The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Obiageli Ezekwesili, addressed a World Press Conference in Lagos on Monday in which she dished her strongest criticisms yet of both the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
She argued forcefully that there is no difference between the two men or the parties they represent and coined a new word – BuTiku – to lump them both: “The truth of the matter is that the APCPDP is not two parties. The APCPDP is one single party fielding one single candidate, and that candidate’s name is BuTiku. Yes, you heard me right – BuTiku. Buhari and Atiku are conjoined from head to toe as BuTiku. There is no lesser evil in BuTiku. BuTiku are members of the same party,” she said.
What she hoped to achieve: TheScoop saw a copy of the lengthy speech and was present at the presser. It appeared that Ezekwesili attempted to do nine things:
- Frame and define her two biggest and more popular opponents as more of the same. She emphasised that the PDP and APC have the same traits. Describing them as “Siamese twins of failure and destruction,” she said, “attempting to choose between these two is like asking one to choose between death by poison or death by gunshot.” She was particularly forceful in rejecting arguments that Atiku was “the lesser of two evils.”
Quote: “Our country is not a recycling plant for uninspiring old men with their old ideas and old dubious characters. We deserve better than their aggressive mediocrity. And that is why I am running for president – to lead a people’s movement that will permanently terminate bad leadership, retire these incompetents and fight for every Nigerian. For those of you considering the PDP as an alternative, I really want to ask you: what is the thing that you see about them that is any different from the APC. Really? The PDP is not in opposition to the APC. The candidate of the PDP has over the past 14 years gone from PDP to AC, AC to PDP, PDP to APC and now back to PDP. Don’t believe that 419! They are both part of a political ruling class that has held us bound, manipulated and diminished us for decades. Now they are auditioning to extend their streak of failure for another four years? God forbid!”
- She targeted Buhari’s supposed strength: Integrity. “This president talks about fighting grand corruption. Please, please, give me a break! Can corruption fight corruption? Does he think we cannot see? A president that looks the other way while his friends and cronies suffocate and strangle our country,” she said. She mentioned instances: Former secretary to the federal government, Babachir Lawal, who was accused of stealing hundreds of millions meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and who Pres. Buhari defended and chose not to sack for a long time and “up until now, no other action has been taken against him by the government”, former chairman of the Pensions Reforms Commission, Abdulrasheed Maina, who Buhari “not only recalled, but he also promoted him” despite the advise from the Head of the Civil Service who asked him not to.
Quote: “As we stand here today, there are credible allegations against the NNPC of which the president is minister in charge and elaborate accusations against both the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and his Attorney General, Abubakar Malami. Has anything been done? No. Nothing has been done and the president has no plans to do anything… President Buhari claims in the morning that Abacha was not a thief, and then goes in the night to beg for repatriation of Abacha’s loot… As one of the founders of Transparency International, I often encountered rulers like the ones in charge of Nigeria. Their words and their actions are like parallel lines; they never meet. They say one thing publicly but their actions scream the opposite. I shudder to imagine the amount of corruption that will be uncovered about President Buhari and his government when they are kicked out by Nigerians next year.”
- She targeted Atiku’s perceived business strength, saying that the source of his wealth is riddled with controversy. She quoted an email from the president of Atiku’s university which was obtained by US investigators. “…The flow of revenue to the university will slow dramatically if Atiku’s political fortunes continue to wane… Construction delays on campus have also raised fears that the prospects for the university are linked to Atiku’s political success,” the email said. Ezekwesili said the mail shows that the success of Atiku’s private business is dependent on our commonwealth. She described Atiku as a “man who cannot tell you where he got the start up capital for his alleged multi-million dollar businesses.”
- She also targeted Atiku’s biggest weakness: his perceived corruption. “I served in government with one of the candidates who is running under APCPDP in this elections. Kai! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. A special report by a US Senate Committee on Foreign Corruption concluded that ‘over an eight-year period from 2000 to 2008, Atiku and his wife, Jennifer Douglas were able to bring over $40 million in suspect funds into the United States…’ This was at the very time that this person was the Vice President of this very same country,” she said. “And these are the people you want to put in charge of the national treasury? In charge of the money for your children’s education? Of the resources for our country’s hospitals? Of the budget for our depleted army and our impoverished police force?”
- She went after Buhari’s perceived weaknesses, and there are a few of them including parochialism and incompetence. She referenced the sluggish growth in the economy and the rising poverty. “There is no shadow of doubt: President Buhari is the most parochial, most nepotistic and most partisan president that Nigeria has ever seen,” she said.
- She took the audience through her track records, saying that she “excelled in Corporate Nigeria, excelled in national government, excelled in private enterprise, excelled in international development, and then dedicated her life to fighting for every Nigerian from Chibok to Jos, from Abia to Ikot Ekpene.” Ezekwesili also said that she is one of the very small tribe of Nigerians who have served in government but who have no allegation of corruption against them. I don’t mean court case o. I mean allegation. Zero. None. Not one.”
— I led the World Bank’s operations in 47 African countries for five years, delivering up to $40 billion that helped countries tackle development challenges across a range of issues.
— I was priviledged to be a cabinet member before I was 40, and a minister by the time I was 42, implementing the reforms that changed Nigeria’s broken and corrupt public contracting system to one of a global standard.
— As minister of solid minerals I led the repositioning of our mining possibilities for private sector leadership, cleaned up the chaotic mining titles registry and had Nigeria commended globally for leading on transparency in the mining sector when we established the Nigerian Mining Cadastral Office. Then I terminated the power of the minister – my own power – to award mining licenses as he or she pleases.
— I was education minister for less than one year, but in that time, we embarked on the most comprehensive reforms Nigeria has seen since 1999 (she listed the achievements, but that is for another piece).
Quote: “I don’t have issues obtaining visas or traveling to any country in the world – whether it is the United States of America or the United Arab Emirates. I won’t come into office struggling to find my feet on the global stage. You will never hear any world leader call me lifeless or dishonest. I have had the priviledge to work with nations from Rwanda to Liberia, advising governments across Africa – including my sisters Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Banda, and my brothers Paul Kagame and Alfa Conde… How sad it will be if we choose to reelect incompetence, stagnation and mediocrity. How equally sad it will be if we elect a shady, unprincipled individual who hops from one party to another every election season and has a corruption file in the United States Department of State.”
- She highlighted some of what she intends to do if elected even though she said she is about to embark on a listening tour after which she would showcase her vision document to Nigerians. Among the things she promised are: to lift at least 80 million Nigerians out of poverty and creating wealth.
Quote: “An Oby Ezekwesili presidency will not only work to create an enabling environment for our young people to explore their greatest potentials and be globally competitive, but they will actually power the government. Building our young human capital will be an urgent priority of our ACPN government. We have an agenda to transform 20 Nigerian universities into world class institutions with strong showings on the global rankings. Our agenda is about creating wealth – growing the pie exponentially, creating jobs, building shared prosperity and taking at least 80 million Nigerians out of poverty. The agenda is to mobilize the energies of the people and our private sector, invest in upgrading our capacity capabilities to compete globally, and end the bad policies which have turned Nigeria into Poverty Central.”
- She confronted some of the questions people have raised about her candidacy, like whether she is seriously running or if a vote for her is not a wasted vote considering that people are looking for a candidate who can defeat President Buhari. She said even though she had no intention of running previously, but “a few weeks ago, after a number of young, vibrant, energetic candidates invited me to supervise an election between them and I watched the troubling outcome of that open process with a broken heart, it then occurred to me that I had no other choice.” She admitted that it would have been much better if she declared earlier but said there is still time.
Quote: “Our strategy is summarised in one short sentence: find every sleeping voter, and wake them up! We know the sleeping voters who are yet to be activated, and our mission – through our massive data network – is to find each and every one of them, who have their cards but who have refused to vote, and convert them, one by one, community by community into voters, canvassers and small donors. It is already happening. Those sleeping voters – you know them; they are your friends, your family members and your people in the villages… And by the way, enough is enough of those of you in the towns and urban cernters speaking about the grassroots alone as if you are not part of Nigeria. You cannot leave the burden to rural voters alone. It is time for those of you in the urban centers to WAKE UP and do your own part too.”
- On those who wonder how she will govern if elected considering that her party is not expected to have lots of members in the national assembly, she said this: “I know someone who can answer that question. His name is Peter Obi. I hear he is with the PDP these days. Maybe he can help explain to you how he managed to govern as an APGA governor in my home state, Anambra, despite the majority of lawmakers belonging to a different party, PDP.”
Quote: “By the way, what has President Buhari’s legislative majority done for the country? Ask him what he has achieved with his party’s majorities in the two chambers of the national assembly. That argument about not being able to govern without a majority of lawmakers from your party is dead on arrival.”