Ladies and gentlemen, it is with profound gratitude, humility and a deep sense of responsibility that I accept this nomination for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Let me express my thanks to the leadership and members of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) for your belief and wholehearted response to my vision for Nigeria, which has brought us here today.
To the love of my life, Pastor Nedu Ezekwesili, and my children, I would not be taking this step without your support and inspiration. Your love makes me a stronger and better person everyday.
I am grateful to God for the Divine Providence that has brought us to this point and placed us in this nation in this season of great opportunity. I have abiding faith that His mighty hand will lead us aright as we take our message of hope to the people of this nation.
I have taken some really difficult decisions in my 55 years on this earth, but choosing to mount this challenge for the presidency of our great nation is the toughest decision I have ever had to make.
I believe that every generation faces its defining moment – and for us, this is our moment. A moment when our country’s motto: “Unity and faith; peace and progress” no longer holds meaning for citizens.
In place of unity in diversity, we are faced with divisions, the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil War. The ruling political class stokes divisions between the “97% and the 5%”; their failed policies widen the inequality between the haves and the have-nots.
Instead of faith in our can-do spirit and a shared vision of our future, Nigerians across the country suffer a suffocating hopelessness and despair. Our young people have given up; abandoned their hopes and dreams. They are leaving the country in their numbers every day. What a tragedy!
Instead of peace and safety, our humanity is assaulted daily by killings, violence and kidnappings from Jos to Dapchi, from Afara to Zamfara.
Instead of progress, our country now appears to be marking time; stagnant or declining on all the most important indices. The few opportunities available are cornered by a greedy political elite.
Ladies and gentlemen, the choice before us at this moment is clear. Do we wither in the face of this unsustainable cycle of failure by successive administrations? Do we sit content on the sidelines while our country and our people move closer and closer to the tipping point of economic, security, political and social collapse?
I have a message today for the forces of the status quo and their defenders – Enough is now finally enough. We would no longer watch Nigeria be consumed in the flames of a mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another and fails to live up to its responsibilities.
I offer myself to lead a people’s movement that will permanently terminate bad leadership, ethnic and religious divisions, mediocrity and failure in governance in Nigeria.
I bring a message of hope. A hope that a stable, progressive and prosperous society is possible. A hope that together – with the support of those in this room and the millions who will join us on this historic journey in the coming weeks and months – we shall remove any barrier standing in the way of the #NewNigeriaOfOurDream. We shall begin by pulling down the stronghold of the two failed dominant political parties – #PDPAPC. We will disrupt the politics of this nation, displace the old order and replace them with a new movement of visionary and dynamic leadership that will mobilize Nigerians to build a new nation.
The #NewNigeriaOfOurDreams which we will build from 2019 will be measured on four planks of progress. As president, I will not take my eyes away from any of these four planks at any time:
- A high standard of living which we shall measure by real GDP per capita. It is a pity that Singapore which got its independence five years after Nigeria now has a real GDP per capita of $60,000, while Nigeria’s GDP per capita as at 2017 was $1,944
- A high knowledge capital which we shall measure by adult literacy. Today, the adult literacy in Singapore is 98%, while adult literacy in Nigeria is just 57%
- A high longevity which we shall measure by life expectancy at birth. Today, Singapore’s life expectancy is 85 years, Nigeria’s life expectancy is a mere 52 years
- A strong, resilient, sustainable and thriving nation which we shall measure by the fragility index. Today, we are the 13th most fragile country in the world. This is beyond unacceptable.
Let us not forget that the current government promised to create three million new jobs yearly, but under its watch we have seen more people lose jobs. Unemployment and underemployment have actually risen to 40% of the population. We can and we will do better. As senior economic adviser for the Open Society, I have advised some of the most reform minded governments on our continent. I served for five years as the Vice President of the World Bank in charge of the Bank’s operations in 48 countries. I know what sound economics that creates jobs and produces prosperity looks like. I know what it takes to build a productive and competitive economy. It is time to get our country and our country men and women working again.
Let us not forget that this government promised to kill corruption before it kills us, but under its watch the culture of corruption continues to fester under a regime of favoritism. There is no comprehensive strategy to the fight. There is not even a sincerity to it. We can and we will do better. As co-founder and pioneer director of Transparency International, one of the foremost anti-corruption organizations in the world, I ruffled feathers without fear or favor. As the head of the Due Process office under the Olusegun Obasanjo government, my team cleaned up the public procurement and contracting process in Nigeria. Some of the most sustainable transparency laws in Nigeria today have my imprint – from the public procurement to NEITI.
Let us not forget that this government promised to keep Nigerians safe and secure. But crime, violent conflicts and insurgency are on the rise. We can and we will do better. As president, the dignity of the Nigerian life will be at the centre of everything I do. My approach to security will be holistic. There is the militaristic intervention which we will take seriously, but just as important is a preventive intervention to crime, an economic intervention, as well as a climate and sustainable development intervention. The situation in the Middle Belt which has resulted in the sad loss of thousands of lives this year alone is one such issue that will receive the necessary holistic response from my government once and for all.
This government does not want to reform the NNPC and make it an efficient company we can all be a part of and be proud of, but that is exactly what we shall do from 2019. The current ruling class is afraid of diluting the excessive powers in the presidency and taking the difficult decisions in the oil sector that will benefit our children. Under my watch, the private sector will be positioned as the key to the productivity and expansion of the economy.
This government does not understand the power of disruptive technologies – the world is leaving Nigeria behind. The world is going through a 4th Industrial Revolution with profound changes that will basically change the world as we know it. How can a country gifted with millions of young, vibrant, brilliant people, be satisfied with just being onlookers at a time like this? It ought not to be so, and it will not be so under my leadership. I believe in the miracle of new, smart and disruptive technologies – from Artificial Intelligence to Quantum computing to Big Data and the Internet of things – to accelerate our productivity and global competitiveness. Under my leadership the young shall have their moment to demonstrate that they have the skills and attitudes to lead the rest of the world through knowledge.
My government will substitute oil focused governance with human capital governance. Today we have 13.5 million kids out of school. That’s a ticking bomb and things must change. Under my watch, education will be the new economy; education will be the new oil.
Make no mistakes about it, the economy that this administration will be handing over to us in 2019 will not look pretty. The skyrocketing debt burden they have foisted on us, the serious fiscal crisis and the deep structural imbalances that they have done little or nothing about will await us from Day ONE. As frightening as that realization is, think about what a great opportunity it will be for Nigerians to demonstrate our can-do spirit. Think about the effect that visionary leadership can achieve when the whole country is mobilized to sacrifice and work hard to achieve speedy recovery that benefits us all. That is exactly what we will do. What a great comeback story that will be!
But it’s not just about this government. This government is part of an evil ruling class, including those who were in the PDP, who then went to the APC and are now in the PDP again, asking for our votes. What do these people take us for – fools? Enough is enough of these #APCPDP Siamese twins.
Their mantra for governance is #TheEliteFirst or #ThePowerfulFirst or #TheGodfatherFirst. Our mantra for governance is #CitizensFirst.
Let me tell you something you will be hearing a lot when I become president: Equality of opportunity. Get used to it. Equal opportunity for all – for young people and older people. Equal opportunity for women and men. Equal opportunity for those from my region and those outside my region. Equal opportunity for all means equal opportunity for all. No exceptions. No parochialism. No favoritism.
I believe with all my heart that wherever you turn to in this nation, you can find hardworking Nigerians with character, competence and capacity. You can find them in the North. You can find them in the South. You can find them in the East, and you can find them in the West. Men and women with character, competence and capacity. Those are the kinds of people that will form my inclusive team from Day ONE in a historical #ProjectRescueNigeria that will birth the #NewNigeriaOfOurDream.
Ladies and gentlemen, my solemn commitment to Nigerians are not empty words. I have three decades of proven integrity and excellence at the highest levels of private sector, civil society, international development and government to show that a vote for me is a vote for capable and competent leadership. It’s a vote for the character, competence and capacity that I and you have longed for for so long, and have not gotten.
The roles I have occupied throughout my career were never just jobs to me; they were purpose-driven assignments. And now, the season has come for me to take on a new assignment to help lead our country out of the morass of governance failure.
In the last few weeks, I have gotten calls, received text messages and verbal advice from well meaning people who have said to me: “Oby, why not sit this one out? 2019 is too close and there is not enough time for a campaign.” They want me to wait till 2023 when – they think – I stand a better chance of winning.
I have had calls, texts and advice from some other well intentioned people who are concerned about what this race would do to me as a person. They have seen how Nigeria’s political arena has ridiculed so many great people who dared to run in the past. They are worried that it would do the same to me, maybe reduce my voice, affect my reputation and my career. I have heard all and I appreciate all those concerns.
But my running for president is not about me. This campaign is not about Oby Ezekwesili. It’s about a nation that is yearning for hope of what can be. If my strength fails me at the time my nation needs me the most then I have no business running in 2023 or any other year.
Those who know me know how much I hate politics, but I had to ask myself this time: “What do I hate more than politics?” I realized that my dislike for politics is nothing compared to how much I hate bad governance. I do not know much about politics but I know about empathy and caring for people and the serious issues that matter to people. And right now, our people have hit a level of despondency that I have never seen before. What is my career and reputation in the face of such despair? I am ready to put it all on the line. I will run this race the way I have done everything in my life – with values which are non-negotiable. I am not running because I am in a good position to win, I am running because Nigerians need a champion, and I desire to be that champion. And I hope I would not run alone.
So if you are tired of a government that does not work for your prosperity, join us.
If you are tired of a system that is rigged by the 1% of our political class against the 99% of citizens who simply ask those who lead them to create the right environment that supports their hard work, then join us.
If you are tired of small thinking and unintelligent governance; a leadership that ignores the power and productivity of women and young people, join us.
If you are tired of the exploding debt that leaves nothing for investment in our future; then join us.
If all you desire is a Nigeria that will guarantee hope, progress and prosperity of its people, then join us, support us, stand with us, and let us make progress together.
The time is now, my fellow Nigerians, to take our destiny in our own hands. Let us dream big dreams and do big deeds together. Let us band together to make Nigeria a country that inspires its citizens, inspires Africa and inspires the world. Let us make this country a place of boundless dreams, boundless opportunity, and boundless hope. We cannot turn back, and we must not waver.
Fellow Nigerians, I come with #HOPE2019.
God bless you all. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Obiageli ‘Oby’ Katryn Ezekwesili
Presidential Candidate, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN)
Abuja, Nigeria | 7 October 2018