the biggest industry in most nations of the world today. Through the mechanisation of agriculture these countries have been able to feed their people and export to increase national income. Our problem is that we don't produce even enough to feed ourselves, let alone export. The survey conducted recently for me by a firm in Lagos showed that agriculture has the capacity of feeding our people and engaging millions of our unemployed persons. It is painful that most Nigerians are content with feeding fat on the national cake without contributing anything in return to the national economy.
Why is it that most Nigerians are only keen on seeking political offices or white collar jobs for self aggrandisement? Only a few are engaged in constructive enterprises that can employ others and contribute to growth and development of the national economy. This trend must change as soon as I am elected into office.
Because government is not good in business we are going to privatise whatever is left of government-owned industries, to make them more viable and more beneficial to the people. It is painful that NITEL and similar government-owned companies were allowed to go comatose. We are going to revive NITEL and restore it to its pre-privatisation status.
There is nothing wrong with privatisation of government enterprises, but everything is wrong when such privatisation is done to the detriment of the nation and its people. What reason do we have to privatise NITEL other than greed and avarice?
Unemployment, which has contributed to the increased crime rate in Nigeria, will be fought with all the vigour we can muster. It is believed that more jobs will be created once we are able to bring back the moribund industries and make the existing ones more productive.
It is not enough to blame our youths for being behind the high crime rates in Nigeria without providing jobs for millions of graduates produced yearly by our universities and other tertiary institutions. As a government, we will put in place well-articulated empowerment programmes to cater to not only the youths but also other categories of unemployed persons. Part of the programme we have designed to contain the involvement of the youth in criminal activities will target the various educational institutions across the country, especially the tertiary institutions, which are intended to be designated special wealth creation centres. The idea is to teach our undergraduates special skills in order to prepare them to face the challenges of adult life when they leave school. The arrangements we have at present in our schools did not make provision for talent and skill development. The emphasis for now is on theoretical knowledge acquisition, which is not usually deep-rooted. In essence, what we plan to achieve is to make it compulsory for every graduate to learn one skill or another in addition to the theoretical knowledge he is expected to acquire. This strategy will make it easier to produce more adroit and responsible citizens that will contribute more significantly to national development.