Dear Compatriots and Friends,
MY APPEAL TO ALL NIGERIANS, PARTICULARLY YOUNG NIGERIANS
Happy New Year! May all our national calamities disappear this year.
I am constrained to write this letter to all Nigerians, especially young Nigerians, and to friends of Nigeria globally as well as our development partners because of the gravity, responsibility, and implications of the collective decision Nigerians, both young and old, will be making within the next two months.
The last seven and a half years have no doubt been eventful and stressful years for many Nigerians. We have moved from a frying pan to a fire and from a mountain top to a valley.
Our leaders have done their best, but their efforts have turned out to be less than ideal for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad. For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth.
Those of us who are alive should thank God for His mercies, brace ourselves for the remaining few months of this administration, and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future—a future of liberation, restoration, and great hope and expectation.
We have had campaigners going up and down the country feeding us with what they mean and what they do not mean, what they understand and what they do not fully understand, what is possible and what is not possible, what is realistic and what is unrealistic, what is true and what is untrue. I believe that we need not be confused or gullible. Let us be cautious and not be fooled again.
I have interacted with the major contestants, and I find it interesting that, in one form or another, each of them claims to want to do what I did during my presidency and to take Nigeria back to where it was at the height of my presidency and immediately after. I was saddened that most of them were unaware that the Nigeria of today had been dragged far below the Nigeria of when I took office in June 1999.
Although, at the time, Nigeria was in dire straits, on the verge of collapse and disintegration.
Even then, Nigeria was not faced with the level of pervasive and mind-numbing insecurity, rudderless leadership, mismanagement of diversity, pervasive corruption, bad economic policies resulting in extreme poverty, massive unemployment, and galloping inflation.
For these reasons, I kept pointing out to them that the instruments and methodologies used from 1999 to 2007 were grossly inadequate for the perilous situation in which we now find ourselves.
Without prejudice but with the greatest respect to each individual and the utmost regard for the best for Nigeria and all Nigerians, and from my personal experience, all the major contestants claim to be my mentees. I will not deny such positions since I have worked with all of them directly and indirectly in government.
I have come to realise a number of factors in character, attributes, and attitude that are necessary in the job of directing the affairs of Nigeria successfully and at a time like this. These characteristics or attributes are many, but let us be mindful of some key ones together.
From interaction and experience, and as mentees as most of them claim, I will, without prejudice, fear, or ill-will, make bold to say that there are four major factors to watch out for in a leader you will consider hoisting on yourself and the rest of Nigerians in the coming election, and they are what I call TVCP: track record of ability and performance; an authentic, honest, and realistic vision; the character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are God’s children and obedient to God; and physical and mental capability with soundness of mind as it is a very taxing and tasking assignment at the best of times and even more so at the worst of times that we are in.
Let me say straight away that “Emi Lokan” (my turn) and “I have paid my dues” are one and the same thing and are the wrong attitude and mentality for the leadership of Nigeria now.
They cannot form the new pedestal to reinvent and invest in a new Nigeria based on an all-Nigeria government for the liberation and restoration of Nigeria. Such a government must have representation from all sectors of our national life: public, private, civil society, professional, labour, employers, and the diaspora. The solution should be in the form “we” and “us,” rather than “me” and “I.”
Mind you, I reiterate that no human being is an angel, let alone a Messiah, but there are elements of these attributes, and on a comparative basis and by measure of what we know and what some of us have experienced from the front-runners, we must assess judiciously and choose wisely.
If anybody claims he or she has anything to the contrary, it will be up to him or her to prove it to us.
I pray not to be proven wrong in the negative sense, but rather to be proven right in the positive and glorious sense of Nigeria becoming what God intended it to be: a land of plenty and prosperity united for a common purpose of inclusive society, common security, shared prosperity, equity, egalitarianism, justice, and an equal stake in Project Nigeria with Nigeria’s leadership role for the black race and a fair share of the global division of labor.
One ridiculous point that has been touted to justify unjustifiable appointments and selections is “competence.” In truth and in reality, genuine competence can be found in any region or section of Nigeria through track records and performance if only people will honestly and sincerely look hard for people with such attainments and attributes.
Most of us, in good conscience, can testify to competence when we see it anywhere. What is masquerading as “competence” is self-interest and nepotism.
We have a unique opportunity to correct ourselves for our own good. Those who are preaching division, segregation, and separation and want to use diversity for their own self-interest are enemies of the nation, no matter what else they may disguisedly profess or proclaim.
The Task Is For Nigerian Youth:
If we fall prey again, we will have ourselves to blame, and no one can say how many more knocks Nigeria can take before it tips over. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The future is not an emotion. I challenge the youth to arise. Let no one pull the wool over your eyes in order to divide and/or segregate you in order to make you underlings.Nigerian youth, wherever they come from—North or South, East or West—need education, which is now denied to over 20 million children; they also need skills, empowerment, employment, reasonably good living conditions, welfare, and well-being.
My dear young men and women, you must come together and bring about a truly meaningful change in your lives. If you fail, you have no one else to blame. You have the power to shape your present and future.In the same way, the future of Nigeria is literally in your hands.If you fail to redeem yourself and your country for whatever reason, you will have squandered an opportunity for good, and you will have no one to blame but yourself, and posterity will not forgive you.Get up, get together, get going, and get us to where we should be. And you, the youth, it is your time and your turn. “Eyin Lokan” (Your turn).
The power to change is in your hands. Your future, mine, and the future of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in your hands. Politics and elections are numbers games. You have the numbers; get up, stand up, and make your numbers count.
Let me say it again, loud and clear: Nigeria has no business with insecurity, poverty, insurgency, banditry, unemployment, hunger, debt, division, and disunity. We are in these situations because, intentionally or inadvertently, our leaders have made the choices. They have done the best they could do. Let them take their rest, deservedly or not, and let them enjoy their retirement as septuagenarians or older.
I became head of state at 39, and at 42, I retired to the farm. When it was considered necessary, I was drafted back into active political life after twenty years of interregnum. I came back at age 62, and by age 70, I was on my way out. Others, like General Gowon and Enahoro, became national leaders at 33 and 27, respectively, and General Gowon was at the helm of the leadership of Nigeria at the highest level. The vigour, energy, agility, dynamism, and outreach that the job of leadership in Nigeria requires at the very top may not be provided by a septuagenarian or older. I know that from personal experience. And it stands out in our current experiences.
Otherwise, we will be fed with “The President says,” and we will neither see nor hear him directly as we should. Yes, for some, age and physical and mental dispositions are not in tandem.
However, where and when they are present with obvious evidence, they must be considered for purposes of reality.And yet, in our current situation, it is a job where the team leader or captain of the team should be up and doing, outgoing both inside and outside, speaking to the nation visibly and as interactively as possible on a daily basis, and meeting his colleagues all over the world on behalf of Nigeria.
Youth of Nigeria, your time has come, and it is now; please grasp it. If not now, it will be never. I appeal to you to turn the tide on its head and march forward chanting “Awa Lokan” (Our Turn), not with a sense of entitlement but with a demonstrable ideological commitment to unity and transformation in Nigeria.
Leave The Past, Face The Future:
Can we let the past go? I appeal to young Nigerians to stop inheriting other people’s prejudices and enemies. Make your own friends and stop inheriting your father’s enemies.
Let’s stop criminalising and demonising one another on the basis of the civil war, on which we are all wrong. And let’s praise and thank God for preserving the oneness of Nigeria.
The Scripture says that if God took account of all our wrongdoings, nobody would be able to stand before Him. While not suffering from amnesia, let us stop fighting and reacting angrily to the civil war in our hearts, minds, heads, and attitudes.
Let’s stop living on our different wrongs or mistakes of the past: treasonable felony, the Tiv riot and its handling, the first military coup and its aftermath, the second military coup, the Araba pogrom, and the civil war, all in the 1960s. And more recently, OPC, Egbesu, MASSOB, IPOB, Boko Haram, and banditry. No region can claim to be innocent or saintly. and no justification will suffice. I
In our respective individual or regional positions, we have done right and we have done wrong. It is therefore not right for any of us to be sanctimonious and see ourselves as saints and the rest as devils incarnate.
Just let us agree to move forward together in mutual forgiveness, one accord, an inclusive society, equality, and equity. Together and without bias, discrimination, fear, or favour, we can have Nigeria as one nation in diversity, in truth, and in practice. Let us honour, cherish, respect, and even celebrate our diversity, which is the basis of our potential greatness and strength.
If we only continue to harp on the wrongs done by each of us individually or collectively, we will never be able to stand together. If we continue to paint a national or sub-national group with a wide brush and declare it bad and never to be trusted with leadership because of past errors or mistakes that some of them were responsible for and treat their offspring as inheritors, it will amount to great injustice that will surely lead to no peace, no security, and no stability for development and progress.
First, no group is faultless; second, for the greatness of the whole, we need one another as constituents of the whole; third, we cannot be talking and working for Africa’s integration and for Nigeria’s disintegration at the same time. Why, for instance, should I be stigmatised or despised because of my place of origin, place of birth, or where I come from? Where I was born, by whom I was born, and when I was born were not choices made by me. They were choices and prerogatives of God.
Any animosity against me on that basis is unfair and is tantamount to fighting against God, the Creator. Such derogatory attitudes and mindsets do not build any human institution, let alone a nation. While not forgetting the past, let us put it behind us so that it does not continue to mar our present, our future, and that of the coming generation. We must rise above primordial animalistic instincts and behaviours. Yes, we are humans, and we are superior to wild animals.Let us develop a national ethos and national characteristics that can take us collectively to the promised land.
My dear young men and women, let me assure you that there are only two tribes of people in Nigeria: a tribe of good people and a tribe of bad people. You are either a good Nigerian of Igbo or Kanuri extraction, etc., or a bad Nigerian of Yoruba or Ijaw extraction, etc.
At this point, I’d like to commend the politicians for keeping their campaigns civil and not turning politics into a call to war against their opponents.
Genuine and fair competition conveys greater legitimacy in any political rivalry or competition. A situation in which people in positions of authority and power obtain such positions through foul and despicable means and continue to advocate and act in ways that only engender conflict or war by undermining the legitimacy of power and authority does not bode well for the polity, and as such, the moral foundation of the government and society will be severely weakened.
May God help, save, protect, and sustain Nigeria for all Nigerians, for Africa, and for the human race. We can only continue to play politics of ethnicity, religion, region, and money bags at the peril of our country and to our own destruction. We need selfless, courageous, honest, and patriotic leadership—in short, outstanding leadership with character and a fear of God beyond what we have had in the recent past.
None of the contestants is a saint, but when one compares their character, antecedent, understanding, knowledge, discipline, and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge. Others, like all of us, have what they can contribute collectively to the new dispensation for the liberation, restoration, and salvaging of Nigeria.
One other important point to make about Peter is that he is a needle with thread attached to it from North and South, and he may not get lost. In other words, he has people who can pull his ears if and when necessary.
Needless to say, he has a young and able running mate with a clean track record of achievement both in public and private life.