***unveils agenda, says Buhari most partisan President
***Atiku not credible alternative
The Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili on Monday, came down hard on President Muhammadu Buhari, describing him as the most parochial, nepotistic and partisan President ever produced in Nigeria.
She however advised those who believed that Atiku Abukakar is the alternative for the 2019 general elections, to have a rethink because “they are one and the same, siamese twins of failure and destruction.”
Speaking during a World Press Conference in Lagos, former Vice President of the World Bank said while the All Progressives Congress (APC), deceived Nigerians with the empty mantra of change in 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was a failure.
At the event, she also unveiled her “Oby Ezekwesili Roadmap to Victory in 2019” tagged: #Fight4Naija
“2019 cannot be “Anyone But Buhari”. Our country is not a recycling plant for uninspiring old men with their old ideas and old dubious characters. We deserve better than their aggressive mediocrity. And that is why I am running for president – to lead a people’s movement that will permanently terminate bad leadership, retire these incompetents and fight for every Nigerian”, she stated.
Below is the full text of her press conference:
When the singer TY Bello released that powerful anthem in 2011, Nigerians were on the march to a historic election. It was an election that showed us a vision of what is possible in our country – that the son of a humble fisherman from a minority tribe in the Niger Delta can rise to become president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
The winner of that presidential election described his victory as “the renewal of hope” in Nigeria. And most Nigerians believed him.
Until a series of own goals crashed that hope down a slippery slope, and that beautiful Nigerian dream tragically became a nightmare.
In 2015, Nigerians were on the march again.
Citizens were so angry with the brand of failure posing as governance that we took a gamble and placed their hopes in today’s ruling party, the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari, a 71-year old former dictator who has now shown neither the capacity nor the aptitude for the highest office in the land.
If that campaign was a movie, the title of the movie would be: “The lesser of two evils.”
Everything the APC candidate did was justified and excused because he was branded as “the lesser evil.” He was given an easy ride. No serious questions were asked about his competence or track record or world view; he couldn’t even be bothered to attend a presidential debate to defend his ideas in a competitive environment. Yet he was promising CHANGE. And a majority of Nigerian voters bought what he was selling.
But where is this change?
I intend to do three things here today:
First, I will lay bare what is at stake in this election by telling you why the failed PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are not alternatives to the failed APC and its candidate, President Buhari. They are one and the same, siamese twins of failure and destruction.
Second, I will tell you why my candidacy under the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) represents the most prepared, most qualified and most formidable choice for 2019, and why you cannot afford to sit on the sidelines in this battle for the soul of Nigeria.
Finally, I will address the most frequently repeated concerns about my candidacy and then what exactly we need to do to take this movement from here to Aso Rock.
So let us look back briefly, to 2015.
Do you remember? The chant all across the country was “Anyone But Jonathan.” Sadly, that is how we ended up with this reprobate government.
This time it is: “Anyone But Buhari.” And by that they mean that we should reinstate the failed PDP and its candidate, former vice president Atiku Abubakar because they think Atiku is the only person that can defeat Buhari in 2019. And in 2023, when Atiku and the PDP inevitably fail again, because a bad tree cannot bear good fruit? We will hear new chants of “Anyone But Atiku.”
That is how we get looped in a cycle of insanity – repeating the same thing, and expecting a different result. That cycle of failure is unsustainable and it has to end NOW.
2019 cannot be “Anyone But Buhari”. Our country is not a recycling plant for uninspiring old men with their old ideas and old dubious characters. We deserve better than their aggressive mediocrity. And that is why I am running for president – to lead a people’s movement that will permanently terminate bad leadership, retire these incompetents and fight for every Nigerian.
For those of you considering the PDP as an alternative, I really want to ask you: what is the thing that you see about them that is any different from the APC. Really? These people are the same: Siamese Twins of Failure.
Fellow Nigerians, here is the truth of the matter: the APCPDP is not two parties. The #APCPDP is one single party fielding one single candidate, and that candidate’s name is #BuTiku. Yes, you heard me right – #BuTiku.
Buhari and Atiku are conjoined from head to toe as #BuTiku. There is no lesser evil in #BuTiku. #BuTiku are members of the same party.
Attempting to choose between these two is like asking one to choose between death by poison or death by gunshot. God forbid. We cannot reject one oppressor and hand over to another oppressor. We do not love bondage. We do not enjoy suffering. God in heaven forbid.
I just laugh when I hear some people say our citizens movement will split opposition votes. But the PDP is not in opposition to the APC. The candidate of the PDP has over the past 14 years gone from PDP to AC, AC to PDP, PDP to APC and now back to PDP. These people are brothers and sisters of iniquity and impoverishment, merchants of failure and disappointment. Don’t believe that 419! They are both part of a political ruling class that has held us bound, manipulated and diminished us for decades. Now they are auditioning to extend their streak of failure for another four years? God really forbid! The real opponent that the Nigerian people have in 2019 is this old political order that takes and takes and takes, and never replenishes anything.
I should know. I was headhunted from Harvard in 1999, asked to come and help as a technocrat to rebuild a country that had just been recovered from the wasted years of the military. I accepted, like many other brilliant Nigerian minds from home and abroad, and we worked together to bring due process into government, secure debt relief, open up our economy, rebuild institutions and attack poverty.
The things I saw with in those days really fired me up to insist on due process, fellow Nigerians. Because for these terrible Nigerian politicians, corruption is all fun and games. These people have no desire but for more power, power, power, power. They stay up at night conspiring to steal and pillage, to loot and destroy. Oh, my brothers and sisters, I served in that government with one of the candidates who is running under #APCPDP in this election. Kai! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Six and a half years after, in 2007, I had fought the fight that had to be fought from within, and then I left government knowing for sure that if this politicial order is not changed, the work of good governance that good people do within government will never last. I decided not to re-enter government, rebuffing every request made since, and instead made a decision to dedicate my life to activating citizens to push these blood-sucking political class out of office.
I returned from the World Bank five years later to do just that, and the PDP was still at it! Same incentives, same behavior. The political class was completely unchanged – and had in fact become completely worse.
For goodness sake, what has fundamentally changed about that PDP we have always known? What lessons did the party really learn after its defeat in 2015? Is this not the same PDP that looted the monies meant to equip our military, so that our soldiers had to run away at the sight of Boko Haram, because they had no weapons? The same PDP that spent precious days denying that our Chibok girls were kidnapped and so allowed the terrorists get away? Is this not the same PDP that conducted a recruitment exercise for the Immigration Service that killed scores of our young people and yet nobody was sacked or punished? Haba. How can we forget so easily!
So the question is: Apart from forgetfulness, why are some Nigerians suddenly considering the PDP yet again? I have heard some people say it is because the PDP candidate has run successful businesses and therefore will be good for the economy at a time like this.
That response just makes me shake my head in wonderment: Is it the same person we know, or are we speaking of another?
Perhaps you never read a 2005 email from the president of Atiku’s university which was obtained by US investigators.
Let me quote a small portion from that mail: “…The flow of revenue to the university will slow dramatically if Atiku’s political fortunes continue to wane… Construction delays on campus have also raised fears that the prospects for the university are linked to Atiku’s political success.”
Did you just hear what that email said? That the success of that man’s private business is dependent on our commonwealth?
And there was more!
A special report by a US Senate Committee on Foreign Corruption concluded that “over an eight-year period from 2000 to 2008, Atiku and his wife, Jennifer Douglas were able to bring over $40 million in suspect funds into the United States…”
This was at the very time that this person was the Vice President of this very same country.
And these are the people you want to put in charge of the national treasury? In charge of the money for your children’s education? Of the resources for our country’s hospitals? Of the budget for our depleted army and our impoverished police force?
If we dive into all the filthy issues involving the PDP candidate – from the PTDF saga to the $2.8 million Siemens bribery scandal – we may spend the entire day here today and I simply do not have that time.
So let us talk about the present administration, the evil twin.
What is the primary legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari? It is the destruction of our nation’s wealth, presiding over the worst economic recession Nigeria has seen in decades.
Even now that the economy has come out of recession, the growth is as sluggish as his government. 4 out of every 10 adults today are either unemployed or underemployed, and Nigeria is now the Poverty Capital of the World, the World Bank confirmining that we now have more extremely poor people than India which has a population six times our size.
And in the midst of this, his Vice President was celebrating last week at the Nigeria Economic Summit that handing bailouts to state governors to pay salaries is an achievement.
What a big shame!
President Buhari declared after his victory that he “belongs to everybody and he belongs to nobody.” It sounded like sweet music at the time, but it was a big scam. This is a man whose wife – and surely his wife should know him better than we do – laments that a mafia had hijacked her husband’s government.
There is no shadow of doubt: President Buhari is the most parochial, most nepotistic and most partisan president that Nigeria has ever seen.
This president talks about fighting grand corruption. Please, please, give me a break! Can corruption fight corruption? Does he think we cannot see? A president that looks the other way while his friends and cronies suffocate and strangle our country?
This is not a time to speak in parables. I shall name names.
Should we talk about his former secretary to the federal government, Babachir Lawal, who was accused of stealing hundreds of millions meant for Internally Displaced Persons. Imagine the depravity. And when this person was indicted by the Senate, President Buhari actually wrote to them to say he would not take any action against the man! He only grudgingly sacked this tainted person because citizens stood their ground and said NO WAY. Up until now, no other action has been taken against him by the government. And they do not plan to take any.
Should we talk about how this government recalled a former chairman of the Pensions Reforms Commission, Abdulrasheed Maina, who has an arrest warrant on his head for stealing billions from our nation’s pensioners? The Head of the Civil Service actually advised the president not to re-instate him, and what did the president do? He not only recalled this person, but he also promoted him! He only sacked Maina because citizens resisted and said NO WAY. Up till now, over a year later, the EFCC and Police have done nothing. And they do not plan to do anything.
As we stand here today, there are credible allegations against the NNPC of which the president is minister in charge and elaborate accusations against both the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and his Attorney General, Abubakar Malami. Has anything been done? No. Nothing has been done and the president has no plans to do anything.
If we dive into all the other issues involving the APC candidate – from the Air Nigeria nonsense to claiming in the morning that Abacha was not a thief, and then going in the night to beg for repatriation of Abacha’s loot – we may spend the entire day here today and we simply do not have that time.
As one of the founders of Transparency International, I often encountered rulers like the ones in charge of Nigeria. Their words and their actions are like parallel lines; they never meet. They say one thing publicly but their actions scream the opposite. I shudder to imagine the amount of corruption that will be uncovered about President Buhari and his government when they are kicked out by Nigerians next year.
I shudder to imagine.
I do not intend to dwell any further on these symbols of the past, but it is important that I define what #BuTiku actually represents so that citizens can easily identify and reject it no matter the packaging. It is important to let you know exactly what you are choosing on behalf of us and our children when you choose these icons of failure, disappointment and national poverty.
We must not pretend that we do not know what the stakes are. We know. You know. When your children ask you in a few decades what choice you made when faced between corruption and incompetence on one hand, and the ACPN candidate, Obiageli Ezekwesili on the other, what answer will you therefore give to them? That you chose corruption or incompetence over competence, capacity and character?
I decided to join this race because I wanted you, and me, to have no excuse. We have in this race a candidate who has excelled in Corporate Nigeria, excelled in national government, excelled in private enterprise, excelled in international development, and then dedicated her life to fighting for every Nigerian from Chibok to Jos, from Abia to Ikot Ekpene. A candidate who is one of the very small tribe of Nigerians who have served in government but who have no allegation of corruption against them. I don’t mean court case o. I mean allegation. Zero. None. Not one.
I want to be sure you know that the choice is between on one hand #BuTiku, a ticket which includes a man who insults your intelligence by asking you to go get his WAEC certificate from the armed forces of which he is the commander in chief and another man who cannot tell you where he got the start up capital for his alleged multi-million dollar businesses; and on the other hand a woman whose track record is filled with concrete achievenments in education, solid minerals, public procurement and international development; a woman who has been fighting for this country every day of her life for the past 30 years – from being attacked on the streets of Lagos fighting for the June 12, 1993 mandate to taking up the challenge of this government and, at great risk to myself, visiting Sambisa Forest personally to fight for our still missing #ChibokGirls.
That is why, with a heavy but resolute heart, with a deep sense of responsibility but a clear understanding that I am entering into uncharted waters, I decided that I had no choice, that we have waited too long, and it is time for us to get in and fix this country ourselves.
So don’t pretend you have no choice. You do. And it is not one between the devil and the deep blue sea.
I am often uncomfortable speaking about my record, but I am now a politician. I chose to get into politics myself, and so it is my duty to remind you of my track record.
I led the World Bank’s operations in 47 African countries for five years, delivering up to $40 billion that helped countries tackle development challenges across a range of issues. I am not talking about theories, or claiming to lead an economic management team when all of us who did the work knew you were very busy supervising leakages and patronage. I am talking about the actual work of rebuilding nations.
These people are so incompetent that they make issues like infrastructure and human development, agricultural production and productivity, private sector development and economic reforms look like mission impossible. They cannot even speak about Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things because they are busy trading and drinking oil. That Nigeria has not moved forward is not because its issues are complicated. It is complicated because these guys have zero capacity.
They enter into Aso Rock and they feel like they are now on top of the world. It is so easy for power and money to confuse them. Shame.
I was priviledged to be a cabinet member before I was 40, and a minister by the time I was 42, implementing the reforms that changed Nigeria’s broken and corrupt public contracting system to one of a global standard. Power doesn’t faze me. Power has never and can never confuse me.
Then people talk about the grassroots? I have crafted and implemented multi-sector policy to transform the lives of those at the bottom of the pyramid. I have visited around this country. I have seen the poverty, audited the opportunities, and created solutions that have kept us from crashing. These men don’t know the grassroots like I do. These guys only have experience in compromise and corruption. My own experience is in caring for people and rebuilding nations.
As minister of solid minerals I led the repositioning of our mining possibilities for private sector leadership, cleaned up the chaotic mining titles registry and had Nigeria commended globally for leading on transparency in the mining sector when we established the Nigerian Mining Cadastral Office. Then I terminated the power of the minister – my own power – to award mining licenses as he or she pleases. I supervised the comprehensive geophysical survey of the country that generated basic data on number of minerals (34) and number of locations (430) across the length and breadth of Nigeria, opening up massive opportunities that we as a nation continue to enjoy. These are verifiable facts; the records are available.
I was education minister for less than one year, but in that time, we embarked on the most comprehensive reforms Nigeria has seen since 1999. We revamped the Federal Inspectorate Service and began the first ever nationwide inspection of secondary schools. We built the Nigeria Education Management Information System, collecting data and using it to analytically plan and make education policy. We introduced the private sector supported Entrepreneurship Studies as a compulsory General Studies course in all higher institutions. We started work on structural reforms of our curricula to position education as a key driver of transformation by linking curricula at all levels of education to the nation’s social and economic imperatives. We introduced Public Private Partnership models for education service delivery and very importantly ensured that Innovation & Vocational Enterprise Institutions were accredited, certified (National Innovation Diploma and National Vocational Certificate) and regulated by the National Board for Technical Education.
All these things I mentioned, and more I haven’t even mentioned, were done in just 10 months.
Trust me, this is not a noise making exercise. I know the work.
I don’t just know ‘business’. I know capital. I understand economies. I know nation building.
You can trust that when I say that under an Oby Ezekwesili presidency, we will get to work immediately lifting a minimum of 80 million Nigerians out of debilitating poverty, I mean business.
I don’t have issues obtaining visas or traveling to any country in the world – whether it is the United States of America or the United Arab Emirates.
I won’t come into office struggling to find my feet on the global stage.
You will never hear any world leader call me lifeless or dishonest.
I will stand toe to toe, head to head, shoulder to shoulder and side by side with any world leader, anywhere in the world.
I have had the priviledge to work with nations from Rwanda to Liberia, advising governments across Africa – including my sisters Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Banda, and my brothers Paul Kagame and Alfa Conde. These leaders have implemented courageous, effective reforms so commonsensical that I became so ashamed of sitting on the sidelines and allowing Nigerians have only the choice of #BuTiku for president.
We don suffer reach! And today, our mumu don finally do.
My leadership will not be by trial and error, and I will not spend my time making excuses and blaming others.
Because I know that the poor mother whose children will sleep without food tonight does not care about excuses or blame games. The 4 million Nigerians who lost their jobs last year do not have time for excuses or blame games. Leah Sharibu and the several other young girls whose futures are being snatched by terrorists do not have time for excuses or blame games. The small business owner who spends half of his earnings on generating his own power does not have time for excuses or blame games. They want results, results, results. They want tried and tested leadership; a leadership that is data-driven, independent-minded and solutions-centred.
You know my record. You know that when I say it, I do it. You know that when I promise it, I keep my word.
Don’t we finally, at last, in our lifetimes, deserve that kind of president? Don’t you finally deserve a president you know can and will do what she says she will do – no stories, no hidden agenda, no dodgy friends; just working every day for you and our children?
Are we not tired of managing poverty, and death, and destruction?
The world is watching, my brothers and sisters, my children, my elders. They are watching to see what kind of country we will choose to become now that the kind of candidate wih the wide ranging national and international experience we have been asking for has finally joined the race.
How sad it will be if we choose to reelect incompetence, stagnation and mediocrity. How equally sad it will be if we elect a shady, unprincipled individual who hops from one party to another every election season and has a corruption file in the United States Department of State.
Look, there is nothing to fear in these old men.
There is nothing to respect about the power that they have. They do not know anything that you don’t know. These are not men worthy of your regard. All they know is how to grab power. And we can shake them off in 2019.
An Oby Ezekwesili presidency will not only work to create an enabling environment for our young people to explore their greatest potentials and be globally competitive, but they will actually power the government. Building our young human capital will be an urgent priority of our ACPN government. We have an agenda to transform 20 Nigerian universities into world class institutions with strong showings on the global rankings.
These people are still talking about oil when the world is counting down to the end of the oil economy? In fact, we should just give them the oil to drink since it is what they really want so that they can leave alone to focus on the work of rebuilding our economy.
Our agenda is about creating wealth – growing the pie exponentially, creating jobs, building shared prosperity and taking at least 80 million Nigerians out of poverty. The agenda is to mobilize the energies of the people and our private sector, invest in upgrading our capacity capabilities to compete globally, and end the bad policies which have turned Nigeria into Poverty Central.
Importantly, our actions will center on mobilizing the youth, building and adopting science and technology to disrupt the status quo in every sector including governance, implementing the reforms and reorganization to reduce bureaucracy, and making government a partner instead of an enemy of progress. This will in turn create jobs, turbo charge businesses and fight inequality.
In fact, I cannot wait till December, after I have concluded my listening tour of the states of Nigeria. I am going to discuss our agenda directly with the market women, plumbers, mechanics, imams, deacons, truck drivers, accountants, teachers, civil servants – and after that disruptive, bottom-up, grassroots-driven process, we will then unveil our practical vision document that is broken written into language that everybody can understand, so that you people will know that this thing is not as hard as these old men think it is.
But the question people often ask me is actually not about policy, even though I insist that policy matters, because policy is what changes lives. Many people know my record and they know that this is the president they deserve. What they worry about is my politics – Am I seriously running? Am I just running to make a statement? Is a vote for me a wasted vote?
Since my public declaration for the presidency, I’ve had people come up to me directly, even my friends in the economic elite who are so afraid to speak the truth because they fear so much that this government will hunt them down, or even those who work at the highest levels of the government and the #APCPDP but who know that #BuTiku is a failed enterprise, or my young friends who reach out online: “We believe in you Ma,” they tell me. “You have the vision, you have the integrity, you have the experience and empathy, you have the knowledge and right judgement to become the president of Nigeria.”
Then they pause for a few seconds and say, “But…”
Everybody knows what “but…” means.
“But what?” I ask them.
Their response is usually one of three things:
1. But… why did you leave it until this late to declare? Why not wait until 2023 when you will stand a better chance? OR
2. But… you cannot win, and we need someone that can defeat President Buhari, OR
3. But… how would you govern even if you win when your party won’t have a lot of seats in the National Assembly?
I am going to end this speech by answering each of those “BUTs” one after the other so we can move those concerns out of the way and get to the serious business of you joining us, so that together we can win this 2019 election and begin the urgent marathon to remake Nigeria.
Now, why did I leave it until this late to declare?
The truth is that I finally decided that enough is actually enough. I waited long and hard, hopeful that #BuTiku would get the competition of ideas and strategy that it deserves. But a few weeks ago, after a number of young, vibrant, energetic candidates invited me to supervise an electon between them and as I watched the troubling outcome of that open process with a broken heart, it then occurred to me that I had no other choice. My hatred of politics was finally overcome by my hatred of the disdain that this political class has for the citizens.
And this is how nations are changed, not by people who run for office out of ambition, but by people who are determined enough to make a strong, powerful decision, no matter the odds – even money or time – to say, ENOUGH.
That is why I made this conscious and prayerful decision to run and win this election with Nigerians. I agree that the best time to have started running this campaign would have been much much earlier. But I have learnt enough from history and strategy to know that the next best time is now.
We are running this race because we can no longer wait.
There is no force in the world more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
And, forget all the drama, I have had enough conversations with those who know how this country works, who have run campaigns and mounted runs in the past, and what I know is what they confirm: Three months is a very long time in politics. One day is a very long time in Nigerian politics.
This moment, now that all of of us are plugged into what happens in 2019. Now that we are paying attention. Now that we know the choices we face. NOW is precisely the right time for me to come into this race.
Let me even ask those who say there is no time. You have had energetic young and older people who have been working to build structure and win the elections for more than a year – well how much have you donated to them? Have you volunteered for them? What resources have you given them? They started on time, but did the time that they had give them an advantage in numbers, in donations, in volunteers? Did it inspire you to do your part?
So time is not the issue, fellow Nigerians. Time is not the reason you haven’t stepped up to sacrifice or fight for your country. Time is not the reason we haven’t yet joined a movement to defeat #APCPDP.