Association of Nigerian Scholars for Dialogue
Being Text of an Acceptance Speech as a
Presidential Nominee of the Peoples Democratic Party
Jos, Plateau State
Monday, February 15, 1999
LET me thank all you wonderful people gathered here in this beautiful city of Jos for this convention.
I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of spontaneous support that greeted my nomination as flag bearer of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
I thank all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria everywhere, who have consistently supported our campaign for national reconstruction with prayers, counsel and encouragement. The way and manner this presidential primaries were conducted is indeed a tribute to the resilience of the democratic temper of the PDP, the leading political party on the continent of Africa.
I thank all fellow contestants for the presidential ticket for their enrichment of the democratic process. I thank especially Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Don Etiebet, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Alabo Graham-Douglas, Chief Philip Asiodu, Francis Ellah, all of whom deserve appreciation for the vitality of their participation, the vastness of their individual visions and the vigour of the commitment to national unity. It was truly a family affair. The dynamism of the electioneering has lifted my optimism about the democratic possibilities for our traumatised nation. It also vindicated my choice of PDP as the best platform on which to offer myself for the service of the nation.
I commend the leadership of our great party, the PDP, from the ward to the national level for their untiring efforts in laying a solid foundation for our party. I commend in particular, the chairman of our party, Chief Solomon Daushep Lar, members of his executive and all party members who spent their time and energy to organise these successful primaries.
To you members of our great party, let me ask you of this: let us join hands together to rededicate ourselves to the service of our country and to the unity of our people; let us heal our wounds, and let us together restore the faith and confidence of our people in our fatherland, let us restore faith and confidence in our leadership and in our governance.
Let me make a solemn pledge before all of you, before the whole world and before God, that I will devote all my energy and all I possess in my power to serve the people of Nigeria and humanity, in justice and with fairness. I pledge to build a team of worthy Nigerians to join me in the great task of uplifting this nation and its people to be worthy members of the world community. Let us build in the next four years strong bridges that will bind our great and diverse people. Let us also build a strong bridge between our country indeed, our continent with the outside world.
After my release from prison, counsel of caution and withdrawal from public life sounded so sweet to my ears. Yet there comes a time in the life of a patriot when abdication would amount to a betrayal if not outright treachery.
Thus, I came out of retirement to re-establish the traditions and structures of good governance that had broken down. Together, with the support of all, I can lead this nation to greater glory and abundance of life.
A lot of heat, but unfortunately little light, has been generated by the debate over my being a retired soldier, as if it were a crime to have chosen a profession with the potential for supreme sacrifice for one's nation. Much of the debate has sought, perhaps understandably, to feed on the feeling of frustration and despair experienced under recent military regimes.
Nevertheless, I am happy that by nominating me today as the PDP flag bearer, we will have buried the illogical polarisation of the nation into soldiers and non-soldiers. It would have been a great disservice to the cause of democracy to create the impression among serving officers and men that a future role in politics, as civilians, was foreclosed for them by an argument unsupported by the constitution.
As I said when I originally declared my intention to run in this race, my previous administration left behind the following:
I shall carry the presidential flag of the PDP with great pride and rich sense of history. Long before the formation of the party I had been in the pro-democracy trenches as a soldier of freedom but always with an eye for the indissolubility of the Nigerian federation. But the unity and stability of Nigeria must be predicated on justice and equity for all. The emergence of the PDP therefore provided me with a natural habitat from where I could take off, with like minds to reconstruct the national edifice.
My colleagues in the presidential primaries have shown that they are true democrats by the gracious manner in which they have accepted the verdict. I assure them that their various visions for a greater Nigeria will be incorporated into where we should be heading to as a people.
I wish to assure you that no interest will be ignored and no point of view will suffer from lack of attention. I am inviting all PDP presidential aspirants to join my campaign team which, of course, now becomes the party's campaign team in the pursuit of the task ahead.
Now that the internal contest for the ticket of the PDP is over, let us move forward. And let us work together as one united family so that we can realise for our potentially great nation its manifest destiny. Nigeria has no business with poverty. With our human and material resources, we shall strive to eradicate poverty from our country. Nigerians should, in the next four years, be assured of, of least, the basic necessities of life. Equally, we shall strive to improve on the opportunities available to our womenfolk to contribute towards national development. Our youth deserve special attention. They must be fully involved in the process of charting our collective destiny.
The PDP, under my leadership, will provide the platform for the realisation of all these objective. It is the party that can rescue the nation from its predicament. We shall do this through honest, just, transparent, dedicated and courageous leadership. We will be responsive and accountable to the electorates.
Let me reassure the people of Africa and of African descent that Nigeria under our party and my leadership in government will continue to defend and protect their interest at home and around the world.
In anticipation of our success in this presidential race I would like to assure the international community of our determination to continue to fully discharge our obligations to our commitments. We also assure the international community that a conducive environment will be created for profitable participation in our economic life. We need the support of our friends in the task of rebuilding our great nation.
Long live the PDP!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
Thank you and God bless you all.