TEXT OF ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE FREEDOM RALLY FOR ONE NIGERIA BY AFRICA WOMEN ARISE FOR CHANGE NETWORK IN LAGOS, NIGERIA ON WEDNESDAY AUGUST 8, 2018
Thank you for making out time to be present here at this FREEDOM RALLY FOR ONE NIGERIA, which was put together for Nigerians to reassert themselves as the ultimate stakeholder in the determination of the affairs of the country. The previous years have been period when a select few not only arrogated to themselves the monopoly of being the sole deciders of our collective fate but they went ahead to allocate the entire country to themselves. Now that they see that the people have gotten true leaders that are committed to making life better for them.
This has manifested under the previous administrations by way of political office holders turning the public treasury into personal expense accounts from where they channel public funds into local and overseas accounts, set up their own children at the expense of destroying the economy, provoke impoverished populations into becoming terrorists and all other forms of impunity that had programme the nation to collapse at some point. These crimes were well hidden by making crumbs available for the larger population to subsist on in exchange for being indifferent to the damages being done. Nigerians were made to accept the food of today as opposed to being taught to embrace the value of sacrifice to build durable infrastructure and institutions that will outlive those that built them.
Africa Women Arise for Change Network is pleased that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was bold enough to marshal the political will and determination to break away from the destructive cycle that was once the norm in the land. Mr. President’s commitment to the war on corruption has yielded results as money is being recovered from thieves that stole us blind while the system has been tightened to make theft of public resources less easy than it was under the previous regimes.
We understand that the war on corruption has limited access to slush funds for all Nigerians, which has in turn caused people to tighten their belts and reassess their economic choices. The chorus of hard times across the land is therefore understandable in the context of people having to re-learn allocating resources based on their genuine incomes. It is however reassuring that the decision that gave rise to this feeling of doom will eventually lead to sunny times ahead.
Such positive outcome has pre-conditions, one of which is that citizens must buy into ongoing reforms and stick to it until the end. This is why we are holding this rally to remind ourselves that what we are experiencing in the country today is a natural consequence of trying to do the right thing after several years of following wrong processes. We also see our present experience as a phase at which laying the foundation for future prosperity is coming with seeming pains.
The Freedom Rally for One Nigeria is further to remind us all that we should not allow those who once tried to destroy the country to succeed. Such people have been trying to use the impact of the anti-corruption war to incite Nigerians against the government and against themselves. We have seen them bellyaching and daily creating the impression that we are not making progress as a country while the reverse is the case.
Progress is being made under the government of President Buhari and the Freedom Rally for One Nigeria aligns totally with this progress. We are for progress and development under President Buhari. It is something we want to continue. But unfortunately, those that have truncated the fortunes of the country want to be allowed to keep sabotaging the country.
Most tragically but unsurprisingly, a former president, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, is the arrowhead of this misguided group. He has used the pedestal of the esteemed office he once occupied as a platform to launch attacks on a government that has succeeded in delivering to Nigerians what he failed to deliver in the eight years he led the country and things his party was not been able to deliver in the sixteen years it held Nigeria hostage. Had Obasanjo and his party laid the right foundation for Nigeria, the country would by now be past the stage where the present government has to begin building the nation afresh from the ground up.
Obasanjo’s failure to build systems and institutions with preference for being the strong man has done untold damage to the psyche of the nation. The present administration is constrained to begin rebuilding critical national institutions while reintroducing systems that should have been in place long before it came into office. We do not want to venture into the parlous state of critical national infrastructure that are only now being built. Yet, in those eight and sixteen years, the country was bled dry, verging on the point of death while the enemies of the land pretended to be making giant strides.
We are also aware that while Obasanjo appears to be attacking President Buhari, his main target is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who he is afraid will soon surpass him in stature as a leader in the region. Obasanjo’s hatred for Osinbajo and other Yoruba politicians has pushed him to the extreme and he does not mind burning down the whole country with his utterances so long as he can hurt the government in which the Vice President is a part. Proof of this is in his lack of fairness in criticising the current administration as a way of insulting Professor Osinbajo.
This Freedom Rally for One Nigeria therefore categorically state that it is time for Dr. Obasanjo to keep quiet and let Nigeria work and succeed for Nigerians. If he is bored and is desirous of catching fun as a drama king he should find a past time that do not entail acting the role of the shadow president. We prescribe for him to productively use the excess time he has on his hands in sorting out the dysfunction in his immediate and extended family. If he has not been successful in averting the failings in his immediate family we wonder what qualified him to have led Nigeria in the first place because the mess he made of the country is reflective of the failure he has been in the most basic enterprise for a man, which is the running of a family.
We appeal to President Buhari to focus on the task of rescuing Nigeria form the stranglehold of the likes of Obasanjo while he remains undeterred by the attacks. We further urge Mr. President to acknowledge that the time for niceties are over as the reality on ground demands that the nation gets to the root of its problems without fail. For instance, we know that the violence affecting part of the country is not unconnected with the tendency for certain people with influence to maintain killer squads, which get out of control once their sponsors are out of power. It is on record that Obasanjo introduced the culture of organizing, training and arming such squads during his ill-fated third term bid.
Mr President should henceforth allow the relevant security and anti-corruption agencies dispense with the requirement to un-necessarily treat former Presidents as untouchables so that the anti-terror and anti-corruption wars can go on successfully. This is especially so when they have been proven to be strategic to the continued unity of the country as the corrupt people are the ones financing terrorists and separatists that are bent on destroying the country.
With this Freedom Rally for One Nigeria we affirm that we will not allow evil people triumph over us neither shall we allow them partition our dear country. Long live Nigeria. We therefore conclude this address by declaring our support for President Muhammadu Buhari and his able Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. We urge them to ignore Obasanjo, who the electorate in the south-west do not know because of his unbridled greed. The Presidency has our assurance that we will take up protests to every single location associated with Obasanjo if he continues to attack the leadership of the country.
Mrs Josephine Okpara
African Women Arise for Change Network.