Distinguished guests, fellow Nigerians, ladies and gentlemen of the press, welcome to this historic occasion today, the battle for democracy in Nigeria and Africa enters a decisive phase. On June 12, 1993, I was elected president of Nigeria with a majority of 58% of the votes cast, in what national and international observers adjudged the freest and fairest elections in the history of Nigeria. Today I should have formally assumed office and
commenced my term as president in accordance with the 1998 constitution. Yet the unelected military dictatorship, which set up the electoral process still conspired to frustrate the will of the Nigerian people.
The mandate given to me by the people was to implement the program, which I presented throughout my presidential campaign, highlights of which I will elaborate shortly. Had everything proceeded smoothly I would have by now selected a cabinet of able and dedicated Nigerians to implement the program.
The program will restore fundamental human rights, integrity, transparency, accountability and sound economic management in conduct of pubic affairs through the elimination of extra-budgetary expenditure, fraudulent conversion of oil revenues, inflation of contracts, excessive spending on ‘security’ and luxuries, the budget deficit and inflation will be reduced, and the value of the national currency enhanced.
My government will dedicate itself to the elimination of corruption in all facets of our national life. It will co-operate fully with all international agencies to stamp out drug trafficking, which had hitherto thrived under apparent official patronage.
Government spending will be cut from wasteful expenditure and corrupt practices to make funds available for investment in water supply, education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, research and development and labour intensive industries. This will lead to the creation of employment and the elimination of poverty. Nurturing of skills and other human resources are keys to economic development, and my program aims not just to invest in our peoples’ talents, but to reverse the brain drain syndrome by bringing back those educated Nigerians forced to flee their country by economic mismanagement, and social and political insecurity.
I recognized the obligation to pay debts, which are legally contracted, but this obligation is mitigated by our inability to pay. It is obvious to even our creditors that Nigeria cannot now pay its debts because mismanagement and corruption fuelled by dictatorship, have reduced the productive capacity of the economy. It is in the interest of our creditors to help us restore our capacity to pay. My program offers this social contract: in return for a moratorium on debt. The program aims to restore economic wellbeing through sound management, and financial prudence. This will boost our ability to pay and at a much enhanced pace.
Nigeria, like all other countries, has an interest in attracting foreign investment. But investors also have an interest in putting their money in Nigeria, one of the largest markets in the world, with enormous potential in terms of human and physical resources. Our labour is not just cheap but skilled and productive, and there is tremendous scope for investments in energy and infrastructure. We shall open all aspects of the economy to private investment, red tape will be eliminated, and repatriation of dividends guaranteed.
By honouring the mandate of the people expressed on 12 June, peace, political stability and security of life and property will be restored, removing some of the major obstacles to sustained economic development. Government will withdraw from those areas of economic life for which it is not suited, and concentrate on setting precise national goals embodied in the program of the Social Democratic Party and coordinating the most suitable means for achieving them.
I know that we have sound, committed and competent Nigerian men and women of transparent integrity who would join me in implementing these programmes. They exist in every part of the country, every walk of life, from within and outside both political parties and from every religious and ethnic group. The situation in Nigeria now does not call for a government in exile. It may in fact be more conducive to a return to the democratic process arbitrarily interrupted on 23rd June. In any event, I have every intention of returning home sooner than later to hold wide consultations and begin the process of democratic governance in earnest.
In this endeavour, the existing democratic structures on ground at the local government, state and national levels will play a vital and integral role. They have already proved as commendable bastions in resisting General Babangida’s manoeuvres to extend his presidency by all manner of subterfuge.
In this connection, I should thank members of the National Assembly for standing firmly for democracy in the face of serious last minute temptation and intimidation. When the history of this period is written, their names will be written in letters of gold. I must reiterate the warning to those who still collaborate with the military dictatorship in frustrating the democratic process, of the consequences of subverting the constitution of our country, which we are bound by law to uphold. Neither the people of Nigeria nor the international community will forgive such unpatriotic actions.
Fellow Nigerians, distinguished guests, members of the press the struggle for democracy is not limited to Nigeria. But extends to the rest of Africa and the whole developing world. If a cabal of four Generals can permanently overthrow the ballots of fourteen million Nigerians, then faith in the ballot box will be destroyed in Nigeria and all over Africa.
How the democratic world reacts to the so-called annulment of the June 12 elections, will forever decide the fate of democracy in Africa. We have seen what havoc the lack of democratic processes and political accountability has wrought in Bosnia, Somalia and Sudan. I do not pray for such to happen to us in Nigeria through the continued manipulation of our democratic process by the military dictatorship.
I have deliberately refrained from commenting on the so-called Interim National Government, hastily composed by former President Babangida as he retired from office. The body represents nobody but Babangida and his small clique. The people whom any government ought to seek to represent have spoken on June 12. I still remain the legitimate custodian of that historic mandate. The interim National Government is a non-event in the calendar of democracy in Nigeria and the people’s verdict on it has already begun to be heard loud and clear.
They reject it out of hand! I reject it in toto! Only a democratic Nigeria based on the June 12 elections will surely influence for good development in Africa and the rest of the world.
Finally, I pay tribute to the determination of the mass of the Nigerian people, at home and abroad, to fight for their true emancipation. The struggle is not about M.K.O. Abiola being president but about the Nigerian people being allowed to exercise their fundamental human rights and freedom of choice to elect their leader. Their valiant resistance since June 23 has already succeeded in the disgraceful exit of the main impediment to the people’s democratic will. I know our people will persist in their just struggle and I assure you I shall continue with you until final victory is achieved by the grace of Almighty God.
I thank you all and God bless!