GENTLEMEN of the Press, Fellow Citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I consider it important to address and report to you today on issues that define the future of elective government and legitimate leadership in our country.
Political leadership and active citizenship matter because they are ways through which we all work together to build a country that works for all who live in it. Our country is bigger than any of us, and its standing in the world affects the fate of all who come from or live in it. As leaders, it is our duty to advance the well-being of all our people and of the country.
For this purpose, my generation worked hard to return the soldiers to the barracks and to defend the right of the people to elect and establish for ourselves a legitimate government. Our elections are established and governed by law and founded on the constitution from which leadership and government in Nigeria alone derive their legitimacy.
The people look up to us as leaders to respect these rules and, where necessary, to defend them. This is what brings us here.
Today, we are called upon again as a people to uphold and defend the ground rules of elective government in our country. The constitution prescribes the requirements for those who seek the highest elective office in the land.
It should not take months or, indeed, decades, for the institutions concerned to be able to do their work in establishing the credibility of any certificates presented by candidates for public office.
We undertook this journey at great cost and for important reasons. The ground rules for legitimate governance in our country need to be upheld, and the reputation of our country is at stake. That affects everyone, Nigerians everywhere.
I am a democrat by conviction and a citizen of a country that I love. The issues at stake in this case require us once more to re-dedicate ourselves to both the country and our constitution.
Now, we entrust these facts to us all as citizens and as leaders of the institutions charged with interpreting our constitution. I should thank the lawyers both in Nigeria and in the United States, who have assisted us in bringing clarity and definitive answers to these issues that appear to have defied our institutions for nearly a quarter of a century. I also want to extend my gratitude to Nigerian citizens and friends of Nigeria both within and beyond the shores of our country for their patience as we have sought to find the facts and establish the truth.
I wish to pay tribute to the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, who inspired us on this path of discovery. Now, he can truly rest in peace in the assurance that what he started about 23 years ago has come to fruition. Gani’s vindication today gives credence to the saying that no matter how fast a lie runs, the truth will someday overtake it.
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Former American President Thomas Jefferson once said, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter”. From exposing the Watergate scandal and unravelling the dubious certificates of politicians, journalists have maintained eternal vigilance by bridging the gap and stepping in when other arms of government failed.
It is for these reasons that commendation must be given to David Hundeyin, an independent journalist whose extraordinary work and those of many more young people like him has become a source of inspiration. Special thanks must be given to the millions of Nigerian youths and citizen journalists too who continue to put out the truth online even when no one is listening. Indeed, the price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance. They have put the country first in their firm commitment to unravel the truth and hold leaders accountable. This gives me the hope that we have worthy partners in the struggle to reclaim the country we call home.
This quest is not for or about Atiku Abubakar. It is a quest for the enthronement of truth, morality, and accountability in our public affairs. In line with this, therefore, I am calling on all well-meaning Nigerians, leaders of thought, our religious leaders, our traditional leaders, our community leaders, our political leaders, and in particular, Governor Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP and, the leaders of every political party in Nigeria, and, indeed, every single person who loves this country, as I do, and who wishes nothing but the best for the country, as I do, to join me in this campaign to enshrine probity, accountability and the basic principles of justice, morality and uprightness in our country and in our government. This is a task for each and every one of us.
Thank you for listening. May God bless you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Being text of a press conference by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (GCON), Waziri Adamawa, Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (2023), at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre on the 5th October 2023.