It is with a profound sense of duty as well as responsibility that I announce my candidacy for the office of President of our great federal republic under the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Early this year, the coalition of Southern cultural communities (Afenifere of Yoruba land, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and PANDEF of the Niger Delta) entered into a new alliance with the Middle Belt Forum. The South mandated the Middle Belt to come up with four candidates that they could jointly screen with a view to anointing one for the presidency. A dozen candidates were screened in what was a rigorous and objective process. It is with great humility that I inform you today that I have been crowned as the best candidate.
I seek the presidency not because I think I am better than anyone. I seek it because I bear in my heart the pains and suffering of a wounded and traumatised people. I seek the presidency because I am a servant leader and a drum major for justice.
Two score and eight years ago the Union Jack was lowered and our green-white-green flag rose under our glorious African sun. Nigeria was born as the land of promise. They have been years of tragedy and hope. We fought a bitter civil war in which millions lost their lives. We survived it. The discovery of oil brought with it the promise of untold wealth. Schools were built; roads and highways were constructed; industries and businesses flourished.
Then the locusts arrived. History shows that military government is the most pernicious form of tyranny invented by human infamy. Impunity reigned supreme and with it the erosion of the institutions of civil government. The once proud towers of academe were brought low. The best talents voted with their feet. Health facilities were undermined and the railways disappeared. Basic services such as water and electricity were destroyed. But the worst affected was the moral fibre of society. Our country became a vast cesspool of whoredom. Religion became an instrument in the service of division and strife. Our university became cesspools of prostitution and cultism. We became a by-word among the nation; a cruel and wicked people reviled throughout the world.
The return to civil government in 1999 brought with it some hope. We overtook Egypt and South Africa to be the leading economy on the continent. High oil prices guaranteed a steady stream of revenues into the national treasury. The economy was doing well but the people were not. The World Bank described our economic model as one of “jobless growth”.
Today, Nigeria has won the dubious prize of being the poverty capital of the world. We have some of the worst indices for child and maternal mortality to be found anywhere. Half of our population have no access to electricity. Youth unemployment hovers around the 70 percent mark, particularly in the North East. The lights that once shone in the eyes of our youths have seemingly been extinguished forever.
Every year, thousands of our young people take the hazardous long trek across the Sahara through the Mediterranean in the vain hope of reaching a non-existent Eldorado in Europe. Thousands are killed on the high seas while others die of hunger and thirst or under the swords of murderous Bedouin tribesmen. Not too long ago we saw the bewildering spectacle of young Africans manacled in slave chains in Libya. Our young women have become sex slaves in the brothels of Arabia. The tragedy goes on.
Nigeria today stands at the precipice of history. While we have survived one of the severest recessions in living memory, the livelihoods of our people continue to deteriorate on a daily basis. A government that was trusted by the people has betrayed that trust and frittered away whatever moral capital it came with. We currently have a lopsided administration in which where you come from and whom you know is far more important than what you know. Nepotism has become the order of the day while merit has been thrown to the dogs. The much vaunted war against corruption has become a comedy of errors. Grand larceny is, paradoxically, waxing stronger. And what is worse, its purveyors are protected by impunity and federal might. Those who dare to speak up are persecuted and hounded. An atmosphere of fear and the culture of silence have taken over the soul of our republic. The idea of civic virtue – an idea as old as Aristotle and Ibn Khaldun – has been made a mockery of.
A particularly sinister development is the fact that our country has become the world capital of kidnapping, violence and banditry. Terrorism continues to strut in the north east like the proud harlot of Babylon. This week, a 25-year old international aid worker, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, was abducted and killed in Borno. Sixteen year old Leah Sharibu remains a prisoner of conscience because of her courage and religious convictions. Our army is virtually powerless. The once great Nigerian army has become a weak, ill-equipped, divided, humiliated and demoralised rabble.
Meanwhile, the Middle Belt has become the new killing field by murderous hordes who know neither God nor Humanity. Armed mercenaries, most of them from neighbouring countries, have descended upon our rural homesteads in Benue, Adamawa, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba and Kogi. Under the pretext of pursuing non-existing usufructuary land rights, they have raped and maimed and killed. They have disembowelled expectant mothers and placed their unborn babies under the sword.
And to add insult to injury, a spokesman for the administration recently warned us to give up our patrimony or face an almost certain death by these foreign marauders. As a consequence, many in our country have lost trust in the government as a fair and neutral arbiter, let alone protector, of the people. This government has failed in its most elementary duties as understood by statesmen from Thomas Jefferson to Sultan Mohammed Bello.
The international community watches with despair as our economy is run aground and our ship of state totters at the edge of dissolution. We have become like ships that pass each other at night. We who have lived and intermarried with Fulanis for centuries are being taught that we are now enemies who must slay one another at the slightest opportunity. A new gospel of hatred is being propagated in subtle and insidious ways through the privatisation and tribalisation of government and its institutions. Nigerians have become strangers and spectators in their own country.
It is for all the above reasons that I stand before you today. And I am compelled to say, echoing the Scottish divine, John Knox: Lord, give me Nigeria or I die!
Albert Einstein famously declared that “God does not play dice with the universe”. The Creator did not put our 200 ethnic communities together by mistake. He is doing a thought experiment to find out how ingenious we could be in creating a great melody out of our gaggle of tribes, some of them as ancient as the Egypt of the Pharaohs.
I have travelled the world in the course of a rewarding international career. No corner of the world makes my heart leap with greater joy like the immortal hills, rocks and springs of our green and pleasant land. Nowhere else does the sun shine for me with greater luminosity. We are blessed beyond our wildest imagination; endowed with all the natural resources to make us a great and prosperous nation. What has been lacking is leadership and purpose.
Now is the time for a new generation to wrestle the mantle of power from bigoted, ignorant, unenlightened and incompetent leaders.
Now is the time to take our country back.
Now is the time to keep hope alive.
We must muster a new coalition of patriots who believe in a truly united Nigeria; in our manifest destiny as one of the leading nations of the twenty-first century. We were meant to be a city on a hill; a light unto the nations.
Our vision is that of a New Nigeria in which natural resources are harnessed for the benefit of all our people. We believe in nation building. We will give priority to confronting headlong the demons of violence and insecurity. We will also focus on building a world-class infrastructures base. We shall launch a new industrial revolution that create jobs and expand the possibility frontiers of welfare and prosperity.
We shall also launch a national dialogue on restructuring and political development. We aim to build a fair and more inclusive Nigeria where all the people are happy – where men and women are equal in law and in fact — where all citizens fully participate in the decisions that shape their lives and the future of their children.
I believe in the rule of law and I am committed to social justice and the emancipation of the poor. I believe in education; in the creation of an enabling environment where talent thrives. Our young people have excelled in the great Ivy League institutions of North America and elsewhere. When brilliant people are ruled by lesser minds it makes a mockery of our immense potentials and promise. The Greek philosopher Plato famously noted, and I quote: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. This syndrome is buttressed by the moneybags that serve as gatekeepers in our political arena; men who glorify inferior minds in the hope that they can control them and bend them to their own will. It is a system guaranteed to reproduce mediocrity as our dominant collective mindset.
Some of us are proud of the fact that we have not defrauded the state. We have not stashed away stolen funds with which to launch a lavish political campaign. But we put our trust in the goodwill and indomitable spirit of the Nigerian people. Barrack Obama had no money and no political godfathers when he was elected president of United States. Emmanuel Macron came from nowhere to ascend the high magistracy of the French Republic. We will need volunteers among our youths. We cherish the support of all those who share our ideals of a New Nigeria. We could sit here and grumble for a thousand years. Nothing will change. One of Isaac Newton’s laws of motion states that a body continues in a state of motion until an equal and opposite force compels it to change direction. We have what it takes to make Nigeria great.
I have carefully weighed the risks. I am ready and willing and prepared. We are going into the arena to face monstrous giants. But we know that they are giants with feet of clay – paper tigers. As a great American statesman once said, what we have to fear is fear itself. We stake our ultimate claim not in the moral superiority of our position, assured though it is; but in our faith in the resilience and indomitable spirit of our great Nigerian people.
To the youth, I say: Arise and Shine! Arise and take your country back! It is time for us to rise up in righteous anger. I appeal in particular to our women to rise up and be counted. In the words of the poetess Nana Asmau, daughter of the Caliph Usman Dan Fodio: “Muslim women, do not listen to the speeches of those who are misguided…They deceive you when they preach obedience … without telling you of the obedience which is primarily due to Allah and his Prophet.”
In the words of a medieval Jewish sage, Rabbi Hillel: “If not me, who? And if not now, when?”
Being a Statement by Dr. Obadiah Mailafia on the occasion of his declaration of intent to contest for the presidency of Nigeria under the platform of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, in Abuja, Thursday 20th September, 2018
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