Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has lambasted Nigerian leaders for doing little or nothing to address the alarming scale of poverty in the country.
Atiku urged Nigerians not to despair or lose hope because of the current challenges facing the country.
In a New Year message to Nigerians released by his media office in Abuja on Tuesday, the former Vice President said he was fully aware of the tough challenges of existence facing the ordinary Nigerians, but stressed that democracy offers the people the opportunity to use the power of their votes to bring about the desired change.
He also reminded political leaders that the success of democracy is determined by how much the life of the people have improved, and not how much fortunes leaders have made for themselves.
According to the former Vice President, “while poverty is accelerating like hurricane in the land”, elected leaders are living opulent lifestyles inconsistent with the hardships of the ordinary voters.
Atiku explained that democracy is as good as those who practice it, adding that elective offices should be perceived as an opportunity to offer selfless service rather than personal enrichment.
The World Bank’s latest poverty index, published in April, ranks Nigeria third among countries with the highest population of extremely poor people in the world.
In terms of numbers of poor people, the World Bank listed as India (with 33 percent of the world’s poor), China (13 percent), Nigeria (7 percent), Bangladesh (6 percent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5 percent).
In September, President Goodluck Jonathan claimed his administration had succeeded in cutting widespread poverty in the country by at least 50 per cent.
Mr. Jonathan said this while speaking at a PDP rally in Benin.
That claim was again refuted in December, by the 2014 prosperity index report, published by UK-based Legatum Institute, a research organization that documents annual prosperity indicators around the world.
The report listed Nigeria as the 125th out of 142 countries surveyed in the world.
In terms of human prosperity, the report said Nigeria ranked 27 in Africa, beaten by smaller nations like Niger, Benin, Mali and Cameroun.
Atiku said once democracy was made to work as it should, there would be no excuses for the current level of poverty in the country.
On deepening democracy, he urged all political leaders to embrace the spirit of tolerance, adding that people should not become enemies because of political differences.
He urged Nigerians to see the New Year with renewed optimism, and be active participants in the struggle to bring about change by democratic means.
Atiku urged them to register massively and collect their PVCs so that they could vote for parties and candidates of their choice.
On the current slump in world oil prices, he urged leaders to cut down on extravagant lifestyles. He explained that it is not enough to tell ordinary Nigerians to make sacrifices in the face of economic austerity, while the leaders are reluctant to evenly share the burden of such sacrifices.