On October 21, 1984, Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States was engaged in a pre-election debate with his opponent, Walter Mondale, who was Vice President under Jimmy Carter.
Reagan was 73 years old and Mondale was 56 and had been gaining in the polls because of his youth full age.
As the debate commenced, Henry Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun asked Reagan about his advancing age. Reagan, who was then the oldest American president looked at the much younger Mondale before him and then turned to Trewhitt and said “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
In this classic response, Reagan highlighted to the American voters the advantages of age which include wisdom and experience. The American voters agreed with him that age should not be an issue in an election but that what mattered was the vision or manifesto the candidate was bringing to the table.
Reagan soundly defeated Mondale in the election in November and went on to become one of America’s greatest and most idolized presidents.
Here in Nigeria, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa; unarguably one of Nigeria’s most visionary and most gifted politicians since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, may soon find himself in President Reagan’s shoes.
A tiny but influential group, long embittered by Atiku’s ever-rising acceptability across Nigeria, is now feverishly trying to sell the view that any candidate who is above 65 years of age should not be supported in the 2019 presidential election; a self-serving unconstitutional position clearly targeted against the cerebral former vice president.
In the last few years, Nigeria has changed dramatically. Yesterday’s solutions have proven incapable of sustaining our march to unity, peace and progress but unfortunately, there are people who still flaunt yesterday’s failed solutions as the panacea for our present sorry pass. What they profess is a continuation of the failed status quo. But what Nigeria needs now is a real change leader who has the vision and courage to alter the status quo and pull this nation back from the brink of destruction.
History teaches about uncommon leaders who in moments of great national distress rise to the occasion to reset their nations on the path of prosperity and great nationhood.
In Britain we had Winston Churchill, in the United States we had Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, in China there was Chairman Mao Zedong and in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. In Nigeria soon, there will be Atiku Abubakar, the change Nigeria needs.
For space constraints, let us briefly look at a few of the Waziri Adamawa’s prophetic and visionary interventions into Nigeria’s political economy to ascertain whether indeed he can read the future.
Since ages, Atiku has always canvassed for a change in our energy power structure stressing that it is defective and will not provide electricity for Nigerians. That Nigeria continues to grapple with poor electric power supply is because the Atiku electric power plan has not been implemented in Nigeria. Atiku’s power strategy is the construction of smaller power generating plants all over Nigeria to serve clusters of people in the areas where these plants are located. Nigeria’s current power strategy has continued to invest and waste billions of dollars on white-elephant power infrastructure that have continued to produce darkness, decade after decade.
About a year after the inauguration of the current President Muhammadu Buhari government, Atiku had called for a change in this government’s economic policies saying that the policies being put in place will not engender economic development. There was a flurry of attacks against him. Less than six months after his advice, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that the economy had plunged into recession.
And long before the now recurring deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen, Atiku had been advocating for ranching as the modern way of growing the livestock industry to avoid encroaching into farmlands. To walk the talk, he went into the production of animal feeds. Now several years down the line and with thousands of lives lost in the clashes, is everyone not saying ranching is the way to go for sustainable peace?
While delivering a paper on restructuring at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) recently, Atiku, a research buff who is always thinking ahead had told his audience: “Oil is not infinite…in the next 10-20 years the proportion of the energy market share that fossil fuels hold will shrink and almost vanish even as those of alternative energy are set to rise dramatically…Volvo and Peugeot have announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars…France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, has told the world that petrol and diesel cars will be illegal to make or sell in France by 2040. Norway has said it will do the same but earlier: by 2025. On a recent visit to the United Kingdom I noticed that senior members of the Conservative Party were driving the Toyota Mirai, a car that runs on hydrogen and emits water instead of harmful carbon monoxide…So the world is not waiting for us to see reason and reengineer our economy”.
Few days after Atiku’s lecture, the British government also formally announced it would phase out petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040.
Atiku’s consistent call for restructuring has now been accepted as the only condition for sustainable peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.
Atiku is the only presidential aspirant that has a verifiable track-record of canvassing the need to alter the status quo in order for Nigeria to achieve sustainable peace, unity and progress. All other presidential aspirants are committed to the sustenance of the failed status quo.
But the truth of the matter is that the status quo can no longer remain. With the sorry state of our economy, politics and unity, any continuation of the status quo will inevitably lead to the dismemberment of this country.
Which of Atiku’s opponents can match the Wazirin Adamawa’s job creation acumen and record? Which of them has Atiku’s pedigree in business and financial management? Which, among them, can equal Atiku’s track-record in human resources development; or his legendary ability to read the future? Even his greatest critics acknowledge that Atiku is what the Yoruba’s will call “okunrin meta”, which literally means a three-in-one man: employer of labour, jobs creator and youth supporter. At the last count, he has created over 50,000 jobs and still counting. The American University of Nigeria, a not for profit institution, which he founded in Yola contributes about $100 million to the GDP of Adamawa State.
Nigeria’s multi-dimensional problems have reached an implosive stage and only a leader like Atiku who is truly detribalized, eminently visionary and clearly acceptable across the ethnic and religious divides that make up Nigeria can pull this nation back from the brink of destruction. His verifiable vision for Nigeria will galvanise the potentials of this great nation and usher each and every one of us into the Nigeria of our dreams.
Udenna Orji, writer, political analyst and businessman lives in Abuja and can be reached on 08033603119 or [email protected]