By John Adebayo
WITH the 2019 general elections less than 140 days away, this is the season of declaration of intentions to vie for political offices.
Expectedly, the presidency is one of the most sought after positions. Currently, there are no fewer than 60 pretenders and contenders for the prime seat occupied by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Less than a quarter of the aspirants have purchased the nomination forms of their various parties and about half have formally declared their ambitions.
However, only a handful of the aspirants have succinctly identified the problems of the country and proffered practical and sustainable solutions.
It is on this score that all the aspirants must tell Nigerians their perception of the problems of the country, their vision, mission, and solutions, and perhaps, promises that they could be held accountable for, if elected.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, last week, joined the presidential race on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and made efforts to answer these questions.
In a 25-point, 1,708-word declaration speech he delivered at a dialogue with youth and young aspirants at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, Saraki, 55, outlined why Nigeria cannot afford to get it wrong at the 2019 presidential poll.
Senator Saraki saw in the youths future leaders who are capable and worthy to take the mantle of leadership in Nigeria; a determined generation ready to join forces with others to power a Nigerian renaissance; the more than 70 per cent of our population that is under the age of 40 are indeed the future of this country; and we need a new generation of leaders that are competent, with the capability to rise to the challenges of the 21st century.
As a relatively ‘young’ country bursting with tremendous energy, ability, potential and a young population in which more than 70 per cent is under the age of 40, Nigeria ought to be the envy of many Western countries that are faced with ageing populations, but the dire state of our affairs tarnishes the youthful advantage that we have, he said.
According to Saraki: ”Up and down our country today, Nigerians are crying out for succour. Many of our children are hungry. Many people are dying of avoidable or otherwise treatable diseases. Many have fallen below basic living standards, and are now among the 87 million that sealed Nigeria’s position as the country with the highest number of people in extreme poverty. Our young people lack opportunities. The necessary education facilities and system to equip them for the future simply do not exist. We are not creating the jobs needed to usefully engage them in order to grow our economy. And too often, the youth feel shut out, prevented from having any say in the direction of this nation.
”The harsh conditions of extreme poverty faced by the people, fuels the state of insecurity all over the country. Hunger, lack of education and lack of opportunities push many Nigerians into criminal activities including terrorism. Many of our communities are paralysed with fear – due to incessant communal crises, kidnappings and other social ills, as well as the threat of terrorism. We are failing abysmally to tackle the problems of today and to prepare for the future.
”Our economy is broken and is in need of urgent revival in order for Nigeria to grow. GDP growth rate has declined. Diversification remains an illusion. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Businesses are shutting down. Jobs are being lost in record numbers, and the capital needed to jump-start our economy is going elsewhere.
”Nigeria is perhaps more divided now than ever before. We are increasingly divided along regional, religious and ethnic lines. Nigerians are also divided by class, a festering gulf between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have-Nots’. The fault lines of this nation are widening to an alarming degree.”
Way forward, solution
To get out of the doldrums, the Senate President said we must ensure the security of lives in Nigeria; restore the sanctity of the rule of law and strengthen democratic institutions in order to build a just, fair and equitable society for all; rebuild the trust of our people in government; get a new generation of leaders that are competent, with the capability to rise to the challenges of the 21st century; and pull the country back together and rebuild, block by block, with dedication and commitment.
How he will actualise the solutionIf elected, Dr. Saraki said he will: Grow Nigeria out of poverty, stimulate the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, as one of the ways of energising the economy and to create wealth for Nigerians, especially the youth; ensure that youth play major roles at all levels, not only in government but also in the private sector; His government will be driven by youthful energy, innovation and a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit; ensure funding for youth who have ideas and capacity; build on the Made-in-Nigeria legislation as part of his job creation drive.
Other promises include: Securing Nigeria by redesigning our national security architecture, and adequately equipping security agencies to fulfil their primary role of protecting lives and property; address our infrastructural deficit through aggressive financing initiatives including mutually beneficial PPP arrangements, regular floating of bonds and other financial instruments, funding to see to the completion of core projects especially road, rail and power; protect all Nigerians and defend their constitutional rights and freedoms; uphold at all times the principle of the rule of law; fight against corruption will not be selective; Strengthen institutions, with a particular focus on deterrence; avoid compromising of our institutions proxy wars against perceived political opponents among others.
The choice before Nigerians
In the 2019 election, Saraki said the choice Nigerians face is either to keep things as they are, or make a radical departure from the old ways. To find a better way of doing things or keep repeating the mistakes of the past. To fix the problems or keep compounding them.
”As a former two-term governor and currently President of the Senate by the grace of God, I believe I possess a unique blend of executive and legislative experience to push for and implement reforms that will deliver real improvements in the daily lives of our people. I know what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy. I can make the tough decisions when it matters. I will spearhead a new agenda that can transform the lives of ordinary Nigerians in real terms.”
The antecedents of Saraki, since his foray into the political terrain as governor of Kwara State in 2003, support his declaration day claims that he is one of the very few Nigerian leaders capable of fixing the country at this time. Every well-meaning Nigerian should stand with him on his ambition to be president.