By Ayodele Simon
I am a 40 year old woman; a mother, a wife, a working class citizen and a member of the fast disappearing middle class in Nigeria. I have voted only once in my life. Yes, just once! This was during the 2007 elections where I voted the late Umaru Yar’Adua for president.
Am I a bad citizen? I do not believe so. I just have not utilized my civic duty or responsibility to vote. Why? Because like many other middle-class citizens in Nigeria, I do not believe in party politics; I do not vote ACN, PDP, CPC, APC, SDP, but I believe in, no, I want actual solutions to the numerous challenges that beset us as a nation, and I will only vote for a candidate with solutions, not the party he or she belongs to.
Donald Trump played the solutions card to the average, unassuming Americans, when he promised to make “America great again.” He promised them safer borders, more jobs for Americans, less immigrants, a smaller government with fewer regulations and even a wall he promised to make Mexico pay for!
Trump swayed the voters in his favour, including voters in hitherto solidly Democratic states that were taken for granted as Never-Republican states. As a result, the American people voted for solutions; they voted for an individual who, even though attimes was not forthcoming with the truth on several issues, but who they still believed could make things happen for the American people. In other words, they did not vote Republican or Democrat, they voted Trump!
Let us come back to Nigeria. Has anyone of us taken a few minutes, apologies, a few days, to bother to read and understand the very recently passed 2018 budget? Can anyone please tell me the percentage allocated to education? 7%! Yes! A budget of a whopping =N=9.1 trillion has allocated a paltry 7% to education.
Now, what about healthcare? How much of our common wealth has been allocated to healthcare? The answer is 3.9%!!! Clearly, this shows how little importance the current government places on the education and health of Nigerians (amongst others). Little wonder, therefore, why some of our graduates struggle to string or write proper sentences together; or why the life expectancy of an average Nigerian is 53. Wonder no more.
What about our economy? In Nigeria today, we have 5 or 6 different exchange rates for conducting international business transactions. Guess which is the best exchange rate you can get for your transactions? For the importation of books? For the importation of medicines and medical equipment? For the importation of building materials to build more schools for our future generations? No, of course not! Out of the multiple exchange rates in our economic space, the best exchange rate incentive you can get is for the importation of petroleum products! How unserious.
I didn’t vote for Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. I didn’t vote for him because I didn’t think his ‘change’ was anything more than a marketing slogan or a sales pitch as opposed to a real body of solutions to our many problems. On the other hand, majority of Nigerians fell for and voted for this concept of change, as they saw it. To these Nigerians, I now ask these questions; Are you better off now than you were in 2015? Are you safer now than you were in 2015? Are you more financially stable now than you were in 2015? To those who voted for change, “how market”? I thank you for the vicarious punishment that you have served to us, the non-voting citizens who are waiting for a candidate with actual solutions to our numerous problems.
For me, at this moment, only one person comes to mind that appears to have actual plans and workable solutions to these numerous problems. Atiku Abubakar talks, walks, sounds and appears to have something worth looking into.
As I read through Atiku’s policy initiatives and achievements from the past few years (visit www.atiku.org); as I research more into the person that he is – a Statesman, a businessman, a seasoned politician, a father, a husband to 3 wives (one is Yoruba, one is Hausa and one is Ibo) and a genuine philanthropist, my hope is rekindled that all may not be lost for Nigeria.
Did you know that Atiku as an individual and as part of several corporations directly employs more than 50,000 people in Nigeria? Actions speak much louder than words. Did you know that in his time in office as Vice-President of Nigeria, from 1999 to 2007, Atiku was responsible for assembling, directing and overseeing what is, generally, regarded as the most dynamic and effective economic management team in the history of Nigeria. Far-reaching and wide-ranging economic reforms programmes were undertaken leading to the restructuring, opening up and transformation of most sectors of our economy, a marked improvement in the quality of life of many Nigerians and the commencement of a journey to economic revival and boom.
With the prospects of an Atiku presidency now looming, for the first time in my adult life and as a female living in Nigeria, I sense that palpable change and possible redemption that all those who truly love this country yearn for.
For the first time in a very very long time, there is a new spring to my step every time I think about the opportunities for growth and advancement for my generation in this country with an urbane, dynamic and cosmopolitan Atiku at the helm of affairs of government.
Fellow Nigerians, what we need at this critical juncture in the life of our country is a leader who can plan for our future beyond resource driven booms and a leader who can assemble a forward-thinking team that will help build an economy that will be sustainable for the long term. A leader that will focus squarely on reducing our chronic unemployment and create opportunities that will keep pace with our rapidly growing population. We need a leader who believes, in and empowers our youth who are known to thrive if given the opportunity to do so. From listening to and reading about Atiku Abubakar, I am now firmly convinced that he is that kind of leader.
Come February 2019, I will vote for a man that promises solutions to our lingering problems. I will vote for a man that demonstrably promises a better Nigeria. I will vote for a man that is a tried and tested Statesman; a man with well thought out policies and trackable plans. I will vote for a man that understands the meaning of GDP, Sustainability, Monetary Policies, Diversity, Inclusion; A man who knows from actual experience and interaction with Nigeria’s young populace that they are some of the most inventive and hardworking people on the planet, who seem to thrive anywhere else but here.
Next year, I will vote for Atiku Abubakar as the next President of Nigeria because, in my lifetime, I will like to know that My Nigeria Is Possible and that my children could have a country that they would be proud of.
In the final analysis, I want to be able to look back some day and know that, like the heroes that fought for our independence, I too fought through my one solitary vote and voice for a better future and a better country, and I did not fail the next generation.
I will vote next year because I believe, with Atiku Abubakar as President, the Nigeria of my dreams, the Nigeria of our collective dreams, is very possible.
Mrs. Ayodele Simon, a banker, wrote from Lagos