By Shola Oshunkeye
Like a Phoenix, Nigeria shall rise from the ashes of the current siege and bounce back stronger and better, and become a beautiful bride in the comity of progressive and prosperous nations of the world.
This is one of the nuggets in the nationwide television and radio broadcast made by President Muhammadu Buhari, Saturday morning, in commemoration of Democracy Day, June 12, 2021.
The President, had, on June 6, 2018, directed that effective from 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, hitherto celebrated every May 29, be shifted to June 12 to honour Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election.
Though the vote was globally recognized as the freest and fairest in the country’s history, it was voided by then military president, and Abiola’s best friend, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. The annulment triggered one of the worst political crises in Nigeria, culminating in Abiola’s mysterious death in detention on July 7, 1998.
In his broadcast this morning, President Buhari recalled the pledge he made when he joined the army that he was ready to die for Nigeria, and declared that he remained “ever committed to upholding and defending Nigeria’s Corporate existence.”
Inspiring hope, Buhari said: “As your President I remain ever committed to upholding and defending Nigeria’s Corporate existence.”
“Overcoming the present challenges,” he continued, “is but one of a necessary process that we have to undergo as a nation so that we can come out stronger. The day I joined the Nigerian Army I was prepared to lay down my life for Nigeria.
“In adhering to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy notably section 14(2)(b) I shall do all within my power to ensure that the Security and welfare of the people remain the primary purpose of government.
“I have, throughout my tenure, provided the security agencies with all they require relative to available resources and will be providing more as the dynamics unfold to put an end to our security problems.
“My strong belief in the Nigerian spirit gives me comfort that we are facing these challenges with renewed commitment to keep our country one.”
Earlier in the broadcast, the President acknowledged that he flew into power on the wings of the deep-seated confidence the electorate had in him to quickly crush the malignant and murderous Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the North East. Though the administration has consistently maintained that it had substantially degraded the insurgency, it has produced “unintended consequences”.
“When you elected me as your President in 2015, you did so knowing that I will put an end to the growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North East,” Buhari said, “but the unintended consequences of our scattering them in the North East pushed them further in-country which is what we are now facing and dealing with.”
Worse still, the President lamented that “Unfortunately, like in most conflict situations, some Nigerian criminals are taking undue advantage of a difficult situation and profiteering therefrom with the misguided belief that adherence to the democratic norms handicaps this Administration from frontally and decisively tackling them.”
The obstacles, he assured, were being comprehensively addressed, and “we will soon bring some of these culprits to justice.”
The President admitted that the last two years had been particularly precarious for Nigeria. The country, he said, had witnessed and surmounted “a good number of testy challenges that would have destroyed other nations”, but the “The indefatigable CAN-DO Spirit of the Nigerian has sustained us and would keep pushing us to put these challenges behind us.”
While condoling with families that lost loved ones to the noxious insurgency and other allied destructive tendencies across the country, and recognizing poverty and youth unemployment as “the twin underlying drivers of insecurity” in the land, Buhari promised that “We will, by the Grace of God, put an end to these challenges too.”
He lamented that “Unfortunately, some of the challenges, came in the shape of violent outrages leading to the loss of lives of many of our dear compatriots and the destruction of some of our infrastructure, including those devoted to improving our democratic processes.”
He praised the “gallant service men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty and as a sacrifice to keep Nigeria safe”, and sent his “sincere and heart-felt condolences” to their families.
He then highlighted some of the various interventions by his government to alleviate poverty, drastically reduce youth unemployment, and end or substantially mark down the sufferings of Nigerians.
His words: “Interventions led by Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria driving economic growth over the past 6 years are targeted mostly to the agricultural, services, infrastructure, power and health care sectors of the economy.
“In the Agricultural sector, for instance, the Anchor Borrowers Programme resulted in sharp decline in the nation’s major food import bill from $2.23billion in 2014 to US$0.59billion by the end of 2018.
“Rice import bill alone dropped from $1 billion to $18.5 million annually.
“This initiative supported local production of rice, maize, cotton and cassava. Government financed 2.5 million small-holder farmers cultivating about 3.2 million hectares of farmland all over the country and created 10 million direct and indirect jobs.
“Several other initiatives, namely AgriBusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme, the Non-oil Export stimulation Facility, the Targeted Credit Facilities operated across the 774 Local Governments.
“In the manufacturing sector the CBN – BOI N200 billion facility financed the establishment and operations of 60 new industrial hubs across the country, creating an estimated 890,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“The CBN’s N50 billion Textile Sector intervention Facility increased capacity utilization of ginneries from 30% to nearly 90%.
“The Economic Sustainability Plan-our rebound plan for the COVID-19 pandemic developed in 2020 is currently being executed. The plan is primarily focused on the non-oil sector, which has recorded phenomenal growth contributing over 90% to the GDP growth in Q1 2021.
“Though marginal we have recorded GDP growth over two quarters; Q2 2020 and Q1 2021. This is evidence of a successful execution of the ESP by the Federal Government.”
Please, read the full text of the President’s broadcast for more.