Thank you most dearly to the visionary Poju Oyemade and the Covenant Christian Centre, for the boldness, the courage and the clarity of purpose that has led The Platform to become Nigeria’s most influential festival of ideas over the past decade. I am amazed, I am impressed, and I am inspired. Thank you for inviting me.
I come here with a message for my countrymen and women. And my heart is both warmed over and fired up by this urgent message. So let’s get right into it. You see, we are very good at ‘managing’ as Nigerians. We have become extremely good at it.
No one should blame us for this, to be honest. We have believed and believed so many times — and we have been disappointed. We have invested hopes and dreams in people, we have gone on strike at different times, marched on the streets at different times, shut down the nation at different times, stood in the sun to vote at different times, and we have been disappointed, sorely.
So, we have learnt to lower our expectations. We have learnt to dream in black and white. We have learnt that we don’t deserve nice things, that the things we truly want are not possible. We have tried too many times and failed too many times that we believe the problem is trying too hard. Let’s just manage the one we have.
Let’s manage the recovery of 165 girls. It is impossible to get back all 265. Let’s manage a president who is not personally corrupt; it could have been worse. Let us take the governor that promises a few flyovers but chases poor people out of our cities as if they are not human. That’s the cost of development. Let’s pretend that 60 percent of our federal revenue doesn’t go to maintaining just 1 million people. After all, they haven’t killed anybody. Let’s manage the one we have, we tell ourselves, because we can’t really get what it is we truly want.
We are always very angry about many of our leaders. They take us for a ride, as they jump out of police vehicles to mock our justice system. They insult our youth, calling them lazy, even though they spend more time in the hospital than at their duty post. They insult our intelligence, claiming they will fight corruption, when they cannot even get visas to visit the United States because of their past crimes. We are angry at them, because they steal our agency, they steal our hopes, they steal our dreams, they steal our capacity to imagine.
But you know what? These leaders laugh. Do you know why they laugh? Because they know that no matter how angry we say we are, they are almost certain that nothing will change. They are sure because they know that in our hearts of hearts, we don’t truly believe that Nigeria will change. We don’t believe it. We are condemned by our conviction that this is how things will always, always be. These guys know this, and so for them the party will never stop.
When I chose to run for the highest office in Nigeria, I knew this was the primary challenge; this “manage it” attitude, sadness masked as worldly wisdom and cynicism. How do you convince people to believe the only one thing that has ever been true in the history of humanity — that there is no force more powerful than a people who have decided that enough is truly enough?
We have done it in Nigeria. We did it in 2011, when we together voted a minority president in a country where they told us it wasn’t possible. We did it in 2015, when we elected an opposition president in a country where ruling parties never lose national elections. We just have did it for people that we were ‘managing’, because we didn’t think we could get what we really deserved.
Over the past three years, and especially over the past 13 months, I began to visit the entire country, to learn exactly what has caused us to allow this rot to stay, to understand exactly what it will take to galvanise fellow Nigerians to reach for what is possible. I have spent quality time talking to the people no one really talks to when they hold massive rallies with people they have paid to stand in the sun, and what I have seen has convinced me of something powerful.
And I want you to listen very carefully to what I am about to say: Nothing, absolutely nothing, is stopping us from getting the exact kind of leadership we want. Nothing. We are ready, we are able, we are clear. We just don’t believe that it can happen. We just don’t believe that it is possible to get the kind of leadership we desperately need. That’s what I heard in Kano. That’s what I heard in Makurdi. That’s what I heard in Ilorin. That’s what I heard in Oron. That’s what I heard in Abeokuta. That’s what I heard in Nnewi. That’s what I heard in Ikot-Ekpene. That’s what I heard when I spoke to the young men who believe there is no hope in Nigeria, and they must follow a man who promises them freedom if only they break away from this giant disappointment. They just don’t believe that it is possible.
The Platform speaks to the core of the Nigerian elite class, and I have a message from the streets of Nigeria to you: people desperately want a leadership that can deliver results for our economy, but they want someone who can convince them that they are not wasting their time, that they are not wasting their emotions. They want to know that they are enough people like them across the country who will stand up to make it happen when election season comes.
Nigerians are not stupid. They know that their problem is not Christian or Muslim leaders. They know that it is not Biafra or OPC. They know that at the end of the day all these people are together, whether they claim they are in the PDP today or in the APC tomorrow. I know this because I have spoken to them, I have listened to them, I have tried to understand why those before me have failed, and why it appears that we don’t know what we are doing.
And so, I come to you with the same message I have given to them in my tour of Nigeria: IT. IS. POSSIBLE. IT. CAN. HAPPEN.
We need just 10 million people who believe this. Just 10 million, from across the country who understand this. Just 10 million who are ready and willing to take the risk, to open up their hearts, to put in the work. We need just 10 million people to make a difference. Today.
That’s the job I have given myself. How do we find those Nigerians? How do we remind them that it is possible? How do we get them to follow their hearts when election day comes? How do I get YOU to believe what I know for sure in my heart, as I stand here today — that we can disgrace those who think themselves the owners of Nigeria, the sharers of its national cake and the custodians of the limit of our possibilities.
Are we not ashamed of what we manage? Are we not ashamed of the leaders that we have? Are you billionaires not tired of a country you have to explain and defend when you meet your counterparts at the World Economic Forum? Are you young leaders not fed up with the embarrassment of your country when you explain what’s going to your correspondents on Twitter, your fellows at global conferences, your audiences at global fora?
You are. I am. And so this is my invitation to you: Join me in shocking this system. Join me in shaking it to its very roots. Join me in proving to ourselves that this thing we have been saying for decades is truly possible.
We only need 10 million people to believe with their hearts, with their votes, with their monies, with stepping on the streets to convince others to join them and vote.
How do we do this? Find ONE person — a friend, your security guard, the woman who sells fruit round the corner, your work colleague — and tell them the truth about where Nigeria will be if they choose to vote against the status quo. Find one person and persuade them to be there at the polls in February 2019. Be their “polling buddy”, make sure they have their voter’s card, make sure they are aware of the issues and what’s at stake. Then, help them be a “polling buddy” to somebody else. In this country, our network is our most powerful marketing tool, so it’s time to use it to become the Plus One movement. It’s simple, ladies and gentlemen. Start with one. To join our 10 million movement, find us on social media via @plusonemorevote so that you can join our cell groups and our volunteer army at #PlusOneMoreVote across Nigeria.
Because this is not a campaign platform, I won’t gointo details of the pillars of my plan for rebuilding our country. The detail on the policy plans can be found on our website www.tobuildanation.com and have also been fully and completely fleshed in my book, Build, Innovate and Grow.
That’s not my mission here today. My mission here today is to insist that you must believe that what you think impossible is in fact possible. My mission here today is to ask you to ignore those who will tell you not to waste your vote. Those who will tell you there are only two choices. To ignore those who will tell you that our electoral fate has always been decided in Abuja, Minna, Ikoyi, Dubai or Ota.
That is a lie from the pit of hell. They know what they are doing when they tell you this lie. But let me tell you the truth: the only vote that is wasted is the one that doesn’t make it into the ballot box. Every time you vote or don’t vote, you are making a choice. And the enemies of our country are counting on the fact that you will make a choice not to show up this year to campaign, to donate, vote and get those you love to vote next year. Or that when you show up to vote, you will choose the familiar over the necessary.
‘They’ only get to win if they win the battle over your heart and your mind. They claim to have extensive structure that no one else can beat. I have gone round the country, I have seen those structures. Those structures are human beings. Human beings like me and you at the ward level, at the state level, at the community level. We are building an alternative structure that can beat that structure.
We need you to believe that it is time to deliver Nigeria from dinosaucracy — a politics of dinosaurs, for dinosaurs, by dinosaurs. These dinosaurs have infected Nigerian society with ideas and attitudes that have long since been discredited.
Our choice as a people is as stark today as it ever has been: we have a choice between dinosaurs and deliverance. If we continue to be led by these dinosaurs and the people they endorse, the sunlight of our hopes for Nigeria will continue to be blotted out by dark clouds of incompetence, corruption, economic illiteracy and primitive tribalism.
It is time for all of you who are tired, like I am tired. It is time to make things happen. It is time to pump fresh ideas into solving our problems. It is time to drive the point home that Nigeria is nothing without the people — and the people need to come first from now on.
It is time to shake the table of Nigeria’s current political class. It is time for us to get off the side lines and come together as one to change the course of this nation. There is no need staying in different camps if we can come together to shake up this system. If you are not one of those benefiting directly from this nyama nyama version of Nigeria, then it is safe to say you are of those whose future is being mortgaged.
Our time has finally come. Let us shock these dinosaurs with our resolve, and our collective capacity. Let us take Nigeria back from those who believe that it belongs to them and their children. Let us be proud of Nigeria once and for all. And you better stop telling yourself that it cannot be done. God bless Nigeria. Let’s get to work!