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Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has 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 offiee 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.

However, he noted that, 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.