To the Chairman of the APC, and all APC delegates all over the Federation of Nigeria, and all the good people of this great country, I am today declaring my candidacy for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I would like to begin by paying tribute to the star-studded slate of presidential aspirants of our great party: General Muhammadu Buhari, my role model and political boss with whom I have been in the trenches for over a decade since he joined politics; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has lived a life of service; Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who has changed the face of Kano; and my friend, Rochas Okorocha, a true and proud Nigerian. Anyone of us who becomes President next year would be infinitely better than the one we currently have.
President Jonathan has been totally unable to perform the most basic responsibility of any leader, which is provision of security to the people of his country. Nigeria has been degraded to unimaginable levels. We are now the laughing stock of those countries we used to laugh at.
Nigerians who are old enough know that this is not how it used to be. As a country, we are much better than this. The Nigeria we knew, even though far from being the ideal, was good enough to provide security and the basic necessities of everyday living. And we even had enough to cater for other African nations. That was when we were a regional superpower. But not anymore.
I have seen Nigeria as a child growing up in a neighbourhood not far from where I stand now; as a school pupil in a government primary school in Kaduna where primary education was free; as a secondary school student in Kaduna where secondary education was free; as an undergraduate at the University of Ife, when my Niger State scholarship was more than sufficient for me. I have seen Nigeria as a northern youth corps member serving in Ilawe-Ekiti and Ikere-Ekiti in today’s Ekiti State where I was treated like a special one. And I have seen Nigeria as a young graduate when I landed a very good job within one month of completion of the NYSC. I have seen Nigeria when our country’s schools and universities were among the best in the world and foreigners from all over the world trooped into this country to acquire world-class education. I have lived in a Nigeria when our hospitals were among the best, at least in Africa, and all drugs and medicines and surgeries were offered free by government. And all these happened when our revenues as a nation were far less than what we have today. That was when Nigeria fought a civil war without taking a loan; even the post-war reconstruction was carried out without a loan.
But to prosecute the war against insurgents, the Nigerian President has just taken a loan of $1billion, even though oil sold for around $100 per barrel for as long as anyone could remember and the Customs and Excise Department rakes in an average of N1trillion annually.
It is difficult to know the exact point this downward slide started but the misfortune of this country obviously accelerated from the time the PDP came to power in 1999.
Many of us have seen Nigeria from different eras. We have seen our country gradually decay into one in which people are now afraid to carry on their lives as ordinary citizens. They are afraid of sending their wards to boarding schools in parts of the country because their kids could be burnt alive in their dormitories; they are afraid to send their daughters to school because hundreds of them could be kidnapped at the same time and turned into sex slaves. And there are many more who are afraid to go to church or mosque because they could be bombed out of existence. Yes, terrorism is globally a contemporary phenomenon but in no other normal country on earth would terrorists strike in the same place every other day like Nigeria and no arrests are made.
For the first time in the history of this country, Nigerian soldiers who are still among the best in the world have started fleeing from criminals. Many have had cause to flee to neighbouring countries where they were embarrassingly disarmed by those countries’ armed forces. And because the PDP government has incompetently made the military our first line of defence instead of the last, Nigerians are now in disarray, running helter-skelter and in a state of misery. For the first time, Nigerians who are normally happy, confident people have lost confidence in themselves.
Corruption under the PDP government has reached extreme levels, to the extent that the Federal Government is no longer able to pay state governments and other government units their due allocations. As a result, many state governments are now unable to pay salaries. Oil theft has reached such frightening scale that, sometimes, the oil thieves steal more than what is left for the Nigerian state.
Yet, not a single oil thief has been arrested by the government. Much of the balance that eventually gets to the government coffers is also promptly stolen. Not long ago, Federal Government officials were publicly arguing among themselves – rather scandalously and in full view of the world – whether it was $48 billion or $20 billion or $10 billion that was stolen from the NNPC. This was money meant to run the Nigerian state.
The North-East of the country may now be the base of insurgents but no part of this country is the safe place we would want to raise our children. Kidnappers, armed robbers and ritual killers all through the 36 states of the federation operate freely without any fear of any consequences.
Our education system has collapsed with public schools now counting for nothing because funds meant to sustain them have been stolen. Nigeria currently has 10.5 million children out of school, the highest in the world. And even those in schools here hardly pass their exams. This year, 70% of students who sat for the WASSCE failed.
Our hospitals are now where people go to die. Those who can afford it travel abroad for their healthcare needs.
Nigerians no longer talk about electric power supply because, after 15 years of the PDP government and more than $25 billion expropriated on power supply, the country is worse off. Our current power supply fluctuates between 2,000mw and 4,000mw. But $25 billion has provided more than 20,000mw for other countries with more serious governments. By common consent, the President and his party have failed. The PDP has also proved to be totally incapable of presenting its best people to Nigerians. The PDP wants us to meekly accept Jonathan’s incompetence and his failures as our destiny and then continue with him. It is only a party like the PDP that will place the ego of one man above the wellbeing of an entire nation.
Nigerians from everywhere yearn for change. They cry for a new direction because the country cannot continue on this path. That is why I want to be President. I have come to offer that change that will change Nigeria forever. I do not seek to be President simply because Jonathan is not a good President. I want to be that President that will change the course of Nigerian history forever. That is why I come to you waving the scroll of BIG IDEAS – big and bold ideas that will move our beleaguered country into the league of First World nations. All our programmes shall be powered by big ideas and, today, I will mention only a few.
The first thing our government will do is to unite the whole of Nigeria as quickly as possible. As I have said in several fora, Nigeria is currently too divided to be called a nation. No country ever makes progress with the kind of divisions we see in our country today. Confronting this challenge is the simplest thing a serious leader can do. There is no magic about it. All a leader needs to do is be sincere about it. I will need to unite the whole of Nigeria behind me as quickly as possible in order to be able to work the big ideas that will change this nation forever. Any President who governs his country with fairness, justice and charity to all will have no problem uniting his people, no matter how disparate they may be.
Under my presidency, all crimes will be punished, no matter how long it will take to apprehend the criminals. We shall send a clear message to criminals that whoever commits a crime will be apprehended and brought to justice according to the law – whoever they are, no matter where they come from and no matter how long it takes. I will not be that President who would say that people are killing themselves because they don’t like me. I will not only be in office, I will also be in power for the good of the majority of the people.
All murderers will face the full weight of the law.
Concurrently with the business of uniting the nation, we shall also quickly secure Nigeria and Nigerians. Security is the most elementary duty of any leader. I will do this by retooling the entire security and intelligence infrastructure of the country and by being that President who takes his duty as Commander-in-Chief seriously. Luckily for us, Nigeria still has some of the best soldiers, policemen and intelligence service personnel anywhere in the world. All they need is competent leadership, training and re-training as well as 21st century equipment to meet the challenges of the modern world. One of our major problems is that we are still using the 1990s and 1970s methods and equipment to fight today’s crimes.
We are also going to expand the various security services to match the challenges of our current size. We are going to modernise and increase our police strength from the current 370,000 to at least 1,000,000 immediately and then gradually grow it to at least 4,000,000. We shall do most of the recruiting from among the millions of graduates that roam the streets in search of jobs. A serious nation of 178 million people should not have just 370,000 policemen.
As President and Commander-in-Chief of Africa’s largest country and its biggest economy, I will rebuild Nigeria’s military to be the most formidable fighting force in Africa. I shall rebuild the military not only for Nigeria’s security but for Africa’s stability, as I believe that Nigeria has a responsibility to lead Africa. We have a national interest in ensuring stability in other African nations. We shall also build a strong military in order to defend our currency and protect our economy. The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) will also be upgraded to do much more than it is doing today to supply both our needs and export to other countries.
Under my presidency, the military will never be our first line of defence as it is today. We shall create special forces whose members would be drawn from the different services for the most difficult security challenges. The first line of defence for any country that has terrorism challenges should be its borders. Our nation’s borders are probably the most porous in the world: 1,497 illegal entry points into the country have already been identified and the government is doing nothing about it. That will never happen under our presidency.
Nigeria’s unemployment level is a bomb waiting to explode. By conservative estimates, there are 48 million unemployed Nigerians and a troubling 54% of the Nigerian youths are unemployed. Even though the economy has grown, poverty rates have increased, precisely because the sectors driving the growth are not the ones in which the majority of Nigerians are accommodated. We must, therefore, bring more youths into agriculture, online business, manufacturing and housing. Since 48 million jobs are not immediately available, they would have to be created. Only big ideas can solve a challenge this magnitude. Our government will create an army of entrepreneurs all over the country. We shall create five million small businesses in the first instance. A small business creates between two and five new jobs – that means potentially creating 25 million new jobs. That’s a heck of a big idea!
Another one. Our government shall construct one million new housing units yearly, for two reasons: one, to bridge the housing deficit and, two, to create jobs. It has been estimated that building one million housing units can create up to 30 million new jobs as several people including engineers, architects, plumbers, block makers, insurance companies, mortgage banks, estate agents, cement, tile and paint sellers, food vendors, furniture manufacturers, etc would be engaged. We will get the money for this huge project by borrowing from the pension fund which is now in excess of N4trillion; and, since the houses would be sold to the public through mortgage facilities, the borrowed funds would be paid back. We can also get the money from Quantitative Easing since a huge lot of economic activities, including manufacturing operations, will be created in the course of building the one million houses; so the risks usually associated with Quantitative Easing would be attenuated.
If we must remain the biggest economy in Africa, then, we must have the biggest seaports, the biggest banks, the biggest airports; and we must, by privilege and reason of location, be the aviation hub of Africa.
One of the very big ideas that we intend to work is the creation of a soccer economy. Nigeria has talent and Nigerians have passion for the game. There is no reason we should not profit from this as so many other countries do. We can organise ourselves to achieve this easily.
Also, we cannot be Africa’s biggest economy and the continent’s most populated nation (178 million people) and still be struggling with 4,000mw of electric power supply after squandering $25billion in the past 15 years. The world’s largest power station in a single location is the Three Gorges Dam in China which has an installed capacity of 22,500mw. It was constructed with $26 billion.
We cannot be Africa’s largest oil producer and still be importing fuel. That will stop under our government. And because oil will soon lose its critical global value due to improvements in fracking technology among the biggest consumers of oil, under our government, the country will invest heavily in non-oil sectors to diversify our economy. We shall do this as a matter of survival. It is no accident that God has endowed our country with so many resources. And we shall do it all over the country.
Our government will also aggressively encourage manufacturing, especially the small-scale manufacturing sub-sector. To do this, we will take bold and drastic steps to strengthen the naira. In the interim, we will strengthen the naira by paying the monthly allocations to all tiers of government in dollars since oil, our main revenue earner, is paid for in dollars. But instead of dishing out dollar cash which could encourage theft and capital flight, our government would issue dollar certificates to all the tiers of government. The different tiers of government would then have to convert these dollar certificates into naira in our local banks. If more dollars start chasing less naira, the value of the naira would improve at once. And when this happens, interest rates would also go down. Nigerian manufacturers would then be able to procure machinery and spare parts more easily, and, at single-digit interest rates, it would be possible for made-in-Nigeria products to compete with imported ones.
I have heard a few people say I have not had any experience in government and that, therefore, is a weakness. My answer to them remains this: Nations are today in a race for the future and nobody has the experience of the future. All experiences people claim to have are experiences of the past. And our uninspiring past cannot be a guide for our future, as we need a clean break from our past. Nigeria should be in a race to the First World and what is needed more than anything else is vision. I find my lack of experience in government a strength instead because I have not been part of the rot of the past.
In any case, I have the most important experience, which is being a serial entrepreneur. I have created institutions from Ground Zero. That is the most important experience anyone who wants to be President needs at the moment. In fact, a lack of entrepreneurial experience among those who lead us has been one of our problems so far.
And talking about experience, you cannot have more experience than President Jonathan. He has been a Deputy Governor, a Governor, a Vice President, and Acting President before becoming President, and see what this huge experience has done to our dear country. So much for experience.
Most of the greatest leaders the world has had had no government experience before assuming power. South Africa’s presidency was Nelson Mandela’s first job in government. The Prime Minister’s job was Lee Kuan Yew’s first job in government. And by the time Tony Blair became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1997, he had never worked in government. Ditto for David Cameron.
Most importantly, we intend to change how government works. Governments even in the best of countries, but especially in our country, have a problem of inefficiency, bureaucracy and corruption directly impeding well-intended plans. To change our country, we must change the way government works first. Our government will achieve this by the appointment of CEO-style ministers and heads of government agencies with clear targets and commensurate salaries and bonuses.
There are people who would tell you that it is not possible to implement all I have said. Don’t believe them. Those who know me would tell you that I am always unimpressed by what others say is impossible. Those who say certain things are impossible are continually being interrupted by those actually achieving them. All these and many more are possible but none of them will be easy. Nonetheless, we have to make the hard choices. If I am elected, I will take my election as proof that Nigerians want to change their country forever and I will, accordingly, use all the powers at my command as President to bring this about. We have seen how leadership has transformed countries ranging from small countries like Singapore, Rwanda and South Korea to the big countries like Brazil, India and China. I believe that, with faith in God, you and I together can keep this appointment with destiny.
God bless you all and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.