It is a great honor to be here today.

There is no place I would rather be than here – with the men and women whose actions and sacrifices gave us the democracy that we have today.

I salute the June 12 Movement and the leadership of the NIM for organizing this event.

I salute all the other aspirants for the Nigerian presidency that are here.

I also want to commend the organizers for recognizing the heroes and heroines of the struggle.

We’ll be remiss if we do not recognize the Heroes and Heroines of Democracy who are not able to be with us today, not because they do not want to be here, but because they paid the ultimate price for the June 12 struggle. There are many whose names we do not know. There are many who were felled by bullets and have been forgotten by all but their loved ones, we remember them too.

Please stand up and join me in a minute of silence in honor of two of our greatest heroes who are no longer with us and were martyred for their principled stance on the June 12 struggle: The Heroine, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and the Hero, Pa Alfred Rewane.

CAN WE ALL STAND AND OBSERVE A MINUTE OF SILENCE (ALL STAND). May their revolutionary souls rest in Peace! Please be seated.

Today’s topic is entitled “2019 – Towards a Formidable and Cohesive Electoral Intervention for a New Nigeria

This gathering is a demonstration of the fact that Nigerian progressives and activists have woken up to our responsibilities. A gathering like this would have been unimaginable in 1999 or even in 2003 or in 2007.

When June 12 was annulled, we accepted that it was our duty and responsibility to fight against the military and lead the struggle for the restoration of democracy.

But, many of us, myself included were of the view that politics should be left to the politicians. We believed that our role was to fight tyranny and we made the error of believing that tyranny only wears jackboots and a khaki uniform.

Now, 25 years after the annulment of the June 12 elections, and almost 20 years after we successfully chased out the military from the political stage, we have awoken to our historic responsibilities.

We have now accepted that there is no redeeming feature within the status quo political class. We now know that whether their names are Obasanjo, or Jonathan or Yar’adua or Buhari, they are all products of a corrupt political process that is not designed to work for Nigeria.

That is why today’s topic is so appropriate: Towards a Formidable and Cohesive Electoral Intervention for a New Nigeria.  

The theme touches on three points that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Firstly, that there is a need to surface a New Nigeria.

Secondly, that an electoral intervention is needed to do so. And thirdly, that such an electoral intervention must be formidable and cohesive.

I have always had a clear vision for the type of country that Nigerians deserve. And in the almost 30 years since I became an activist and started to fight for the emergence of the Nigeria of my dreams, my belief and my conviction that we can birth that New Nigeria has never dimmed or diminished.  It is that clarity of vision that has sustained me since I took part in my first protest against tyranny in 1989.

I have always been convinced that beneath all this stench of corruption. Beneath this callousness of leadership. Beneath this abuse of power. Beneath all the problems that a lack of leadership has placed upon this nation, is a Nigeria that is waiting to be reborn. 

That new Nigeria is what every activists in this room, every hero and heroine that has been honoured today has fought for. The New Nigeria we are talking about is one in which every one of us will be able to achieve our goals through the dint of hard work and dedication alone.

That New Nigeria, I hope, is what every aspirant on this stage is fighting for. A Nigeria where the name we bear, the tribe we come from, our religious views, our gender, and our creed have no impact on what we can do, or who we can become.

The New Nigeria is one that will attract back its sons and daughters that have scattered overseas and provide them with everything that they seek outside, within its own shores.  

The next logical question is how this New Nigeria is to emerge? It has taken us almost 20 years to get to the answer, but now Nigeria’s true progressives have finally recognized that Electoral intervention is necessary if a New Nigeria is to emerge.

We now realize that we made a colossal error in 1999 when we ceded the political space to political jobbers. We used to think that as activists and progressives, our task was to fight military oppression until we learned that the oppression of a corrupt civilian system could be as brutal and sometimes even more callous. We used to believe that it was our task to fight the violence and brutality of the military and vacate the space once “democracy was restored” until we learned that 300 people could be killed extra-judicially in one day by a democratic government – something that we never saw even under the most brutal military regimes in Nigeria.

We now know that tens of thousands of lives can be sacrificed to political expediency and lost to the callous indifference of a political class that seeks power without responsibility. Our problem as activists and progressives was that we took on the responsibility of fighting for democracy but had no power to see that democracy thrive and grow in the way that it was supposed to.  

What we failed to do at the time was to recognize that our task did not stop and should not have stopped with chasing the military out of power

When the visionary Gani Fawehinmi stepped out to contest in 2003, he was well ahead of his time. Many of us in the activist community did not understand it. Many of us felt it was not the progressive and revolutionary thing to do. Now we all know better. Now we understand that political activism in the corridors of power is the logical continuation of the struggles that we have fought in the streets and in the trenches.

It is not accidental that the number of progressives aspiring to political leadership has increased. 2019 will see a record number of progressives that will be putting themselves up for office. My movement, the Take It Back Movement is determined to put Nigerians of integrity forward for every elective office from the Presidency to Gubernatorial, Senatorial, House of Reps, State House of Assembly, Local Government and Council elections in 2019.

We must sweep out the status quo political class across the entire spectrum. Already almost a 1,000 members of our movement have indicated an interest in competing for elective office across the nation and the number keeps growing. Our electoral intervention must not just be at the top. It must be sweeping and comprehensive.

Those who had the illusion that there were pockets of principled leadership within the political class have now been cured of those misplaced expectations.

We must also not make the mistake of thinking that just ANY electoral intervention will do. An electoral intervention using platforms like the APC or the PDP are guaranteed to lead us back where we started.

A corrupt political process will always produce corrupt leadership. Corrupt leadership can never be responsive or responsible.

That is why one of the first things that I did on this journey was to form the  Take It Back movement, so that it would provide a platform where Like Minded Nigerians keen to take their nation back from the corrupt political class and lead it to progress and growth could gather.

For the last 4 months I have gone around our nation and around the world – taking the movement’s message of transformation and national rebirth to Nigerians wherever they are

That message is resonating. Nigerians have clearly been waiting for this moment.  

It has taken almost 20 years for us to get here, but we have arrived and we are here to participate, we are here to fight for the Nigerian people. We are here to Take our nation back from the corrupt political class.

Finally, a formidable and cohesive effort is needed if we are to be successful.

If there is one thing we know how to do well in the Nigerian progressive and activist movement, it is how to put together formidable and cohesive efforts

The heroes and heroines that were honored earlier today were recognized for the formidable and cohesive effort that was put into fighting the annulment of June 12 and advocating for the restoration of democracy.

Armed with nothing but our will and our belief we stood up against brutal military dictators. We stared down the barrels of guns. We were harassed and jailed. We were rusticated and expelled. But we never relented. We never gave up.

We had no money, but we were able to mobilize a nation into action. We had no resources, but we were able to come together in solidarity to chase the military our of power.

If we could do that with the military, then we can surely do even more now.

What I have learned from the four months that I have spent doing town halls around the world and from creating a Nigerian grass roots movement with hundreds of thousands of members in Nigeria and around the world is that what makes us formidable is not access to money, or access to state resources. After all with all the money and resources available to him Goodluck Jonathan failed in 2015.

I have learned that it is our passion, it is our belief that Nigeria can and will be better. It is our faith that our nation is destined for greatness. It is our commitment to bringing out the best in ourselves and in our nation that makes us formidable.

I want to end by charging those of us that are here, that are offering ourselves as leaders of this great nation, to make a commitment to ourselves, to each other and to the Nigerian people that we will play a different type of politics. One that is based on issues and not sentiments. One that is focused on the Nigerian people and their welfare and that will uplift them and move our nation forward.

If we do that then we would have honored the memory of MKO Abiola and we would be advancing the cause for which so many sacrificed so much, even their lives.

Aluta continua! Victoria Acerta!!

Thank you

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