Being remarks by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, chief presenter at the launch of the book: “Witness to History: Action Congress of Nigeria and the struggle for Democracy, Liberty and Justice,” authored by the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the Civic Centre, Lagos, on Monday.
Lai is a brother and friend who reflect the best of human nature. He is honest, intelligent, faithful, and industrious. I am indeed honored to present this book.
2. This book is entitled Witness to History: Action Congress of Nigeria and the struggle for Democracy, Liberty and Justice. Due to his modesty, Lai calls himself a witness. I disagree. If I had decided the title, I would have written “Makers of History.” Your contribution to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and thus of the survival of Nigerian democracy is not that of a witness. It is that of an essential participant. Without you, we would not be at the historic threshold on which we stand. On behalf of millions of true democrats, I say thank you.
3. The timing of your book is excellent. This book is being launched after the most important and final convention of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN wherein we agreed to merge into the All Progressives Congress, APC. This book thus represents the first authoritative history of what shall soon be our former party, the ACN. That the ACN must pass away is no cause for despair. The party has a permanent place in our political history. On page 21 of your book, you aptly describe that place when you wrote, “If Obasanjo and the PDP had succeeded in hijacking Lagos by hook or crook, the political history of this country and of democratic rule would be different.”
4. Well they did not succeed. We held fast. The tide now turns. We gain ground by the day. Democracy, liberty, justice, and peace may move slower than their opposites. But when they gain momentum, nothing can stop them. They now gain momentum in Nigeria. We shall not be stopped. That is why I talk about the gathering storm, the storm of positive wind and progressive change. All of my adult life, I have labored tirelessly for the emergence of a responsible leadership and the establishment of a true democracy.
5. Hence, we celebrate the coming of the All Progressives Congress, APC. We forge this new bigger party that we may accomplish newer and bigger things for Nigeria and Nigerians. This is a Nigerian project, a movement with an agenda for change. We are not unmindful that change never happens easily, hence we are prepared to make necessary sacrifices and arm ourselves for the battle ahead.
We have been the opposition long enough. In fact, I think we should stop using the term “opposition.”
6. We are progressives, not just the opposition. We stand for something and it is for this reason that we oppose those in power. We do not oppose them just for the sake of opposition. As the book says, we stand for democracy, liberty and justice. May I add prosperity, health, peace, economic development, tolerance, unity, hope and brotherly love to this list?
We hate no one and oppose no person. However, we do oppose injustice, poverty, ignorance, indifference, hatred and bad governance. We oppose everyone in power whose activities create conditions that allow injustice, corruption,poverty, unemployment and insecurity to thrive. And whether in power or not, we shall always oppose these things.
Our overriding mission is to gain power at the national level for progressive change because the track record of the other party shows only one thing clearly: They are only adept at the very things good governance opposes. Rarely has a government had so much at its disposal yet done so little with it. They have been there too long for the little good they have done. Let them stand aside. We have witnessed their empty history. Let them become witnesses to our full and productive one.
Only two days ago, the State Department of the United States in its annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for 2012 identified pervasive impunity and corruption as the hallmark of the government of Goodluck Jonathan government. “Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government,” the State Department said. The opposition has consistently passed on the same message about this government. It is pitiable to see presidential aides, in the blind hurry to justify their pay and secure their positions try to tell a different story. They can no longer hear the falconer. They embellish facts and seek refuge where there is none. They attack the messenger, rather than heed the message. Nigerians cannot be fooled.
7. This book shows that we did a good thing selecting Lai to be the ACN’s national publicity secretary. Astute but prolific, he fires off cogent, analytic press statements with the rapidity of a sub-machine gun.
This book gathers together many of his press interventions over the past several years. Because of his impressive output, this book thus represents a concise history of national politics and gives lucid progressively-minded analyses of the key events of our times.
This book is thus broad-minded and wide-ranging. At page 97, he warns the PDP to quit undermining the judiciary. Despite the sagacity of the warning, they didn’t listen. They need to go.
8. On page 117, he warned them about security in the Niger Delta. They did not listen. The problem is returning. They need to go.
He warned them about poverty reduction. They refused to listen. The majority of our people remain poor. Those in power need to go.
At page 189, he called the PDP’s Rebranding Nigeria a Wasteful Jamboree. Instead of giving chunks of money to political jobbers to waste, it would have been better to pay real wages to real people doing the real work needed to build this nation from the bottom up.
Again, they did not listen. They need to go so that they may join the vast army of unemployed their inaction helped create.
9. Perhaps the single issue that differentiates their elite conservative mindset and our progressive values is the fuel subsidy removal and the subsequent deployment of armed soldiers to point weapons at their fellow citizens whose only crime was the peaceful exercise of their constitutional right of freedom of speech.
Lai devoted pages 416-437 to this. I have previously said and will say again. Their insensitive policy shows they would rather waste money than empower the people. We the progressives would rather spend the money to save the people.
I don’t know if this was intended but chapter 13, that most unlucky number, was appropriately devoted to the PDP. I don’t need to say anymore than that.
10.Particularly hard-hitting were his statements on the electoral process. Thus, as I scanned this room to see who is in attendance, I told myself that if the world were sinking and this hall were the only refuge from disaster, one man would still refuse to attend this event: Professor Maurice Iwu. This man of electoral infamy would rather face his fate than endure any more of Lai’s barbs.
Apparently rendered unsettled by the barrage of corrective press statements, rebuffs, this former servant of undemocratic ambition blurted out at one of the Commission’s meetings, “Lai Mohammed, Lai Mohammed, Lai Mohammed! Is Lai Mohammed a political party?
No Lai Mohammed is not a political party. But if you bend the national good in order to serve the interests of a greedy and repressive government, Lai will be a one-man army against you.
11.Through this book, we glean the mind of a noble patriot searching for answers to what troubles our nation. Lai Mohammed has turned the press statement into a political art form and an effective weapon for the truth.
Without him, the ACN would not have accomplished what it did. Nigeria would be less than it is. We salute and are proud of you. Lai, you have given context to our struggle. You have brought to the fore the core of our message as a political party and the vision we have for Nigeria. Today, your work stands in testimony to patriotism and the undying spirit of a soldier thirsty for victory.
12.With brotherly pride and affection, I present this humble maker of history and his timely book, Witness to History. It is a fine body of work from an excellent son of this nation. With more sons like this, Nigeria will be a contented parent. With more foot soldiers like Lai, the ranks of the progressives will receive a boost and the camp of our political enemies will be depleted.
We can all join Lai in this task to fulfill this responsibility to our nation and its people. Thank you Lai for being such a good example.
I hereby present to all of you, Witness to History: Action Congress of Nigeria and the Struggle for Democracy, Liberty and Justice.