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Speech by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former vice president, Federal Republic of Nigeria and presidential aspirant at the special convention of of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Eagle Square, Abuja

Thursday, 13 JANUARY, 2011
I welcome all of you to this historic gathering of our party's delegates to elect a candidate to contest the presidential election in April. At great risks to yourselves you have come from far and near. You have come because of an idea, an idea so powerful that it breaks down walls and frightens those who like to impose their will on others. You have come because you believe in democracy, in freedom and in the rule of law. I also believe that you have come because you believe in the truth, integrity, fairness and equity, and that the unity, stability and development of this country are paramount.

You have been called upon to make a critical decision that would save the country and hasten its progress. Our great party, the PDP, has an opportunity to once more produce the President of this county in April. But, more importantly, it has an opportunity to provide real, visionary, focused and people-oriented leadership to this country. How you vote at this convention will determine not only whether we will win that general election but also whether we give Nigerians a leader who understands the challenges they face and has a plan to address them, or someone who simply thinks that being president is an end in itself. Your votes will determine whether the world will continue to ignore and ridicule this country or begin to take us seriously in global affairs.

I believe that you have come because you believe that agreements among individuals and groups must be kept if order and peace are to reign and in order to avoid chaos and lawlessness, and the might-is-right syndrome. I would like you to vote for me to be the candidate of this great party in the upcoming presidential election. At the risk of sounding immodest, I declare that I am more trustworthy, experienced, and prepared for the onerous task of leadership than my opponents.

I am a party builder. I have made great sacrifices for our party and for our nation. I have demonstrated my love for my country many times. And if you believe that the constitution of our party is supreme and that we must obey our rules and regulations, then there is no better person than me to fly our party's flag in the April election. Vote for me because it is the right thing to do.

I am the candidate that you can trust. Anyone who cannot be trusted to stand by his word should not be entrusted with the leadership of this country. Membership in any association or organization is a privilege and it usually requires members to abide by the rules and regulations of that organization. If rules can be thrown away by just anyone who feels that he is powerful enough to do so, then it is an invitation to lawlessness and anarchy.

Nobody wants that. The founders of this party, in their wisdom, devised rules for the rotation of power between North and South in response to cries of marginalization and domination. We wanted peace and justice to reign. And we put it in our Constitution (Section 7.2.c), and we all know what a Constitution means. That provision has not been altered. In 2002, an expanded caucus of our great party met and reaffirmed that policy. Here are the minutes of that meeting. My main opponent was at that meeting and voted in favour of that resolution.

He signed as no. 35 on the list. Today he pretends that that meeting never took place and that the resolution never happened. Yet he would not summon a meeting of our party to discuss that issue and if deemed appropriate jettison it. In fact on October 27, 2010, he publicly declared that zoning does not exist in our party. Talk about throwing away the ladder that got you up there! That is not the kind of person you would entrust the fate of this country. Our word must be our bond. But my main opponent believes in doing things simply because it is convenient.

He does not seem to care if the country is thrown into chaos and anarchy as long as he remains in power. This is dangerous. The vehicles for democratic governance are political parties. They must be built and nurtured in order to provide the anchor and direction for democratic governance to flourish. In terms of party building, there is really no basis for comparing me with my opponents. Rather than help build and strengthen our party, my main opponent is destroying the great party we all struggled to build.

At the risk of sounding immodest I can say that there are not many people alive today who have contributed more than me to building the PDP in terms of mobilizing resources for it, setting up its structures in various parts of the country, expanding the party's reach and helping members to resolve disputes. But under the watch of my main opponent our party has actually been shrinking. Under President Obasanjo many party members, including me, were driven out of the party; and now many members have been leaving voluntarily to join other parties, including members a Minister. We must arrest this ugly trend if we do not want electoral defeat in April. And I am the one who can lead this party to victory.

One of the qualities that I want you to consider today is experience. I want to remind you that experience counts. I have run successful businesses, employing thousands of Nigerians. I was Vice President in an activist government in which I played a number of critical roles. 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. And it was my recommendation, after a trip to Brazil, which led to the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, another initiative to reduce the pervasive corruption in our public life.

While we made some mistakes as a government, there is no doubt that we made progress, including macro-economic stability, the reduction of our external debt burden, the reduction of the government's overbearing influence in the economy as well as the restoration of some confidence and credibility to the country.

But after eight months in office, the current leadership cannot point to one concrete achievement or even one key problem that he has made any appreciable effort in solving. Rather our country is more divided than it was when he came to office; our excess crude account has been virtually wiped out - from about $20 billion to a mere $3million; our external debt has been rising dangerously at a time that world oil prices have remained very high; our physical infrastructure have collapsed; insecurity across the country has worsened.

Even the Niger Delta amnesty programme which he inherited from the late President Yar'Adua, has been hopelessly mismanaged, with the militants going back to the creeks to wage war on the nation. We cannot afford to continue to tolerate this level of incompetence and indifference. In critical situations there seems to be no one in charge. This leadership appears clueless on virtually every critical issue that should call for decisive action. My dear delegates, please ask him what exactly he stands for. What is his vision for the country? Please ask him. I would be surprised if you get a coherent response.

My dear delegates, what Nigeria needs now is someone who is prepared to lead. I have demonstrated over the last few years that I am ready and prepared to govern this country from day one. Leadership is a serious responsibility, which is why I have a clear programme of what to do and how to do it. That programme, the Atiku Policy Document, was put together by a team of experts drawn from various sectors of our society under my leadership. My Policy Document has five key priorities as detailed in the document. The key areas are:

•Employment Generation and Wealth Creation
• Power Generation and Infrastructural Development

• Security, Good Governance and War Against Corruption

• Education, Health and Social Services, and
• The Niger Delta
The details are outlined in the Policy Document.
The Presidency of this great country should be occupied by someone who is exposed, have wide contacts here and abroad, someone who is not provincial in thought and action. I have always put Nigeria first before my personal interests and ambitions. I am and able to easily assemble the best and brightest minds in the country to tackle any challenge, be it in private business or in public life.

My dear friends, in the pursuit of national unity, peace and stability I made enormous sacrifices for the sustenance of our democracy.

At the SDP convention in 1993, I stepped down to enable Chief Moshood Abiola to emerge as the party's presidential candidate. In 2003, I resisted the urge to contest the PDP presidential primary even though I could easily have won it. And when President Obasanjo wanted to subvert our country's Constitution and the PDP's zoning policy and run for a third term in office, we put everything on the line to lead the struggle against it. The success of that struggle is what made it possible for us to assemble here today to elect a candidate for our party in this year's Presidential election.

Without that struggle which I was privileged to lead, there would not be elections in this country this year or next. My opponent heavily supported third term. I fought against it; the Nigerian people fought against it, and the Nigerian people won. Who would you rather vote for: someone who supported the third term project or someone who put his life on the line so that our country can be free from tyranny and arbitrariness?

I have often been asked by concerned individuals why I have not given up on Nigeria after all the trials and tribulations that I have gone through. My answer is and has always been that Nigeria is worth all the trouble. I have a stake in this country. My family is here; my businesses are here; my employees - thousands of them and their families – are here; and Nigerians are here. Also Africa and the world need Nigeria to get it right. This country has been very good to me considering how far I have come in spite of my humble beginnings. It is time to give back. It is time to make good things happen.

Dear delegates, these are dangerous times; these are challenging times. We are indeed in a time of crises, a time of national emergencies. We need solid hands, firm and tested hands; we need hands that have managed things successfully. This country must be put in secure hands, not uncertain hands, not shaky and inexperienced hands. You cannot entrust the fate of 150 million Nigerians in the hands of someone who has demonstrated that he cannot get any problem right - the economy, our unity, terrorism, even the Niger Delta. You cannot entrust the security of the Niger Delta and indeed the entire Gulf of Guinea, so vital to our economy and the world economy, to a man who has demonstrated utter lack of capacity to focus on even the simplest of our problems.

You cannot entrust the fate of millions of Nigerians in the hands of someone who fumbles at every opportunity. Obviously you can become a President by accident or good fortune. But you do not govern a country by accident or luck. Governing a country requires a plan and its courageous execution. It requires the capacity and willingness to assembly the best and brightest people to help you get things done.

The last eight months have clearly demonstrated that he does not have what it takes to lead this country. It is time for us to move beyond this luck thing. It is time for serious people to take over the affairs of this country. The world is changing and we must change with it.

My dear delegates, your votes will make that happen. When you vote, forget all the threats and intimidation. Vote your conscience. Vote for progress. Vote for development. Vote for the peace, unity and stability of this country. Vote for me and together we shall make good things happen for our people and our country.

Thank you and God bless Nigeria.