At Last, Farewell to Poverty, By Hafsat Abiola-Costello
Saturday is D-Day. It is a moment of joy that Nigeria has again been given an opportunity to stand on its feet. In this, I see clear evidence of God’s love for us. But we must now do our part. Let money not blind us to the task that is ours to do for the wealth that can be ours is far greater than any that our friends might offer us to induce our support for their candidate.
Over the last few days I have had the opportunity to meet with the foreign minister of the Netherlands and later to speak to members of his staff. They sought my opinion on the rape of girls and women by Boko Haram. Is rape being used as a weapon of war as is the situation in Congo?, they wondered. What can be done to address this problem?, they asked. Perhaps it was wrong of me but I had already moved ahead of the particular challenges of abductions, poor education and healthcare, corruption, and other symptoms of failure in our society. I was already in the future where our country was being governed by a leader I could trust. A leader who spoke with a simple sincerity and integrity and had the will to match his words with actions. I looked at them and told them that Nigeria will soon be able to address its challenges because our actions in the coming days would place us under a leadership capable of tackling our problems from their roots, once and for all.
I trust in you, the people of Nigeria, because my father trusted you. I trust that in spite of all the money that has been given to some of our leaders over the last few weeks, in spite of all the lies some have been peddling, that you understand what is at stake for Nigeria. It is no less than the fate of 170 million people. Only sincere and effective leadership can secure our country and secure for us a tomorrow worthy of the sacrifices of our heroes, worthy of our ambitions for our children. I know that things are rough. I know that the incomes in most households cannot meet the burden of your needs and that some of you are sorely tempted to just take care of yourself and your nuclear family. But even if you individually are connected and can access the spoils being divided through the bankrupt system that has been used by Nigeria’s government, can that be said for all those you care about? Can that be said for the majority of Nigerians? By now we should understand that we will do best individually when we look out for everyone collectively.
In reaction to this letter, some will tell you that I am only being partisan but let me ask you if, since 1999, I have ever publicly endorsed a candidate? The truth is that my parents sacrificed everything, including their lives that Nigeria may work. It is not working and cannot so long as some hold the whole country to ransom. What our president must do is to transform a system, not simply replace the few benefiting from it with a different group of chosen few. A true transformation may mean that the few will not be as rich but the majority will no longer be poor. So let us take a stand so that Nigeria is no longer for sale. No one can buy what we will not sell at the market. When we refuse to sell our country to the highest bidder, we will also be protecting our legitimate aspirations to live in dignity, security and prosperity.
Today the world celebrates Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore for moving a small island country in Asia from third world to first. But imagine if the people of Singapore had never given him a chance to lead them. Would the world even know that the country existed today, talk less of recognising it as one of the world’s success stories? That is the task before you on Saturday. Everything depends on you.
One last message for President Jonathan. Thank you for your efforts to lead Nigeria. Should the results of the elections not favour you, please be aware that a smooth handover would still secure you a place among the giants of Nigeria. The curses that surround those that stood in the way of the peoples’ mandate on June 12 will never be yours should you lose and yet demonstrate the exemplary leadership that others failed to show then. Do not doubt that your name can yet be written in gold.
So in closing, to avoid any confusion, let me say clearly: in the 2015 presidential elections, I endorse General Muhammadu Buhari fully and without reservation. In 1993 my father promised Nigerians that if given the presidential mandate, our people would say farewell to poverty. We know that because the elections were annulled, he could not fulfil that promise. Sadly, that promise remains unfulfilled till today. It is my honest conviction based on a disinterested assessment that General Buhari is our best chance of seeing that promise fulfilled.
Thank you all for reading this.
Hasfat Abiola-Costello, daughter of Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the 1993 Nigerian presidential election, writes from Abeokuta.