By General Muhammadu Buhari.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this first meeting of representatives of our supporters’ groups coming together from all over the country. I am very happy to have this chance of meeting and speaking with you today.
Let me first begin by paying tribute to you for what you have been doing to our project and to our campaigns. You have been volunteering from the beginning by giving your all to us. Our project is poor compared to all others. The only capital we have is the trust of the people which they have of their own accord given us. You are doing everything and nobody is paying you. It is as Sherry Anderson has said, ‘Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.’
The very act of volunteering is the ultimate exercise in a democracy: while you vote in elections only once a year, when you volunteer, you are voting every day about the kind of government we want to have, the type of leaders we want to see and the kind of communities we wish to live in.
In the circumstance, I do not even have the words to thank you enough for all your commitment and for all your sacrifices and all that you have been doing for our common cause. Nevertheless, I would like to begin by thanking you no matter how imperfectly for your support, for all your invaluable but unpaid work you are doing on our behalf all over the country.
And you are not just bringing yourself to our campaign organisation; you are bringing your life-skills, your experience and expertise, your friendship and inspiration, and, above all, you are bringing your time, which is your most precious resource. Some have given money, and in this business, money is very crucial, and others have given other resources in kind: and all these have been extremely helpful; but still money and other resources are things that can be paid back. It is the value of the time you have spared for this organisation that is truly incalculable. And it is this investment in your time, more than any other input, that will take us to our goal.
I am very proud of you and thankful for all the support you have demonstrated. Whatever we have been able to do, the credit belongs to you. We may be the most underfunded project in the history of this country, but by the grace of God and your support, we are the greatest crowd puller in the nation today; and the credit for all this goes to you for being there on the scene of the struggle.
We don’t have anything to offer you by way of payback for all your massive and unprecedented support, except our own commitment to be even with you at all times—and to preserve, protect and discharge the trust you will put in our hands.
The Task Ahead
Today, we are in the 15th year of purposeless leadership by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP; and all we have seen is unprecedented deterioration in the security and law and order situation, astronomical rise in the incidence and intensity of corruption, and in the failure of governance. And as we reach this last lap of the journey, I would like to request that we concentrate all our effort and energy toward realising and achieving change in how this country is run. The only way to meaningful change in this country is to vote the PDP out of the power to which it was never legitimately elected, anyway.
The task before us today is wide ranging and very great. The first and most important is to take away power from those who have been misusing it. Indeed, except for the call of patriotism, public-spiritedness and an abiding love for the people of this country, nothing will today make any honest, honourable and sane politician want to be saddled with Nigeria with an economy in trouble and a society in even deeper trouble—with its perilous security situation, with its extensive and almost unmanageable corruption and with its pervasive lawlessness. And a government—is there really a government?—that is not working.
We have made all the necessary preparation to take away power from the inept ruling party. For the first time, the credible opposition in Nigeria has come together in order to give the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, a good run for its money. As demanded by the exegesis of the moment, members of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, and elements of the All People’s Grand Alliance, APGA, shed their individual identities to found the All People’s Congress, APC.
Following meticulous and transparent merger talks and with a demonstration of maturity and patriotism, members of the opposition sacrificed their individual platforms and created a pan-national political party. And a truly national party with patriots and a formidable cast of politicians from all over the country has been formed.
Needless to add, APC is a democratic party with a popular nationwide support base that will prove unbeatable in any free and fair election in Nigeria. Within the next few weeks the party will hold its convention to choose the flag bearers who will stand election on its platform. Your duty as supporters and volunteers will, among other things, include participation in the preparation for these primary elections and seeing to their successful conclusion, and getting yourselves ready to do all it takes to wrest power from the PDP.
With your support, I intend to offer myself for the position of the president of the republic on the platform of our great party. I intend to make a formal announcement on October 8, and I hope I can count on your continuing support and sacrifice. However, I would like to point out to you that, to be more meaningful, your support must extend beyond my person and always be available to the party and all those the party puts forward; because it is the party that is the platform.
You must at all times remember that the APC is a party with several qualified people for each and all the positions that will be contested, including that of the president. It is the primaries that will determine who eventually represents the party in which capacity. If I get the party nomination, I expect you will redouble your effort and commitment until we clinch the presidency. But in the event that it happens to be one of the other aspirants who wins, I will expect you as good party men to extend to him your total support. We are a united party, and united we shall remain, because our strength lies in our unity.
For this and for other reasons, I must warn all my supporters, volunteers and other well-wishers within the party or even out of it not to insult or be rude to any other aspirant or party leader on my behalf. My supporters must not engage in any kind of behaviour or conduct that will tarnish the image of any leader or promote division and rancour within the ranks of the party. Whoever does that should know he or she is working for the enemy.
At the same time, I would like to appeal and urge you to be good ambassadors of the opposition. As a body, the opposition is committed to the rule of law; and as members of the parties in the opposition, you must learn to do the same at all times. In particular, you must learn to be vigilant especially just before, during and immediately after elections, whether these are rigged or not, so that sponsored hoodlums are not made do not commit illegalities that are in the end blamed on you. Not only must you not take the law into your hands, no matter the level of provocation, you must be able to expose those planning to do so before they act.
I know it is all too painful for you to see votes you cast being disregarded and votes illegally thumb printed being counted to rig out the choice that you have legitimately and conclusively made. And it is even more painful when you know that the road to remedy has been firmly shut in your face; for, you are always called on to accept a judgment whose justice you cannot see, whose logic is flawed and whose facts speak against itself.
All the same, I urge you to take to patience. I wish to assure you that the leadership of the opposition is not unmindful of this sad and frustrating situation, and has accordingly put in place a mechanism that will permanently put an end to rigging in this country.
In times of trouble, always learn to listen to your leadership. and rest assured that whatever it does, the ruling party cannot avoid the Nemesis that it has itself invited by its misrule, its cluelessness about what needs to be done to rescue this nation from its current sorry state—and move it forward.
The Opposition Promise
We are the alternative the nation has been waiting for. We are committed to democracy and entrenching its culture in Nigeria. We are committed to the principles of good governance and making them work in this country. We are committed to public probity and entrenching a culture of accountability in the conduct of government business.
Because we are committed to developing the potentials of this nation into true greatness, we shall bring about transformative change in this country—change in the way things are done and change in the way things are undone; change in the way this nation is left unsecured and mismanaged; and change in the way corruption is pampered and worshipped; and we shall install a culture of openness in public affairs. We shall develop this land and go after prosperity and get it for our long-suffering people.
Once again, I would like to express my thanks to all of you volunteers who give us so much of yourselves—your time, your ideas and your resources—and expect so very little in return. I am ever so grateful to you for what you have been doing for us, and I pray God and a grateful nation will reward you at the right moment. You should take pride in the fact that what you are doing is very important to the present and the future of this nation.
This volunteer work you are doing gives hope to the nation that there are people who will sacrifice for an ideal and not only for what they can get. This is very important because the nation needs to know that an honest person who has something to contribute to its future, but cannot pay his way to the leadership, stands a chance of getting the chance. This is what your volunteerism eloquently tells the world; and it will be a very sad day for this nation if its leadership is for sale only to the highest bidder.