He showcased this conviction with the way he identified with young Nigerians… That Thursday Sheraton Hotel dialogue was a declaration like never before.
His audience was deliberately selected. So also was his speech carefully crafted and targeted. He was convinced of his goal and desire for his listeners. He appears determined not to disappoint them.
Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, has demonstrated his strong belief in the ability of the youth many times over. He has never doubted the qualitative contributions the younger generation could offer the nation.
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He showcased this conviction with the way he has identified with young Nigerians and their inclusiveness in running the National Assembly in different capacities. Saraki was clear in his mind. He would not miss the pleasant opportunity of fully exploring and giving room for the potential of the younger ones to grow to the level it would be celebrated.
Undoubtedly, that informed his decision to announce his long-awaited decision to run for Presidency at a gathering of Nigerian youths. That Thursday Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, dialogue was a declaration like never before.
In the more than three years of leading the National Assembly, he has never hidden his undying desire to make Nigeria work, and work better for the common man. He was stiffened; but he dared all odds and we are surely better for his audacity and bravery.
Some saw it as a big threat. He did not care a hoot whose ox is gored, bruised or injured. The result: He made the Senate work for the people, passing the highest number of bills since the inception of this our homegrown and fragile democracy.
Saraki has always acted presidential. He did it again as he spoke at that first public dialogues series. He did not pretend, he did not deceive, but was down-to-earth and factual.
It was a sharp departure from our ugly past. He was not given to the usual political rhetoric where aspirants only reel out the woes of the nation. His was an outline of solutions, a break away from attention arresting, but saying nothing propaganda.
He chose not to succumb to the usual politics of tearing down. He rather offered hope and painted a brighter future for all. He proffered solution to our present woes that led to unprecedented division, insecurity and increasing poverty. His exact words:
“Nigeria is perhaps more divided now than ever before. We are increasingly divided along regional, religious and ethnic lines. Nigerians are also divided by class, a festering gulf between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have-Nots.’ The fault lines of this nation are widening to an alarming degree. We must do something fast and we must be brave about it.”
Vintage Saraki! How more can one agree with him. Actions, inactions, utterances and body language of President Muhammadu Buhari caused more division and lack of trust among the citizens. His frivolous declaration of a part of the nation as his constituency and his 97 percent to five percent rhetoric only widened the unending gulf.
But Saraki’s words resonate hope: “Every citizen has the inalienable right to feel a sense of belonging, no matter their background or creed, or what part of the country they come from. No matter who you voted for or what your convictions are, government must work for you.”
He is disgusted with Nigeria being shamefully labelled poverty capital of the world. He reasoned; this younger generation must not wallow in poverty unchecked. He vowed to “employ every God-given resource available in turning things around. I am determined to grow Nigeria out of poverty. We will stimulate the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as one of the ways of energising the economy and to create wealth for our people, especially the youth.”
While the present and successive governments have been criticised of very low or lack of youth inclusiveness in running their adminisrations, Saraki offers a lifeline: “I want to see the youth play major roles at all levels, not only in government but also in the private sector and indeed in every area of Nigerian life. This will be a government driven by youthful energy, innovation and a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit. Nigerian youth will be given all the opportunities to realise their potential to the full within a national framework that guarantees inclusiveness.”
He is not done yet. He took a swipe at government lack of empathy in the face of national disaster and insecurity leading to loss of thousands of lives:
“I offer leadership driven by empathy. Where leaders are responsive to the citizens. Where they know that government cares. We will not be indifferent or turn a blind eye to the real concerns of our people. Every single Nigerian life matters.
“My plan is to secure Nigeria by redesigning our national security architecture, while adequately equipping our security agencies to fulfil their primary role of protecting lives and property.” He then made a clarion call. It was a call to duty to save and grow Nigeria:
“We must pull this country back together and rebuild, block by block, with dedication and commitment. We must restore the sanctity of the rule of law and strengthen democratic institutions in order to build a just, fair and equitable society for all. We must rebuild the trust of our people in government.”
We are glaringly at a crossroads as a nation. Decisions must be cautiously made with strong conviction. Such could make or mar us as a people. He left us with options: “Either keep things as they are, or make a radical departure from the old ways.”
It is far better we make radical departure from the old ways, no matter how inconvenient. This is the viable option if we are truly serious about catching up with other African nations who hitherto looked up to us, but have since left us behind.
We dare not look another away as this nation slides into abyss. That would be a monumental risk.
Saraki has set the ball rolling. Let us listen to him, we may pick some useful lesson from his speech. Yes, we can conveniently afford to do so.