TOGETHER WE SHALL BUILD A GREAT AND PROSPEROUS NIGERIAN NATION
Being an address delivered on September 15, 2010, at the Eagle Square, Abuja the occasion of General Babangida’s declaration to join the 2011 Presidential elections.
I am very pleased to welcome you all to this momentous event. I am grateful to all those who have honoured my invitation, and even those who have not been able to travel down to Abuja. Looking around the Eagle Square, Abuja, and seeing the large turnout of fellow citizens from all occupations and various zones of our country, and friends of Nigeria, I am truly humbled. More importantly, the turnout reaffirms my belief and faith in the unity of our country, and the greatness that lies before all of us. This gathering which cuts across the divides of ethnicity, creed, generation, gender and status is a re-affirmation of our faith and determination to build a great Nigerian nation as dreamt by the Founding Fathers; a nation that meets the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians, a nation that is economically productive and caring; a nation that is a leader in Africa as duly recognized by the rest of the World.
On several occasions since the return of democratic governance, I have been confronted with inquiries about my political plans by the media and other interested members of the public. On all such occasions, I have invariably maintained that I intend to participate significantly in our nation’s politics and governance. The question as to why I seek to return to the challenges of leadership after eight previous years in that position is fair and expected.
It should be recalled that even under military rule; I had worked in the cause of Nigeria’s development. Together with patriotic colleagues, we inaugurated institutions and processes, and engineered socio-political and economic designs for the foundation of good governance, economic development and advancement of human rights and expansion of our political and economic spaces. Given my age, experience and history of involvement in the affairs of our country, my renewed desire to participate in the political process is motivated by very compelling challenges, which confront the country. After almost two decades of deep and serious reflection, increased exposure and review of our past and present, I am, today, even more convinced and indeed determined to take on fully the challenges ahead of the country. Involvement in politics for me is about taking difficult decisions to solve problems and resolve critical challenges. These matters certainly require courage, resolve, fortitude, foresight, resourcefulness and inventiveness. They demand the appropriate capacity to take the needs, the hopes, the fears, and the peculiarities of individuals and groups to re-mould them for the larger national interests and the greater good of all.
My earlier involvement in governance was ably assisted by some of the best minds in the country who literally put their hands on the tough plough, devoted their time to build structures and lay foundations for the greatness of our country. The result is there for all to see.
Our integrated rural development programme through NALDA, DFRRI, Community Banks, Peoples Bank, etc, opened up this country in a manner that no succeeding government has replicated or approximated. Our policy of self-reliance encouraged and stimulated Nigerians to look inwards, and for example; turned local tailors into fashion designers, and ordinary carpenters into designer-cabinet makers. Our women folk turned local fabrics into stunning designs, which gave Nigerian fashion a life and distinctive character.
It is understandable that many young men and women of below 35 years in age may not be able to assess our contributions beyond what they have been told by somewhat biased critics. That generation may not have been told that their parents were queuing for basic commodities and utilities of life before we came along.
They may also not have been told how difficult it was to conduct simple financial and banking transactions, domestic or foreign; the excruciating experiences of air transportation, and even the rather narrow choices in the print and electronic media because of undue institutional regulation of their existence and operation.
We acknowledge that as in any other great and profound social engineering process, many social forces are bound to be rubbed on the wrong side thus the vociferous criticisms the reform programme was subjected to. We however, take comfort in the statement of a philosopher to the effect that: “Nothing is more difficult, more susceptible to failure, and more dangerous than installing a new order. The Reformer finds an enemy in all those who profited from the old order and receives only lukewarm support from those who will benefit from the new.”
We take pride in the fact that our Reform Agenda created the basis for the sustainable growth and development of the Nigerian economy; and the reference point for all subsequent reform programmes in the country. The solid achievements registered by our Economic Reform Programme between 1986 and 1993 in dismantling the inheritance of a command economy, the removal of a restrictive export control system, and the release and upsurge of the enterprising spirit and capabilities of Nigerians in all sectors of the economy are well known. We also recall our intervention efforts in attending to certain critical problems in the country such as the Niger Delta through the augmentation of the Derivation Fund and the creation of interventionist bodies like OMPADEC.
Talking about the conundrum of the Niger Delta, I have been gravely concerned about the action and non-action of the Government over the Report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta – the Ledum Mitee Committee Report. It is excellent and well thought-out document with equally excellent and historically informed recommendations which I have studied with satisfaction and personal approval. I wonder why the Report has not received open Government endorsement in the manner of a Government White Paper. Good as they are, the Amnesty Program and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs constitute only fragments of the core recommendations of the Ledum Mitee Committee, having personally endorsed all the recommendations of the Committee, I will, if duly elected President by the Grace of Allah, the support of my Party (PDP) and the Nigerian people, move together with the cultivated support of the National Assembly to implement, comprehensively, the Recommendations of the Ledum Mitee Technical Committee on the Niger Delta.
Today Nigeria stands at the threshold of history. As we celebrate 50 years of independence, the country faces a pressing urgency for accelerated development to actualize the tremendous expectation that our enormous endowments evoke, it is equally distressing that we have not succeeded in remarkably harnessing the enormous human and natural resources to provide the foundation for a productive and caring nation such that we now stand in grave danger of state failure.
Yet, these negative indicators are not true reflections of Nigeria’s destiny and character. I believe strongly that in the midst of depressing signals, there is hope for a foundational renewal. I am certain that Nigerians have the capability to rise to the demands of rapid development and positive change under a competent, visionary, bold, fair, firm, honest, purpose-driven leadership, sensitive and responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians for democratic consolidation and massive improvement in their welfare and wellbeing. Given my public-service experience, past involvement and record of accomplishment in national life, participation in the 2011 presidential elections has become imperative. Knowledge and grasp count; and experience counts. The economy must be productive; the society must care; and we must stop the current disconnect between the Nigerian people and their government. It is for this reason that the presidency of Nigeria in 2011 is critical for our long time survival as a people and as a nation.
Having studied the country and having observed recent governance from the sidelines with keen interest, I see the urgent need to deploy the enormous resources of our country to support and engage our youths and women, and to galvanize their creative energies for the development of modern Nigeria.
After almost eighteen years of deep and serious reflection on the path Nigeria has taken, and review of our past and present to which we have been exposed, I am, today, better prepared and more determined to fully engage the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead of my country. For me, therefore, the rationale for my involvement in politics is to lead a team of dedicated Nigerians who together can provide the courage, the focus as well as the wisdom and sacrifice to engage the necessary changes that will inspire and deliver economic prosperity.
I have developed a definite conviction that these challenges, though complex, varied and often daunting, are not beyond effective resolution by the collective and concerted efforts of Nigerians and their leadership. All we require is the infusion of conviction, and the strength of our people to make the required efforts and grapple with difficult decisions that lie ahead.
I have drawn on my background, experience and the realities of our contemporary history to dedicate myself to the restoration of good governance in our country. The plight of the youths and women who together can safeguard our future must engage our collective attention. I worry about the large army of our youths and women that are unemployed or under-employed. I am even more worried about the relevance of their skills in solving contemporary issues of our economy, yet, they are our country’s most critical resource, and I want to dedicate this period of my life to that cause.
Today, the reality of our present circumstance is that our country is in a crisis. We cry over the economy; and we agonise over the state of our educational system as well as over organized crime. Our infrastructure has collapsed and we continue to live with epileptic supply of electricity. We bicker over the never-ending issue of subsidy.
Two decades ago, the central challenge of the Nigerian society and economy that we grappled with, was the big, inefficient State that had a stranglehold on the society, occupied the “commanding heights of the economy”, and behaved like a general business enterprise, producing and selling myriads of commodities running airlines, managing commercial banks and owning cement factories. Naturally, it ended up as a colossal failure in this regard, since it neither had the bottom-line sense of a business enterprise nor the residual claimant motivation to ensure proper and efficient management of the societal resources under its care.
Today, however, Nigeria faces a qualitatively different challenge. The reality in our country is that of an abysmal lack of governance. The State has virtually become overwhelmed by multi-dimensional crises constraining its ability to minister to the needs of the citizenry.
The key among these include challenges of cultural and religious sensibilities; those of national integration; challenges of democratic growth and consolidation; those of an economy in dire straits, including in particular the worrisome endurance of unemployment and poverty; there are also challenges of growing restiveness in different regions, rate of crime and criminality; and indeed the whole gamut of challenges occasioned by underdeveloprnent.
A recent report on Nigeria’s demographic prospects for example, brought, in stark terms, the sheer magnitude of the challenge confronting this country today. The report indicates that over 40% of Nigeria’s about 150 million citizens are below the age of 15 years. More seriously, the report added that by 2030, the country would have an additional 68 million people hitting a total population of over 200 million people with more than half that below 30 years of age.
The question to answer is simply: What is there in place to cater for these teeming multitudes? A situation where the vast majority of these Nigerians remain stuck in poverty and without any meaningful productive engagement and employment of their energies and talents would be a catastrophic nightmare best left to the imagination.
For me, the response to such issues defines governance. Our challenge today is to come together and make Nigeria work better. We should awaken ourselves to the challenges of building a productive economy and a caring society. There is simply no option open to this nation than to create an economic framework that prioritises job creation, entrepreneurship and productive engagement of our teeming population. I am making a solemn undertaking to devote the four years that would be available to me, if elected president, to create the foundation for creating that economic framework.
The first requirement of attaining the above is to ensure that the economy grow at such a rate as to absorb the productive labour continuously being generated in the country. In particular, with the growing rate of urbanisation in the country and with growing mechanisation of the country’s agricultural sector we must find placements for the surplus labour that is bound to be released. The key sectors of manufacturing and services will therefore be given the boost to generate the required jobs. Of particular importance in this regard, is the programme of boosting Small and Medium scale enterprises to improve not just their service delivery and wealth creating potentials, but the capacity to engage the labour of millions of Nigerians.
A previously neglected sector in terms of potential for job creation is the so called Informal Sector that currently houses the productive endeavours of millions of Nigerians. Steps will be taken to formalise the informal sector by integrating it to the mainstream, structured economy. Other sectors that would also have very significant impact on job creation include a revitalised Solid Minerals sector, the emerging Information and Communication Technology industry, the Tourism sector including hotels and the budding Nigerian Film industry.
Nigeria has the material resources, the intellectual endowment, the capacity and the pressing need to attain the above objectives. The ingredients necessary for the achievement of these noble goals are competent leadership, social orderliness and then to draw up and resolutely implement a bold innovative National Reconstruction Plan which ensures the sustained mobilization of all the people, their resources, imagination and institutions, on the urgent task.
The Nigerian economy can and will be driven to secure two-digit, non-inflationary or minimal-inflationary growth rates over a long period – at least two decades – as some of the Asian economies have done. Clearly, traditional economic management planning and budgeting – methods and norms cannot serve, for essentially they ignore the factor of mobilization, which must be grasped for sustained long- run progress. There is much work to be done by all Nigerians and much benefit for all Nigerians, in the attainment of this objective. At the same time, the policy of equity in the distribution of the gains would mean increased wealth and improve welfare for all Nigerians, as well as stimulation of the spirit of enterprise, with due compensation for valid risk-taking, on the basis of justice and diversity. Growth will be principally measurable in terms of aggregate output and employment, although other major variables will be of interest.
There is no more debate or doubt about the debilitating role of corrupt practices in governance, public policy design and implementation, and even in the relationship between the public and private sectors. Indeed, corruption has been established as a fundamental cause in the underdevelopment of our economy and society. We will insist upon and deepen the policies and instruments of transparency and accountability in governance. The existing institutions such as the EFCC and ICPC will be sustained, strengthened and complemented by other anti-corruption authorities such that the national and global constituencies of the Nigerian state shall bear concrete witness to our efforts in dealing with the phenomenon of corruption.
From the above, the following specific objectives, among others, would constitute the focus of our economic management policy in a determined effort to re-inaugurate a caring society:
(i) A macroeconomic framework that attracts investment; promote economic stability; and sustain high non-inflationary growth.
(ii) A strong partnership between the public and private sector, which is private sector-driven with the government as the enabler.
(iii) Use Nigeria’s wealth of natural resources to diversify the economy, and thus reduce significantly over-dependence on oil and gas.
(iv) The growth and development of small and medium-scale business to provide wider economic opportunities, employment and poverty alleviation.
(v) A modem, well-structured, efficient and competitive financial and banking system that caters for the long-term needs of the economy.
(vi) Transform our urban and rural communities as well as the waterways into centres of production, and thus, generate employment opportunities for our people.
(vii) Human development programmes through massive investment in education, health and housing.
(viii) Restore and sustain our family values and morals as the basis for a caring society.
(ix) Collaborate with the States, Local Governments, the Legislature and Judiciary to sustain democracy and federalism as the definitive character of the Nigerian state and as the framework for achieving our objectives of economic productivity and a caring society.
Finally, to the betterment of our country, the advancement of humanity and greater glory of the almighty, I, Ibrahim B. Babangida, a citizen of Nigeria, a servant of our people and a loyal member of the PDP, hereby formally declare my candidacy for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 election for only one term of four years. So help me God.
I call on my supporters and indeed all Nigerians to spread our message of hope and rebirth and to conduct ourselves with decorum and in accordance with the law as we embark on the electoral activities.
God bless Nigeria; God bless Nigerians.