Monday, 21 January 2013

Alliance of Nigerian opposition should not be left to General Buhari and Myself. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

Brief Remarks by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the Public Presentation of the
“2015 Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Politics” by Salihu Lukman. Yar”adua Center, Abuja. January 15, 2013          

It is a double pleasure to join you today to celebrate our friend and brother Salihu Lukman as he celebrates his 50th birthday and launches a valuable contribution to our political discourse through his book entitled 2015: Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Politics.

A 50th birthday marks a milestone in the life a man. So my younger brother, I salute you and welcome you to the club of those whose time on earth now moves closer to 100 years than it is to the day of their birth. This birthday symbolizes the accumulation of experience, accomplishments and of wisdom. We are grateful God gave you to us. We are thankful for your life and ask that He provide you many more years so that you may continue to do important work for your nation and her people.

This brings me to the meat of the matter.  While your birthday is a personal milestone, your book is a political milestone and thus a national one.  I commend you for having the courage and spirit to write it.  You are a patriot whose service is not to curry favor from those who could enrich you.  Your service is for the greater good of the great mass of struggling Nigerians. 

If you wanted, you could have become one of the well-paid scribes of those in power. If so, you would have earned handsomely the coin of the realm for you have shown that you are talented and able. But you would have sold your soul in the process and you are too principled a human being to turn yourself into a commodity for such an exchange. That you stood for your principles when it would have been more profitable to have pocketed the ruling party’s and its decrepit government’s “pieces of eight” makes you are rare breed. If but for this reason and this reason alone, we are proud of you.  If but for this reason and this reason alone, we should all take notice and soberly reflect on the ideas expressed in this manifesto.
The basic theme of the book is unassailable. The national government and the ruling party that spawned it are one large infinite mouth. All they can do is eat and consume. They never give anything except to give orders to bring them more to eat.  They are ruptured promises that have become heavy yokes on the neck of the people. They have taken us from bad to worse. To show that this is no fluke, they now want to take us from worse to far worse come 2015. At least, we can say one thing about them.  They are meanly consistent. Everything goes downward. Nothing upward.

As Salihu identifies, the opposition has not been able to persuade the electorate that we are a better alternative.  Sadly, too many of our fellow countrymen see the opposition as merely a different face of the same dragon.  This is tragic because we truly offer a better vision and will give more faithful service to the nation than the ruling party.

However, we have not convincingly stated our case. Thus, we must begin to draw a clear distinction between the conservative elitism of the current government the progressive reform we offer to the people. We must do more than criticize the PDP failings. The people already know them for they suffer under these failures and mistakes every day. What the people need from us is the assurance that we have an intelligent, attainable vision for reforming our political economy. 

We have to do much better educating the people about the social and economic policies we will implement to put the nation on its feet, to provide our able-bodied citizens with meaningful jobs and labor, to offer essential support to those who cannot work through no fault of their own, to educate our children for the future instead of miseducating them for the past, to provide basic health care for families and care for our elderly who have given so much and now all they want is to live with some dignity and comfort in their golden years. 

We must tell the people how we intend to light this darkened nation and how we intended to build a magnificent infrastructure so that the economy can expand into it. In short, we must convince the people that the political contest is not a battle between competing factions of the same elite. We must convince the people that we represent a fairer day for the majority of Nigerians.

This book offers some insight in how to accomplish this mission.

The book is a thought-provoker. It is not important that you agree with every idea in it. I do not agree with everything in it. But the book does an invaluable service by raising core issues for fair debate and thus cordial resolution.

To some degree, I believe the book harbors too much on the alleged competing personal ambitions of General Buhari and myself.  This is understandable. It is part of our political parlance to focus on leaders. However, I tell you, that if General Buhari and I do our part to cement an opposition alliance, but everyone else takes a holiday thinking the hard part is over, we will be in a worse position by 2015 than had we not created an alliance. Thus, everyone must assess their role in the coming alliance and identify how they cannot only help bring it into existence but give it the fortitude, strength and ballast needed to navigate the difficult waters to electoral victory.

Here, I can say for myself and I am sure I also speak for the general in this regard. It is not in our hearts to sacrifice the national wellbeing in order to fulfill any personal agendas. Whatever responsibilities that need to be assumed or sacrifices needed to be made to consummate a progressive alliance, we shall do.        
Let me end by saying, happy birthday to our brother, friend and accomplished political advisor, Salihu Lukman. You have advanced the cause of justice, development and peace with this book. Although it is your birthday, it is you who have given us a great gift.  Now it is incumbent on those of us gathered here to show our appreciation. With great pleasure, I present to you 2015, Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Parties.