By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Emma Elebeke & Dirisu Yakubu
•Vows to crack down on instigators of violence, social unrest
•Says good leadership can lift 100m people in 10yrs
•Promises to assemble strong team to rebuild Nigeria
•Renames Abuja National Stadium after MKO
•Threatens to deal with corrupt politicians
•As Obasanjo, Jonathan, IBB, Abubakar were absent
•Declaring June 12 Democracy Day not enough — Atiku
Abuja—President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, blamed much of the inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence nationwide, on ethnic, political and religious leaders.
The President also threatened to crack down on those inciting ordinary, innocent people to violence and social unrest.
He equally said with good leadership and a sense of purpose, about 100 million Nigerians could be lifted out of poverty in 10 years, promising to assemble a strong team in his second tenure, tagged Next Level, in his determination to rebuild the country.
President Buhari, who also announced the renaming of Abuja National Stadium after the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief Moshood Kolawole Abiola, in a bid to correct injustice for national peace and unity, stated these in his Democracy Day address in Abuja.
Speaking at the Democracy Day celebration at Eagle Square, Abuja, which had non of the past Presidents of the country in attendance, President Buhari also threatened to deal with corrupt politicians and those perceived to be threatening the peace and unity of the country through their utterances.
The Roll Call
However, present at the event were the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; national leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba; former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola; Senator Godswill Akpabio and Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang.
The event was also attended by African leaders, including President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; President of Liberia, George Weah; President of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Others are President of Senegal, Macky Sall; Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda, President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Gómes Vaz and President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon, among others.
The President said ethnic, political and religious leaders were hoping to benefit by “exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country.”
Buhari, who noted that in spite of activities of the saboteurs, his government had remained focused in fulfilling its campaign promises in the areas of security, economy and anti-graft war, said: “Before and during my time in the Armed Forces and in government, I have interacted with Nigerians of all ages and persuasions and different shades of opinion over a period of more than 50 years.
“My firm belief is that our people above all want to live in peace and harmony with their fellow Nigerians. They desire opportunity to better themselves in a safe environment.
“Most of the instances of inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence were and are still as a result of sponsorship or incitements by ethnic, political or religious leaders hoping to benefit by exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country’’
President Buhari said his administration will crack down on those who incite ordinary innocent people to violence and social unrest, warning those with corrupt tendencies to have a change of heart or be dealt with according to the provisions of the law.
According to him, the Federal Government will not tolerate actions by any individual or groups of individuals who seek to attack nation’s way of life.
He said: “We will crack down on those who incite ordinary, innocent people to violence and unrest. We will ensure that such actions are met with the strong arm of the law.’’
He enjoined Nigerians to join forces with his administration to put the country on the right track of development.
Honour for Abiola
He said: “Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium.
“Correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity. As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
‘’The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential election of that year.”
The new cabinet
Giving an insight into what would constitute his cabinet in his second term, the President said: “Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians, and allies to implement our transformative plans and proposals.”
President Buhari, who harped on good governance in the interest of the citizenry, said “with leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
‘’We will see significant focus, resource and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age.’’
Speaking further, Buhari said: “Terrorism and insecurity are worldwide phenomena and even the best policed countries are experiencing increasing incidents of unrest and are finding things hard to cope.
“The principal thrust of this new administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavors and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria.
“I have had the privilege of free education from Primary school to Staff College, to War College. I received my formative education in Katsina and Kaduna and my higher education in England, India and the United States.
“I have worked and served in Kaduna, Lagos, Abeokuta, Makurdi, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Jos and finally here in Abuja. Throughout my adult life, I have been a public servant. I have no other career but public service. I know no service but public service.
“I was involved at close quarters in the struggle to keep Nigeria one. I can, therefore, do no more than dedicate the rest of my life to work for the unity of Nigeria and upliftment of Nigerians.
“In 2002-2003 campaigns and elections, I travelled by road to 34 of the 36 states of the federation. This year, I travelled by air to all 36 states of the federation.
“Our country Nigeria is a great country. According to United Nations estimates, our population will rise to 411 million by 2050, making us the third most populous nation on earth behind only China and India.
“We have water, arable land, forests, oil and gas and vast quantities of solid minerals. We are blessed with an equable climate. However, the bulk of our real wealth lies in Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Mining. We possess all the ingredients of a major economic power on the world stage.
“What we require is the will to get our acts together. And our strength is in our people – our youth, our culture, our resilience, our ability to succeed despite the odds.
“A huge responsibility therefore rests on this and succeeding administrations to develop, harness and fulfill our enormous potential into a force to be reckoned with globally.
“Thus far, we, Nigerians, can be proud of our history since Independence in 1960. We have contributed to UN peace-keeping responsibilities all over the world; we have stabilized Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and two years ago we prevented the Gambia from degenerating into anarchy.
“Without Nigerian influence and resources, the liberation of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and ultimately South Africa would have come at greater cost. This fact had been attested by none other than the late Nelson Mandela himself.
“Elsewhere, Nigeria is the Big Brother to our neighbours. We are the shock-absorber of the West African sub-region, the bulwark of ECOWAS and Lake Chad Basin Commission. We can therefore be proud to be Nigerians. We must continue to be good neighbours and good global citizens.
“At home, we have been successful in forging a nation from different ethnicity and language groups: our evolution and integration into one nation continues apace.
“When, therefore, we came to office in 2015 after a decade of struggle we identified three cardinal and existential challenges our country faced and made them our campaign focus, namely security, economy and fighting corruption.”
The President, while giving his administration pass mark in the last four years, said: “None but the most partisan will dispute that in the last four years we have made solid progress in addressing these challenges.
“When I took the oath of office on May 29, 2015, insecurity reigned. Apart from occupying 18 local governments in the North East, Boko Haram could at will attack any city including the Federal Capital, could threaten any institution including bombing the United Nations building and Police Headquarters in Abuja.
“Admittedly, some of the challenges still remain in kidnappings and banditry in some rural areas. The great difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting these challenges with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence. We are meeting these challenges with superior strategy, firepower and resolve.
“In face of these challenges, our government elected by the people in 2015 and re-elected in March has been mapping out policies, measures and laws to maintain our unity and at the same time lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and onto the road to prosperity.
“This task is by no means unattainable. China has done it. India has done it. Indonesia has done it. Nigeria can do it. These are all countries characterized by huge burdens of population.
“China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it.”
He said the administration was laying the foundation and taking bold steps in transforming the country and liberating the people from the shackles of poverty.
He said: “First, we will take steps to integrate rural economies to the national economic “grid” by extending access to small-scale credits and inputs to rural farmers, credit to rural micro-businesses and opening up many critical feeder roads.
“Secondly, for small-scale enterprises in towns and cities, we shall expand facilities currently available so that we continue to encourage and support domestic production of basic goods and reduce our reliance of imported goods as I will outline later.
“For the next four years, we will remain committed to improving the lives of people by consolidating efforts to address these key issues as well as emerging challenges of climate change, resettling displaced communities and dealing decisively with the new flashes of insecurity across the country, and the impacts on food scarcity and regional stability.
“We are not daunted by the enormity of the tasks ahead. Instead, we are revived by this new mandate to work collaboratively with state and local governments, legislators, the diplomatic corps and all Nigerians to rebuild and reposition our country as the heartbeat and reference point for our continent.”
He assured that his government will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information, adding that the social intervention programs were a model for other nations.
The President said when economic inequality goes up, insecurity would also rise, noting that when inequality was reduced through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity would reduce.
“The disturbing increase in rates of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities can be attributed to the decades of neglect and corruption in social investment, infrastructure development, education and healthcare. This issue is further compounded by the impact of our changing climate and ecology.”
For Nigeria to progress, President said there will be a collective resolution to address corruption and foster broad-based prosperity to create a country that is not only for a few privileged, but for all Nigerians.
He implored all state governments, especially those with large rural economies, to aggressively solicit investments in their states, invest in developing human capital, reducing bureaucracy and corruption, host and attend investment summits and improve the ease of doing business.
Abiola’s sacrifice, lesson of determination — Tinubu
Speaking on the sideline of the event, the APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, said the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day by President Buhari and the celebration by Nigerians symbolised an enduring perseverance and a committed individual in the person of Moshood Abiola.
Tinubu, who described democracy as the best form of government which MKO Abiola died for and helped Nigerians to entrench, said: “His election was very fair, transparent, open and that gave us our democracy.
‘’By honouring Abiola for sacrificing himself after the presidential election feat of 1993 given to him by Nigerians that cut across tribes, religious group in a transparent and open democratic system, the journey for democracy has just begun.
“Abiola suffered detention, persecution, humiliation and a whole lot of sacrifices but it is a lesson of determination, strong perseverance and commitment to democracy. I highly value human commitment to freedom, and democracy. We did that but it took 20 years to recognise the efforts.
‘’People lost their limbs, arms, some died. I dedicate today to people like Ransome Kuti, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and millions of students who sacrificed their lives so that we can have this democracy. There are so many things in the offing to immortalise Abiola, you are seeing nothing yet.”
We can’t escape devolution of power – Osoba
On his part, a chieftain of the party and one of the founders of APC, Chief Olusegun Osoba, said: ‘’We have reason to celebrate June 12 as Democracy Day because we have been able to keep the military in the Barracks and recognise the sacrifice of those who died, suffered all kinds of deprivation to bring us where we are today
“With the President entrenching that in our minds, we can only expect that we can now have democratic practice in Nigeria. We will make sure democracy reigns in Nigeria.”
On devolution of power, Chief Osoba said there will be devolution of power through genuine federalism.
“In UK, after centuries of being together, they are still devolving power to Scotland, Wales, we cannot escape it. Russia went their way and Soviet Union broke into pieces. Czechoslovakia went their ways. We have to do all we can to ensure continuity in Nigeria and to sustain unity and that unity is based on devolving power.”
It’s not enough — Atiku
Meanwhile, former Vice President and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, charged President Buhari not to get carried away with the euphoria of the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, saying beyond the symbolism, the date represented a watershed in the nation’s political history.
Atiku flayed the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government for what he described as its flagrant disobedience of court orders and infractions on the fundamental rights of Nigerians since its assumption of office in 2015.
In a statement signed he personally signed, the Wazirin Adamawa also scored the four years of President Buhari low in service delivery, even as he lamented the alleged clampdown on press freedom in the past few years by the government of President Buhari.
He said: “It is not enough to declare June 12 a Democracy Day when the government of the day is disrespectful of the rule of law and wantonly disregards court orders on issues that border on fundamental human rights.
‘’It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when the ordinary people of Nigeria still don’t have the freedom to find a better life from the suffocating grip of poverty, when Nigeria is now the global headquarters of extreme poverty.
‘’It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when a disproportionate number of citizens are not sure of where their next meal will come from and when the sanctity of their lives is not guaranteed. It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when freedom of the press, and of speech, fundamentals of democracy are being assailed.’’