This struggle is now my life
By Pat Utomi (The Guardian, May 1 2007)
AS we reflect on dozens of lives lost in protest of election rigging, billions of Naira expended on campaigns even as many of our compatriots are dehumanised by dreadful poverty, it is important to extend gratitude, and commit afresh to the struggle on the long road to freedom for Nigeria.
When about a year ago I gave up all income, stepped down from boards and committed to seeking votes for the presidency many thought it was a three month quest to prove a point. It turned out to be a grueling venture that involved at least three near death experiences, thousands of miles of road and air travel and a discovery of a country I thought I knew well. For the privilege of such remarkable personal growth I owe much gratitude to so many. To the Governors who gave me warm welcome in their Government Houses, the thousands of citizens who welcomed me to rural village squares; traditional rulers from Sokoto to Gombe, Oloibiri to Benin and Ife to Biu. They taught me that tradition has been updated by men of great exposure who have taken up the thrones of their ancestors. Surely I cannot be the same because they crossed my path.
I learnt a long time ago that I grow from acknowledging that I have made mistakes in the past. Traversing this country deepened my recognition that I could do many things that I had done in the past differently. This Return on Experience (ROE) was more valuable than any investments I had ever made. For this immeasurable gain I will never be able to say thank you enough.
I set out to run a campaign on issues, avoid casting aspersions that take away from the dignity of any person. I am pleased that I was significantly able to stay the chosen course. But this happened with the help of friends, staff persons and men of goodwill at home and in the Diaspora. My debt of gratitude can only be paid through continuous sacrificial service to Nigerians, especially those less fortunate than I. To say that politics, especially in the kind of presidential system we run, cost a lot of money, is to state the obvious. While we push for reform that should place a cap that is measurable on campaign finance, I want to thank immensely friends and well wishers who sent generous cheques, particularly the poor woman who truly gave a widow’s mite of N500. I know it is more generous than the N5,000,000 cheques from some more endowed compatriots.
Criss-crossing Nigeria put my conscience to the test regarding what must be done to rescue our country. After some challenging reflections I have had to conclude that the rest of my life will have to be dedicated to directing Nigeria away from the road to serfdom that we currently travel unto navigating the lanes to liberation. I can see clearly from the vantage point of becoming involved in politics, the troubling crossroads we stand on, as a crisis of values we have long lamented, moves Nigeria ever so close to the precipice. The least I can do, in the circumstance, is quit my day job and dedicate the rest of my life to this struggle. I am convinced that the struggle as my life is worthwhile venture.
The struggle will be aimed largely at keeping the man-in-the-street, middle class professional people, and the youth ever committed to the quest in advance of the Common Good for change. The pain of seeing so many middle class people come out to vote on April 14 and witnessing their retreat on April 21 after it became clear their votes were not allowed to count increases the essence of the struggle. It is time to say thank you and to roll up our sleeves, like Nehemiah, to rebuild the falling walls of Nigeria. No one can go through what I have experienced this last year and be the same, if they have a sensitive conscience. The sacrifice of total commitment therefore comes easy. As soon as the period of reflection is over with the rainy season, we shall begin a nationwide “Thank you” tour, traveling the same very path we traced during the campaigns to personally say how grateful we are for the privilege of sharing our vision of a new Nigeria with you, whether Maurice Iwu bother to count your votes or not. I know you heard me and I felt your pain.
During the tour we will begin to put in place through Private Development Agencies (PDAs), sometimes called NGOs platforms for implementing some initiatives we promised for uplifting the human condition, in places where we made such promises. The two key targets of the initiatives are poverty and ignorance through ideas that confront the crisis of values that is crippling Nigeria, and the poverty of ideas that leave people so deep in want that a ripple can drown. We hope the flame imagined possibilities will be kept alive. Indeed Nigerians have no business being poor.
ADC Presidential Candidate, 2007