Being an Address By President Muhammadu Buhari At the 2019 National Democracy Day At the Eagle Square, Abuja, 12th June 2019.
All Praise is due to GOD Almighty Who spared our lives
to be present at this great occasion. We give thanks also that the democratic process has been further entrenched and strengthened.
Twenty years ago, a democratically elected government took over from the military in a historic transfer of political power for our country.
Today, we are privileged to mark the longest period of unbroken democratic leadership and 5th peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another in Nigeria.
Throughout the last four years, I respected the independence of INEC. I ensured that INEC got all the resources it needed for independent and impartial management of elections in the country.
All interested parties agreed that the recent elections which, except for pockets of unrest were free, fair and peaceful.
I thank all the people who worked for our party, who campaigned and who voted for us. I thank my fellow Nigerians, who, since 2003 have consistently voted for me.
Victory is your greatest reward; peace, unity and greater prosperity will be our collective legacy. Your excellencies, fellow Nigerians.
I and Nigerians collectively must give adequate thanks to our Armed Forces, Police and other law enforcing agencies for working round the clock to protect us by putting themselves in harm’s way and defending our values and protecting our future.
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.
Fellow Nigerians, 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.
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 fifty years.
And 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.
And 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 fulfil 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 stabilised 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 ethnicities 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.
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 29 May 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 characterised by huge burdens of population.
China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it.
With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
Following the 60 per cent drop in oil prices between 2015 and 2016, through monetary and fiscal measures, we stimulated economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up our external reserves.
We now have witnessed 8 quarters of positive growth in the economy and our GDP is expected to grow by 2.7 per cent this year.
Furthermore, our external reserves have risen to $45 billion enough to finance over 9 months of current import commitments.
This administration is laying the foundation and taking bold steps in transforming our country and liberating our people from the shackles of poverty.
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.
Fellow Nigerians, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernise our roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems.
Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, we are more committed than ever to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth.
The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index which is the gauge of manufacturing activity in the country has also risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017 indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector.
It still takes too long for goods to clear at our seaports and the roads leading to them are congested. It still takes too long for routine and regulatory approvals to be secured. These issues affect our productivity and we are committed to addressing them permanently.
Our government will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information.
Our social intervention programmes are a model for other nations. Together with state governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
A database of poor and vulnerable households is being carefully built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning in this administration’s war against poverty.
A database of unemployed but qualified youth has also been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes. Cumulatively, nearly 2 million beneficiaries have received aid under this programme apart from Anchors Borrowers Programme and School Feeding Initiative each reaching 2 million recipients. And we will do more. Much more.
Fellow Nigerians, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, we know that there exists a strong correlation between economic inequality and insecurity.
When economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. But when we actively reduce inequality through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces.
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.
The ECOWAS and Sahel regions, starting from Chad all the way to Mali, are also experiencing adverse impacts of drought and desertification, which have triggered waves of human displacement; conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; terrorism; and a fundamental socio-economic change to our way of life.
These issues are regional and not unique to Nigeria alone. The problems call for increased regional and international cooperation in developing a sustainable solution.
As chairman of ECOWAS, I will be hosting a regional security summit of heads of states in the Sahel to develop a joint strategy to continue our efforts in addressing these issues.
Fellow Nigerians, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, at the heart of inequality and insecurity, is pervasive corruption. When we took office, we realised that if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back and we have seen this at all levels.
For Nigeria to progress, a collective resolution to address corruption and foster broad-based prosperity is required to create a country that is not only for a few privileged, but for all Nigerians.
This charge is not only to civil servants, ministers, legislators and state government functionaries, but also to corporate leaders.
We shall make greater investments in our rural economies. We shall aggressively source locally our raw materials.
We have incentives for investments specifically made in rural communities.
However, nationwide development cannot occur from Abuja alone; it must occur at states. And government cannot do it alone.
I therefore implore all state governments, especially those with large rural economies, to aggressively solicit investments in your states. Invest in developing human capital, reducing bureaucracy and corruption, hosting and attending investment summits and improving the ease-of-doing business.
At this point, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists who have built or are building agro-processing projects; petrochemical plants; crude oil and solid mineral refineries; energy exploration; software development projects; telecom infrastructure; health, education and manufacturing projects; and the like, across our country.
I would like to make special mention to promoters of our small businesses that are proudly making goods and services for export and for local consumption. The Nigerian economy rises and falls on the strength of your investments and productivity.
We will continue to listen to your ideas and plans not just about how we can secure more investment, but how your plans can help create a more equitable economy.
I also thank the labour unions, farmer groups and associations, organised private sector and the civil society organisations for their support and cooperation with our government these last four years.
We will continue to count on your support, guidance and understanding during the next four years.
I especially thank our traditional leaders and congratulate re-elected and newly elected state governors and members of the National Assembly. Our government will continue to count on your support so that we can together move our country forward.
Fellow Nigerians, your highnesses, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, despite the challenges over the last four years, my optimism about Nigeria’s future is unshaken and Nigeria’s role in the world as an emerging economic force is without a doubt.
Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians, and allies, to implement our transformative plans and proposals.
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.
We will accelerate investments in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare programmes, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best trained people.
On food security, our farmers have made great strides in local production of rice, maize, cassava, poultry, fertilizer, fisheries and sesame. We remain resolute in supporting private sector in emphasizsing backward integration and export expansion plans.
Felling of trees to provide energy for domestic use is taking its toll on our rain forests, our ecology and our climate. Accordingly, we are taking steps to harness cleaner and more sustainable sources of electricity. We export over 2 million tons of cooking gas, yet we consume less than half a million tons.
We will work to address this issue and support rural communities with challenges of safely switching from firewood to cooking gas.
Dedicated agro-industrial processing zones will be developed on a PPP basis to increase farming yields, agricultural productivity and industrial output.
Over 2,000 kilometers of ongoing federal road and bridge projects across the country will be completed to reduce journey times and the cost of doing business. As I mentioned earlier, critical feeder roads will be built to facilitate easier transportation for people and goods from rural areas to major roads.
We are at advanced stages of securing investments to modernise and expand our transmission and distribution infrastructure, ensuring that electricity is available and affordable for all Nigerians.
Several rail, seaport and airport projects are at various stages of completion. We will open the arteries of transportation nationwide.
It is a fact that Nigeria has more gas reserves than it has oil. Over the last four years, we have become a net exporter of urea, which is made from natural gas. We invite investors to develop more natural gas-based petrochemical projects.
Fellow Nigerians, this government will not tolerate actions by any individual or groups of individuals who seek to attack our way of life or those who seek to corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. 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.
Nation building takes time. But we must take solace in the knowledge that this country, our country, has everything we require to make Nigeria prosper.
Fellow Nigerians, your highnesses, your excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to join me in this journey of rebuilding our nation.
Our focus will not be to help the privileged few but to ensure that Nigeria works for Nigerians of all persuasions. That is a more just arrangement.
As we all know, 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 elections of that year.
Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called MOSHOOD ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM.
In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want CHANGE, But CHANGE has come, we now must move to the NEXT LEVEL.
By the Grace of God, I intend to keep the oath I have made today and to serve as President for all Nigerians.
I thank you for attending this august occasion from far and near, and for all your best wishes to me, to our party and to Nigeria.
God bless us all, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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