As we enter a New Year today, it is all too easy to give in to despair and despondency at the current state of Nigeria. The gap between our tremendous potentials as a country and our actual attainments is depressing and disheartening. For a country as endowed with human, material and natural resources as Nigeria, the level of poverty in which the vast majority of our people live is appalling and unacceptable. The voodoo statistics of illusory growth and progress peddled by those currently in charge of Nigeria’s affairs do not reflect the dire material circumstances of millions of Nigerians.
The ever widening inequality between the wealthy minority and the impoverished majority is fueled largely by a scale of corruption and outright theft of public funds that have reached unprecedented heights in today’s Nigeria. All of these are responsible for the large scale manifestation of sundry forms of violence and insecurity across the country that undermines the very foundations of the Nigerian state. Yet, the growing impunity of an arrogant, imperious and complacent presidency weaken the rule of law and prevent the purposeful and responsible governance necessary to tackle Nigeria’s severe challenges.
But then, despair is a luxury we can ill afford as a country and a people at this time. Despair breeds depression and a sense of hopelessness. This can only result in a paralysis of the popular will that will benefit those who want to lull us into collective inaction, so they can perpetuate their misrule of our much abused country. 2015 will be one of the critical and momentous years in the history of Nigeria. It must be a time to renew our hope in the possibilities of our country. Hope enables us to generate the strength to take the positive action as citizens to achieve the positive change Nigeria so badly needs today.
Another Nigeria is possible. A Nigeria where focused, visionary and competent governance vigorously tackles corruption, insecurity, poverty and promotes peace, progress and prosperity for all is attainable. After the current darkness, a glorious, new dawn for Nigeria is possible. But this needed change will not occur by chance. It can only be the result of deliberate and purposeful action on the part of our people to utilise democracy and popular power to achieve national liberation and transformation.
If not urgently addressed, the stratospheric level of hunger, deprivation and inequality in the land will inevitably provoke a violent revolution in the land. Indeed, we already have a situation difficult to distinguish from bloody revolution on our hand. It manifests in the armed robbery, kidnapping, communal conflicts, religious extremism, terrorism and ritual killings rampant in Nigeria today. We have no choice but to be active participants in the common sense democratic revolution needed to salvage our country. It is a common sense revolution that must insist that legitimate power flows from the will people duly expressed in free and fair elections. Governments must assume and remain in power only at the pleasure of the people. That is the only way that democracy can promote development by ensuring that government is responsible and accountable to the people.
My message to our fellow country men and women is thus simple: this year must be one of eternal vigilance on the part of us all. This is the price we must pay for our democratic rights and liberties as citizens. Let us make no mistake about it. The traumatic experience of the over 200 Chibok girls who have remained in captivity for over six months shows that plaintive cries to an impotent government to ‘bring back our girls’ have become insufficient. Rather, we must utilise the power of our vote to ‘take back our country’ from the predators and scavengers in the corridors and bedrooms of power that currently hold her hostage. This calls for eternal vigilance to exercise our vote and protect out sacred mandate at the polls.
As the careless, reckless, irresponsible and highly suspicious handling of the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown, every effort will be made to disempower voters by a sinking and desperate administration. Millions of voters across the country have been disenfranchised in the flawed process. This subtle coup against the very foundation of democracy, voters’ power, must be challenged and resisted. Flaws in the process must be corrected. All eligible citizens must be enabled to exercise their inalienable right to vote for a government of their choice. This can only be achieved through eternal vigilance and persistence by the populace in insisting that the entire electoral process must be free, fair, transparent and credible.
Nigerians face a critical choice at the polls this year. We must vote for either continuity of the present decadent order or change. Yes, many state governments across the country have performed creditably in diverse sectors despite the meager resources at their disposal compared to the Federal Government. However, the PDP-controlled Federal Government, which controls the bulk of the country’s resources, has been an abysmal failure. It has failed to provide the necessary leadership for accelerated national development commensurate with its immense resources and its phenomenal powers under the present corruption. The Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Presidency in particular has been a catastrophic disaster.
The country today has degenerated to unprecedented levels of global obloquy as a result of the prevalent repellent levels of corruption, impunity, insecurity and leadership mediocrity. The greatest need of the hour is a drastic change of direction at the national level. It is the emergence of a visionary, responsible, patriotic, purposeful and competent Federal Government that will diligently pursue the path of transparency, accountability, respect for the rule of law, true federalism and justice without which there can be no national transformation. As I wish the good people of Nigeria a happy new year, I urge us to rededicate ourselves to the realization of the positive change on which the very survival of the country depends. Eternal vigilance must be our watchword this year.
*Being text of the New Year message to Nigerians by the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu