The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, says Nigeria’s Founding Fathers could never have fathomed that 59 years after birthing the largest black nation on earth, “we would be facing a situation where we do not have a free press, our judiciary being under attack, and our youths and activists, who should ordinarily be the future of Nigeria, would be facing the very real threat of arrest and intimidation should they speak out about the state of the nation.”
In a statement he personally signed, Atiku further noted, “My dear citizens of Nigeria, I could go with the flow and the cliche and say all is well with Nigeria, but as the late Chinua Achebe once wrote, ‘when an adult is in the house, the she-goat is not left to suffer the pain of parturition on its tether’.
“I could call for prayers, as others would indeed call for today. I could also call on Nigerians to show more understanding, as indeed many have said in the past and will undoubtedly say again today. But I am mindful of the fact that the time for rhetoric has long since passed and now is the time for all lovers of Nigeria to take concrete steps to aid Nigeria’s progress, by not just praying and showing understanding, but also to take democratic action to ensure that the ideals of our founding fathers – Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress – are not set aside on the altar of tyranny.
“All is not well when judges are persecuted for enforcing the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens. All is not well when Nigeria is now officially the world headquarters for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow, while the needs of the governed are not being met. And certainly, all is not well when the media cannot freely express itself without the fear that those who wield the big stick would use it on them for saying things as they are.
“So, rather than just call for prayers today, I am calling on all Nigerians to believe in Nigeria’s betterment, to work for Nigeria’s betterment, and to insist that no one in Nigeria, no matter how highly placed, shall be bigger than the laws of our land.
“It is not all gloom and doom, however. There is still hope. Much hope. I took time to listen to a recent remark made by the Emir of Kano, HRM Muhammed Sanusi II about why we need to pay more attention to the issue of girl-child education. It is an age-long truism that women are the teachers of a nation. I make bold to say that the greatness of our country, Nigeria has much to do with how well we educate how children, especially the girl-child. My commendation goes to Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State for leading the way by massively investing in public education.
“I also specifically want to cite the example of Chief Allen Onyema and his public spiritedness which saw him offer relief to Nigerian citizens who were victims of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“By repatriating hundreds of Nigerians back home, at his cost, Mr. Onyema and Air Peace, have revived hope in the Nigeria of our founding fathers’ dream. I would like to quote Mr. Onyema. When the first plane of repatriated Nigerian citizens landed at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Mr. Onyema said: ‘When I stepped inside the aircraft to welcome them, they mobbed me and started singing the Nigerian national anthem, there was nobody there singing about separation, they felt proud to be Nigerian, they rose in unison, that drew tears from me.’
“You see, when we put Nigeria first, we not only revive the Nigerian Dream, we also revive Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress, which were the ideals that our founding fathers had in mind when they came together to put forward this new and independent nation 59 years ago on October 1, 1960.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have a role to play in making our nation great. Nigeria should be the beacon of hope, democracy and freedom, to not only the African continent but to the black diaspora the world over. And to ensure that this becomes the case, we all have a duty to support and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And this we must do, so help us God.
“And it is on this note that I wish all Nigerians a happy Independence Day. May God bless all of us and may God bless Nigeria.”