The future is uncertain until we enter it. February 16 is Election Day and on that day Nigeria shall step into its future. How you vote on that day will determine whether we walk into the future in a manner that guides our subsequent steps toward the national greatness that calls to us or will we walk into it backwards as if feebly trying to reinvent the past.
One road leads to a certain replay of the economic injustices of the past. It is a road well-worn with familiar pitfalls and setbacks built into the very nature of it. The other road provides the truest, brightest chance for us to enter into our hopeful future but only if we are brave enough to believe in our capacity to improve our nation.
This election is more than a contest between two men, President Muhammadu Buhari and former VP Atiku Abubakar, for that one exalted chair. The election is nothing less than a historic encounter pitting one vision and version of our future against another.
Since walking backwards has never appeared to me as an efficient or responsible way for a person to proceed, let alone for a nation to surmount the difficult obstacles that nations must overcome, I cannot find much good in the policies and programs announced by the PDP.
Former VP Atiku misappropriated his eight previous years in high office. His occupancy of high office was best characterized by low deeds. Self-enrichment occurred at lightning speed but social welfare moves slower than a dousing snail. Just a few weeks ago, Atiku offered his vision of the economy when he said that enriching his friends would be an appropriate objective of any government he led. At best, patronage is a regrettable and necessary reality of politics that should be severely curtailed. But Atiku goes in the opposite direction. He bypasses patronage to brazenly elevate the much greater evil of cronyism from the shadows to make it the central plank of his national economic policy.
Look, I have made no attempts to hide my friendship with Atiku. We were friends before this election and hopefully we will be friends after February 16 when he goes into retirement. Despite our friendship, I must say the type of enrichment of friends he envisions does not recommend itself to me. It is unjust and impoverishes all but a handful of Nigerians. I want no part of such enrichment for my love of Nigeria and its people is far greater and deeper than my friendship with Atiku. For the good of Nigeria and even the good of Atiku himself, we do well to send him into retirement on Saturday.
Here I must relate a comment a friend recently made that shows the wide difference between the two parties and their presidential candidates. My friend observed that if you make a deal with President Buhari, you can always be sure of his intention to follow through. Do the same with Atiku, he said, and prepare yourself for disappointment.
Atiku is not alone in his disregard for the common man. Such disregard is the true brand name of the PDP and its powerful, rich allies. Several weeks ago during a television interview, Atiku’s Chief Economic Advisor Chike Obi intimated a strong preference to discontinue the social welfare payments the Buhari government established for the poorest of the nation’s poor. Obi’s rationale was that the nation could not afford to offer even this modest safety net. While in Obi’s eyes a nation possessed of the abundant material wealth of Nigeria could ill afford to give its poorest citizens enough naira merely to survive, Obi’s boss was reveling that he would further enrich already wealthy cronies. Obi was completely wrong that the nation does not have sufficient resources while his boss was utterly wrong in how he would use that abundance to fatten the wallets of his friends while leaving the pockets of the masses lean and empty.
Perhaps, we should also send Obi into retirement along with his boss come February 16. Perhaps together they might manage to discover the place where they might learn compassion for the common man.
Just this week, Atedo Peterside, a banker prominent in PDP circles, published a bewildering lament professing he could not understand why, even in his latest polls, President Buhari maintained a marked lead over Atiku. In essence, Peterside was griping that the people are not wise enough to make up their own economic minds. They would be better off if they allowed him to substitute his judgment for theirs. Peterside’s article was written with the desperate yet arrogant frenzy of those who fear their unjust economic privilege is swiftly unraveling. They fiercely clutch to their position yet the castle they have built in the clouds is crumbling into dust then to vanish into vapor. The clock now tolls midnight on their system economic elitism.
His answer to our economic challenges was to shrink and restrain government from being the active catalyst toward a diversified economy that assured broadly-shared prosperity through the just allocation of wealth and reward according to sweat and toil put forth by the Nigerian people. He proposed an economy that essentially was a free-for-all. If the past has taught anything, is that such an economic free-for-all is never free for most.
It is merely a license for the powerful and wealthy to do as they might while the poor and modest endure what they must.
Like Atiku, this PDP banker advocates an economy that gives free vent to the wealthy. The freedom enjoyed by the wealthy is paid for by a heavy tax on the wages and work of the average person. Essentially, the PDP seeks an economy that provides the welfare of riches to the powerful while telling the average man that there is not enough money to go around to build an economy that will ensure he can take care of his basic needs.
They seek an unfair, unjust and unequal Nigeria. Their definition of Nigeria is a nation run by the greedy, for the profit of the rich, at the command of the mighty.
In this, the PDP is involved neck-deep in the greatest political swindle of this generation. Their real slogan should be “more for the rich, nothing for the rest!”
Only then will they be telling the plain truth about themselves.
Our objective must be no less than to remake Nigeria into a great nation. This is a lofty goal but we should not be afraid of lofty aspirations. Only by reaching upward can we pull ourselves from where we are that we grow closer to what we should become.
The world economy is in rapid flux. To progress we need to establish a new economic model suitable to this dynamic future.
Our vision is the opposite of theirs.
Unlike the PDP, we, the APC, are anchored to the proposition that every Nigerian is entitled to equal access and sufficient economic opportunity so that he may use his talents, skills and committed exertion to carve for himself and his loved ones the decent and good life every human being seeks.
Yes, the rich and wealthy are entitled to the full enjoyment of the fruits of their exertions and enterprise. But so is the common man. The ordinary person is not to be shortchanged of the fair dividends of his honest sweat and diligent labor simply because he may be poor or because the powerful wealthy want more.
We believe government can spur the economy toward full employment of labour and our national resources during those times the private sector is not strong enough to shoulder this responsibility alone. Government is the agent of the people to further reform our political economy such that the light of shared prosperity, social tolerance and collective purpose shall forever shine across our national landscape and never be extinguished.
Because of the APC’s concerns for the struggles of the average person, we launched beneficial social welfare programs such as the school feeding program, Trader-Moni and N-Power.
As such, we have made progress caring for our most needy and vulnerable through these and other innovative and unprecedented policies. These programs are of the type all great nations do for their citizens.
However, the APC is not satisfied by what has been accomplished. What has been done is but the opening phase of a more ambitious undertaking. We have just begun to fight poverty and reform this economy on the scale required.
Though we have helped millions, several million more need to end poverty’s stranglehold on their lives. We must expand the scope and reach of our social welfare programs to encompass those other people who have been denied access to the productive economy through no fault of their own.
Additionally, we must put idle hands to work to build a modern infrastructure that will energize agricultural output in rural areas and foster labour-intensive industrialization in our growing cities.
Our objective shall be more and decent jobs on the farms and in the factories. Like no Nigerian government before, I believe the second administration of President Buhari shall dedicate itself to changing the very structure of our economy for the better.
We must amend our national economic architecture to unlock the full potential of our people and our land. To me, this is the core mandate of government for and of the people.
Throughout the campaign, we have talked about taking Nigeria to the Next Level. To me, this Next Level is informed by forging a New Partnership between government and the governed in order to create a more just, more prosperous economy for all.
The essence of this partnership is that government will provide each and every Nigerian either the modern public infrastructure or the targeted public assistance needed to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
The beginning of this New Partnership are already taking shape. As stated before, we have initiated a first phase of social welfare programs.
Additionally, the availability of fuel last December shows President Buhari has solved the perennial problem of year-end fuel crises that plagued all governments before his.
The Southwest has always been at the vanguard of progressive governance in Nigeria. Today should be no exception to this historic role we have played. I ask the people of the Southwest to join the APC so that we attain the Next Level by implementing this bold and good NEW PARTNERSHIP built on the following pillars:
We have made more progress in this area in 4 years than the PDP did in 16. Still, our work remains unfulfilled until we can bring light to all Nigerians when they need it, at costs they can well afford.
I believe the second Buhari administration will work to increase electricity generation, transmission and distribution by 5000 MW within the next 4 years.
Under the spirit of true federalism, greater latitude will be provided states in their efforts to build and attract investment for their own power generation initiatives.
We shall push to end the practice of billing people for electricity they never received. This practice is a vestige of the past that should not accompany us into the future. A person should only be charged for the power used.
Government should put a national infrastructural plan into action. First, we must commit ourselves to a national highway system linking our major cities and towns, our centres of commerce, with each other.
Travel times and costs will dramatically reduce. Farmers will bring more food to market quicker and more cheaply, reducing food costs. Traffic safety will be enhanced. The private sector will save millions of dollars which can be redirected to investment and job creation. More importantly, thousands of lives will be saved.
And hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians will find jobs on these projects.
Water catchment and retention systems in strategic locations should also be built to end the destructive cycles of flood and drought affecting many areas.
A national industrial plan aimed at bringing labour-intensive light industries to our cities to provide meaningful employment for our growing urban population should be implemented. To increase our GDP and wisely position the economy for the future, we must increase the percentage that manufacturing contributes to that GDP.
We should focus on strategic industries such as textiles, food processing, automobiles, consumer appliance and machine assembly, communications and manufacture of goods important to the bulk of domestic consumers.
This will require bold and comprehensive tax reform to encourage business investment. We shall help strategic businesses by ensuring inexpensive access to the infrastructure required for their profitability.
We must work with the Central Bank to bring lower interest rates to this sector.
I believe the government will work with the states and private sector to develop low-tech but efficient irrigation systems to reclaim more land for cultivation.
Commodity boards should be established to provide minimum prices for strategic crops so that farmers will be assured a decent income for their hard labour.
We need a national strategic food reserve. This will enable government to moderate food prices to aid the average person when harvests are lean and to prevent wastage when harvests are plentiful.
To provide adequate housing for more people, government should integrate under one roof the numerous residential housing and mortgage programs now existing.
This integrated recapitalized home mortgage institution will deepen the mortgage market by provide direct loans to homeowners and by guaranteeing qualified loans made by private banks.
In the spirit of the social programs inaugurated during the president’s first term, I fully support efforts during his second term toward establishing a government-run social security system for the elderly. Such programs are central and humane aspects of the governments of all great nations. We shall be no exception to this good rule.
This system shall not be intended to abolish the private pension system. The two systems will complement each other so that no elderly person is left unattended during his or her waning years.
The plan I just outlined is a brave step into our proper future. I ask that you have the courage not to be tempted to return to the past as the PDP wishes.
I believe Nigeria is better than this.
If we act wisely yet boldly, no Nigerian should fear what tomorrow will bring.
Election Day comes near. Let it be that dramatic moment where we showed the courage to vote for our larger, more excellent future instead of voting to recede into the shadows of the past as Atiku desires.
Let us continue to fashion a Nigeria that serves all its people, not just Atiku and his band of revellers. In this, we must face the future not turn our back to it. Great possibilities await but we must grab them.
Through this new partnership, let the Southwest once again rally around the banner of progressive governance for the benefit of all people, young and old, educated and not, the wealthy and the modest. This is the future we must enter. This is the future the APC champions. This is future you must choose on Election Day. Vote for yourselves by voting for President Buhari.
In the exercise of our civic duty at this historic and important moment, I ask that you conduct yourself with utmost tolerance and in equal peace toward both political ally and political opponent.
Let us show the world that we know the true meaning of democracy. On Election Day let not an angry hand be raised against any Nigerian. No matter our political differences, let us remember we are of one land and of the same national family. This election shall be free and fair and conducted without the arm of violence. For this is as Nigeria and our democratic exercise must be to achieve the excellent destination intended for us.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu