By Bola Tinubu
History is upon us, asking something bold of us. Those who hear must respond to its call because history is impatient. If we tarry, history shall not. If we fail to act as the situation requires, history will still move forward and its pen will write an unanswerable verdict against us. All the prior achievements and feats we have recorded in the past will matter little unless we now answer the challenge now facing us.
We have come to the place where things must change or we shall sink. For the nation to continue as is constitutes nothing less than an invitation to doom. Such a fate we shall not abide.
The hour is late and our chance for national progress reduces with each idle moment. The way Nigeria is governed must change and change dramatically. This means the shape of politics must change.
Nigeria must be a prosperous, secure, safe nation that helps weaker nations attain peace and stability. Instead we are beset by woe on all sides. Boko Haram falls upon our people in the North. MEND in the Niger Delta falls upon us. Kidnapping and robbery encircle the nation as if we have become a training ground for criminal misconduct.
Rich in manpower and material resources, Nigeria should set the agenda for economic development and broadly shared prosperity on the African continent. Today, the opposite is the case. Instead of having a wealth of domestically produced goods in our manufacturing basket, we hold a virtually empty basket. As such, we have become a basket case.
More Nigerians than ever before suffer under the daily grind of poverty. Unemployment is so rampant among our youth that finding a job is no longer the natural progression of life. It is seen as a miracle.
Even then, upon finding work, too many people soon discover they labor for wages below the subsistence level. For them there is too many days left until the end of the month after the money is finished. With too little food and more tears in their eyes than drinkable water in their cups, they stare into the darkness of despair on a constant basis.
This is not the way of a great nation. It is the way of heartless and mean governance that puts the interests of small elite above the interests of the common working man and woman who are the soul and backbone of this nation.
We should have a vast land transportation system that moves our active, energetic population safely and moves our goods and produce cheaply. Instead, our roads have become portals of death where people perish by the dozens — one accident after another.
Yet, those in command do nothing for the average Nigerian who is forced to run this gauntlet of death for his daily crumbs of bread. Instead, those who could improve this situation for the good of all do just enough to make things better for themselves.
Where the road is bad, they budget for it, still the road gets worse off. Where the road is impassable, they offer excuses and empty promises. The touted improvement in electricity supply is now a mirage. In the midst of petrol dollars and abundance of natural gas Nigerians are without a commensurate standard of living. Our billions are embezzled and shared to cronies. The slogan of the ruling party is power, but corruption is the fuel that powers their government.
End to national corrosion
In a prior age, an arrogant ruler reportedly once scoffed regarding her starving population, “let them eat cake.” Today, our rulers scoff at our people “let them face death.”
The current way of governance makes nation building impossible. What it does is make poverty and the erosion of a just society inevitable.
We have gathered at this hour and in this place to put an end to this national corrosion. We have assembled to bring a new day and a new Nigeria to our people.
The Nigerian people are decent and hard-working people. They also are long –suffering. Just because they are long –suffering does not mean they should be forced to suffer until death comes.
Our people have had enough of having nothing. The current government’s trademark is to throw empty words and hollow action at our problems as if doing nothing will cause our troubles to leave from sheer boredom. Instead, trouble mounts.
If this is the government’s idea of transformation, I will have none of it. It seems their notion of change is to go from slow motion to no motion at all. If they want to stand still, that is their right. However, they have no right to force the whole nation to stagnate with them. We have things to accomplish and progress to make for the good of the people.
If they have nothing to offer except the nothing they have been giving us, let’s join hands with others to sweep them aside. so that we can keep pushing through and move this nation upward and forward.
This is why we hold our convention today. This convention portends the coming of great political change. A storm is brewing. Don’t be frightened. It is a positive storm with a positive wind. Those things that have no roots and offer no solution to the plight of the people shall be swept away. This storm will change the political terrain forever. I am not afraid of this storm. I welcome it because the storm is us- our new vision. Our new party!
I stand to tell you that for the good of Nigeria this must be the last and final convention of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. As one of the national leaders of this party, I have dedicated myself to our political collaboration. I am attached to it in the strongest way. I am proud of what we have accomplished. Had we not held fast in the South-west against onslaught and intrigue, Nigeria would effectively be a one party state. When history rights its tale of the past decade, it will say the ACN preserved Nigerian democracy when it came under great threat.
Weighing in the balance
But we must enter a new phase if poverty and want are to be lifted from the backs of our people. Given the destructive nature of PDP governance, we can no longer be satisfied with preserving democratic practice and with serving as the opposition. The first step in changing Nigeria for the better is to change government for the better.
Weighing all things in the balance, if I must decide between the existence of this party and the improvement of Nigeria, I must choose the improvement of Nigeria. That is our duty and responsibility. While it would be most comfortable to remain with our party as is, with its unique symbol, manifesto and constitution, we are not here to do what is comfortable. We are here to do what is right for our people and our country.
We are here to answer to a greater, higher calling. That calling is the love of Nigeria.
To rescue Nigeria from the blight of mis-governance, we must join hands with like-minded progressives in other parties and organizations. We must sacrifice our current partisan identity to create a larger one capable of assuming leadership at the national level. This and only this offers the best chance for Nigeria at this stage. We dare not miss this chance because we cannot be sure of another.
I ask you my brothers and sisters to take pride in what ACN has accomplished but to have the vision and courage to see that our national imperatives require us to enter a new phase of political maturity, sacrifice and cooperation in order to bring an era of progressive governance to the whole of Nigeria and not just part of it. If we must end the ACN identity to form a new party so that Nigeria can survive and our people can live better life and face a rewarding future., then so be it. We shall do this with serious yet happy purpose and no regrets. May your chests fill with pride at what we have done and may your hearts fill with optimism at the better future that we shall create.
Join me today in voting to move our party into merger with the ANPP, CPC, other parties and organizations to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.
I assure you that the place we are going will be your house of political fulfillment. We shall have a meaningful voice in the APC. The principles of democracy, justice, visionary governance and liberty that shaped the ACN shall carry over into the APC. The new party will be as welcome a home as the ACN. It will just be a bigger house for a larger political family.
It shall be this family that saves Nigeria by bringing to the people the creative policies that promote wide prosperity, employment, infrastructural overhaul, education, health care, civil rights, peace, stability and justice.
Thus vote with me to close the historic and noble chapter on the ACN so that we can begin a new and bigger book called the APC. For us this is not a sad ending, it is but the beginning of a great beginning. Let us do what is right so that when history writes its account of this day, it shall write that we lived up to our moral duties by doing what the moment required.
For a better Nigeria, the ACN must join with other parties to merge into the APC. This is our last best hope. There is nothing else to do. Thank you and God bless this convention and God Bless Nigeria.
*Tinubu delivered this speech at the ACN dissolution convention which took place at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos, Nigeria on April 18, 2013.