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Democracy Day:National Broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari

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Democracy Day:National Broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari, May 29, 2016

My compatriots,

It is one year today since our administration came into office. It has been a year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements. By age, instinct and experience, my preference is to look forward, to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and rededicate the administration to the task of fixing Nigeria. But I believe we can also learn from the obstacles we have overcome and the progress we made thus far, to help strengthen the plans that we have in place to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.
We affirm our belief in democracy as the form of government that best assures the active participation and actual benefit of the people. Despite the many years of hardship and disappointment the people of this nation have proved inherently good, industrious tolerant, patient and generous. 
The past years have witnessed huge flows of oil revenues. From 2010 average oil prices were $100 per barrel. But economic and security conditions were deteriorating. We campaigned and won the election on the platform of restoring security, tackling corruption and restructuring the economy. On our arrival, the oil price had collapsed to as low as $30 per barrel and we found nothing had been kept for the rainy day. Oil prices have been declining since 2014 but due to the neglect of the past, the country was not equipped to halt the economy from declining.
The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.
Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could not pay salaries for months. In the north-east, Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments, driven the local authorities out, hoisted their flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable; corruption and impunity were the order of the day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.
On the economic front, all oil dependent countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have had to take tough decisions similar to what we are doing. The world, Nigeria included has been dealing with the effects of three significant and simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:

. A 70% drop in oil prices.
. Global growth slowdown.
. Normalization of monetary policy by my the United States federal reserve.
Our problems as a government are like that of a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by for rest of the year. However, this year he could only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must now think of other ways to make ends meet.

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants had been routed by our gallant armed forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual and safe return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity and for the resumption of normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.

EFCC was given the freedom to pursue corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted on what Nigerians expect of them in the fight against corruption. On the economy, in particular foreign exchange and fuel shortages, our plan is to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair of the refineries and producing most of our fuel requirements at home. And by growing more food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange and drastically reduce our food import bill.

We resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the Nigerian economy. Furthermore, I supported the monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy. We shall keep a close look on how the recent measures affect the Naira and the economy. But we cannot get away from the fact that a strong currency is predicated on a strong economy. And a strong economy pre-supposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market. The measures we must take, may lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have faced over the last year have been many and varied. But the real challenge for this government has been reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state. The last twelve months have been spent collaborating with all arms of government to revive our institutions so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose:

. That means a bureaucracy better able to develop and deliver policy
. That means an independent judiciary, above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s rights and dispense justice equitably.
. That means a legislature that actually legislates effectively and
Above all; that means political parties and politicians committed to serving the Nigerian people rather than themselves.
These are the pillars of the state on which democracy can take root and thrive. But only if they are strong and incorruptible. Accordingly, we are working very hard to introduce some vital structural reforms in the way we conduct government business and lay a solid foundation on which we can build enduring change.

An important first step has been to get our housekeeping right. So we have reduced the extravagant spending of the past. We started boldly with the treasury single account, stopping the leakages in public expenditure.

We then identified forty-three thousand ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system. That represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month.  In addition, we will save Twenty-Three Billion  Naira per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.

Furthermore, the efficiency unit will cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments. Every little saving helps. The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When this work is complete we will have a leaner, more efficient public service that is fit for the purpose of changing nigeria for the good and for good.

As well as making savings, we have changed the way public money is spent. In all my years as a public servant, I have never come across the practice of padding budgets. I am glad to tell you now we not only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to our development priorities than in the recent past. 30% of the expenditure in this budget is devoted to capital items. Furthermore, we are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds from oil. Some critics have described the budget exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of consensus building, which is integral to democratic government. In the end we resolved our differences.

We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones on security, corruption and the economy. In respect of the economy, I would like to directly address you on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had to make in the last few weeks specifically on the pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange rate policy announced by the central bank. It is even more painful for me that a major producer of crude oil with four refineries that once exported refined products is today having to import all of its domestic needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.

As part of the foundation of the new economy we have had to reform how fuel prices had traditionally been fixed. This step was taken only after protracted consideration of its pros and cons. After comprehensive investigation my advisers and I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.

We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen assets some of which are in different jurisdictions. The processes of recovery can be tedious and time consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery. Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically. When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed.

On the Niger Delta, we are committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and are advancing clean-up operations. I believe the way forward is to take a sustainable approach to address the issues that affect the delta communities. Re-engineering the amnesty programmes is an example of this. The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.

The policy measures and actions taken so far are not to be seen as some experiment in governance. We are fully aware that those vested interests who have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up without a fight. They will sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos rather than relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.

The economic misfortune we are experiencing in the shape of very low oil prices has provided us with an opportunity to restructure our economy and diversify. We are in the process of promoting agriculture, livestocks, exploiting our solid mineral resources and expanding our industrial and manufacturing base. That way, we will import less and make the social investments necessary to allow us to produce a large and skilled workforce.

Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal incentives for business that prove capable of manufacturing products that are internationally competitive. We remain committed to reforming the regulatory framework, for investors by improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the first steps along the path of self-sufficiency in rice, wheat and sugar – big users of our scarce foreign exchange – have been taken. The Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise  will boost the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long neglected communities. Special intervention funds through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and the absence of extension services. The federal and state governments are on the same page in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased food production and ultimately food security.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the increasing role that our women are playing in revitalizing the agricultural sector. Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden. In this respect I am very pleased to announce that the government will shortly be launching the national women’s empowerment fund, which I have approved to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.

With respect to solid minerals, the minister has produced a roadmap where we will work closely with the world bank and major international investors to ensure through best practices and due diligence that we choose the right partners. Illegal mining remains a problem and we have set up a special security team to protect our assets. Special measures will be in place to protect miners in their work environment.

For too long, ours has been a society that neglects the poor and victimizes the weak. A society that promotes profit and growth over development and freedom. A society that fails to recognize that, to quote the distinguished economist Amartya Sen “ poverty is not just lack of money. It is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

So, today, I am happy to formally  launch, by far the most ambitious social protection programme in our history. A programme that both seeks to start the process of lifting many from poverty, while at the same time creating the opportunity for people to fend for themselves. In this regard, Five Hundred Billion Naira has been appropriated in the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes in five key areas. We are committed to providing job creation opportunities for five hundred thousand teachers and one hundred thousand artisans across the nation. 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through our school feeding programme to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion rates. The conditional cash transfer scheme will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the enterprise programme – which will target up to one million market women; four hundred and sixty thousand artisans; and two hundred thousand agricultural workers, nationwide. Finally, through the education grant scheme, we will encourage students studying sciences, technology, engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for human capital development for the next generation

I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant men and women of the armed forces who are in harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go about our business in safety. Their work is almost done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

Abroad, we want to assure our neighbours, friends and development partners that Nigeria is firmly committed to democratic principles. We are ready partners in combating terrorism, cyber crimes, control of communicable diseases and protection of the environment. Following on the Paris Agreement, COP 21, we are fully committed to halting and reversing desertification. Elsewhere, we will intensify efforts to tackle erosion, ocean surge, flooding and oil spillage which I referred to earlier by implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

We are grateful to the international community notably France, the US, UK and China for their quick response in helping to tackle the recent Ebola outbreak in our sub-region. We also acknowledge the humanity shown by the Italian and German governments in the treatment of boat people, many fleeing from our sub-region because of lack of economic opportunity. We thank all our partners especially several countries in the EU.

We appreciate the valuable work that the UN agencies, particularly UNICEF, ICRC, the World Food Program have been doing. We must also appreciate the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and Educate A Child of Qatar for the excellent work in our health, education and other sectors.

Fellow citizens let me end on a happy note. To the delight of all, two of the abducted Chibok girls have regained their freedom. During the last one year, not a single day passed without my agonizing about these girls. Our efforts have centred around negotiations to free them safely from their mindless captors. We are still pursuing that course. Their safety is of paramount concern to me and I am sure to most Nigerians. I am very worried about the conditions those still captured might be in. Today I re-affirm our commitment to rescuing our girls. We will never stop until we bring them home safely. As I said before, no girl should be put through the brutality of forced marriage and every Nigerian girl has the right to an education and a life choice.

I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria.

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Opinion

Yinka Odumakin: The Exit Of A Convinced Humanist

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Yinka Odumakin: The Exit Of A Convinced Humanist

By Rauf Aregbesola

The circumstance of his demise were quite unusual. Though a picture he took with Papa Ayo Adebanjo, indicating he was not in the best shape of health had appeared on the internet not quite long ago; still, it caught us by surprise. The human mind has the incredible capacity to suppress morbid suggestions on loved ones, bordering on denial. But now, as the dust is settling and the tears are drying, we are beginning to reconcile to the fact that Yinka Odumakin is gone.

February 20, earlier this year, was the last time I had a telephone conversation with him. He was his natural self. He could be vivacious when excited and could also be dead sober, if the matter requires it. I never had any premonition it would be our last conversation.

Odumakin straddled the political spectrum, breaking into public consciousness as a students union activist at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, then practiced journalism at The Punch newspaper; was also part the struggles for military disengagement and deannulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola. In the post military era, Yinka retained his public presence with his participation in the politics of AD, AC, ACN, CPC and reportedly flirted with former President Goodluck Jonathan. He later consolidated his activism in Yoruba nationalism, being a highly visible spokesperson of Afenifere. He was a tenacious advocate of his convictions; never gave up on whatever he believed in, regardless of the opposition.

How did we meet? Yinka Odumakin and Bunmi Omoshehindemi walked into my office as the CGS of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation office at Sunday Adigun St., Alausa Ikeja. It was in November of 1998.

Both came to declare support for the candidacy of Bola Tinubu unequivocally. This was in defiant opposition to those then opposed to any form of accommodation for democratic building process without a clear resolution of the June 12 imbroglio. This was a courageous step, then considering that their position would have been considered anathema by the movement. We had since then built a robust relationship, sometimes very smooth and at times frosty, but all the time remarkable till his translation on Friday, April 2, 2021.

I said we had a remarkable relationship because Yinka was consistent in standing up to fight for democracy, federalism, justice and rule of law. These to me are the factors for defining the dignity of man. Whoever has this commitment is an ally and a humanist.

Yinka has had to publicly criticise me a couple of times, especially when I was governor in Osun, our relationship notwithstanding. I took it in good faith, as it never affected our relationship. His criticisms were consistent with his convictions on what constitute public interest.

I am therefore proud to have known, interacted and worked with a humanist that doggedly fought for the dignity of people.

Yinka Odumakin, you will wake up to joyful activities on the other side. May the good Lord support your wife, family and friends. Ameen.

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is Minister of Interior, Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Nigeria: These Terrible Times and Lessons of Easter

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Nigeria: These Terrible Times and Lessons of Easter

Easter Message of YOWICAN President

This Easter, I want us all to think about the unconditional love that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, had for us to the extent that He gave His life for our salvation.

His resurrection by God. What a lesson for young people of Nigeria and of what sacrifice can this achieve and the benefits it can bring to mankind generally and individually!

This Easter, I call on all, whether Christian or Muslim, to emulate Christ and sacrifice something for your nation, for your families and for yourselves. The young people are the change agents, let us not ask ourselves who will change our nation for the better. You and I are the ones that will cause the desired change our nation needs. Change begins with you and I. Young people of Nigeria, look in the mirror and ask how we can change our nation for better.

As agents of change, the youth should be wise enough to know what is good and bad before the law and in the sight of God. Avoid being used by politicians for thuggery; reject being enlisted into the Army of bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram. But accept to be enlisted into God’s Army. From all what are going on in different parts of the country, it is obvious that Nigerians have declared war against themselves.

How did the weapons find themselves into private hands? Although the government has tried, the best option is to embark on a mission to mop up all the arms and weapon in circulation. While we oppose amnesty and rehabilitation of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents, we will be wrong thinking that they will turn a new leaf. That will be encouraging blackmail and putting the lives of the defenceless citizens before firing squad.

Let us emulate Christ and have a change of heart. Turn from evil ways to good. Let this Easter be the beginning of a positive change in our nation, Africa and the world at large. I join other well-meaning Christian faithful all over the world to thank God for giving us all the grace to witness this year’s Easter celebration.

As we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I enjoin us all to imbibe the spirit of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, perseverance and tolerance that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ taught us.

ISHIELU KILLINGS And EFFIUM/EZZA EFFIUM CRISIS

•YOWICAN condemns and frowns seriously at the intra-communal war between Ezza-Effium and Effium clans in Ohaukwu Local Government of Ebonyi State and the killing of over 16 persons aged between 18 and 56 in Obeagu community in Ishielu LGA by suspected Fulani herdsmen. We demand justice for the victims in both crises. It is surprising that brothers in Ezza-Effium and Effium clans have declared war on themselves the end of which nobody can predict.

•We also condemn the assassination attempt on Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo in which three police orderlies were killed ahead of the governorship election in Anambra State scheduled for November 6. These are not acceptable to Nigerians. All these threats to life must stop, we must live together as one Nigeria.

I extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi and the various families that lost their loved ones. during this heartless killing. Same for Soludo and for Governor Ortom, we are with you in prayers.

Happy Easter to you all

Sign:

Belusochukwu Enwere
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria Youth Wing (YOWICAN)
April 4 2021

ENDS***

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AZUKA OKWUOSA: YESTERDAY’S GODSON IN TODAY’S GOVERNORSHIP RACE WITH HIS GODFATHERS

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AZUKA OKWUOSA: YESTERDAY’S GODSON IN TODAY’S GOVERNORSHIP RACE WITH HIS GODFATHERS

Anambra State is eight months away from a governorship election, many are hoping will take the state to the next level. The people want nothing but the best because it is the only way the state can get to the desired next level. Therefore, the best for the state cannot be a neophyte, a learner. The state urgently needs purpose driven administration, led by someone with huge and wide political experience. At the point where the state is now, it cannot afford to have a school boy governor, who would become governor first and then begin to learn how to be a political administrator. Anambra State Government House is not a political science class. Our next governor should be an accomplished politician, with accomplished record of national political experience.

The best for the state in the year 2021 cannot be another godson, a puppet foisted upon us and held on a leech by a godfather or godfathers. Anambra will no longer follow someone who is following someone else. Our next governor will be his own man and will be fully responsible for his actions as governor. The mere thought of godfathers in Anambra again conjures a horrific picture. Ndi Anambra can still recall clearly the chaos, impunity, retrogression and ridicule the godfather cult subjected the state to. We are still healing from that combined assault of renegades on our infrastructures and therefore, any aspirant in the Anambra governorship race who is found out to be funded by a godfather or godfathers should be treated as an “abomination” waiting to happen and must not be allowed to happen.

Our best in this year’s election is someone with forward approach to modernization, collective development and general welfare. The worst are those who can only point backwards to yesterday to recall whatever good they once nurtured. Yesterday was and will remain a terrible tragedy for ndi Anambra. However and courageously, we have moved on in search for a better state and any reminder of yesterday’s woes will be seen as insult, which we will reward with absolute rejection. Lewis Carroll had said, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” We are no longer who we were yesterday, when every man Friday toyed with our state and with our lives.

For the above reasons I believe that one of the aspirants in the Anambra governorship race, on the platform of the APC, Sir Azuka Okwuosa, is in the race for the worst reasons ever. The political experience he touts falls far below what is required of an Anambra governor today. He was a former Chairman of old Nnewi LGA and former Commissioner for Works in Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s failed administration, that did not as much as construct one standard road in the entire state, and that was under Azuka Okwuosa’s watch. In Nigeria, where astute knowledge of political dynamics and strategies for concessions and compromises have become State crafts, Anambra State needs a governor with national political experience, extensive clout and formidable contacts, rather than Okwuosa’s testimonial of yesterday’s mediocrity.

Addressing a gathering of party faithfuls in his Oraifite home recently, he told them with misplaced pride, that he is confident in his aspiration because he has the backing of his billionaire younger brother, Dr. Emeka Okwuosa, the Chairman of Oilserve Group and also the backing of Sir Emeka Offor, who for obvious reasons does not need introduction. These two moneybags according to Okwuosa, are funding his aspiration. This confession which is threatening to take Anambra back to
Egypt, has exposed Okwuosa as an abomination waiting to happen, and it behoves all APC delegates, for the love of our state, to stamp out this fledgling godfatherism before it takes root again. Please remember Mbadinuju and Ngige and how godfathers crippled their administrations and rubbished our state. One godfather was horrifying enough but two godfathers, with competing and conflicting interests are impending catastrophe of monumental proportions and must not be allowed to happen again.

Then Okwuosa dropped the bomb that clearly showed him as yesterday’s man, living in yesterday’s world with only yesterday’s memories. He told his dumbfounded audience, that as Commissioner for Works in 1999, he awarded a road contract that is yet unexecuted and that when he becomes governor in 2022, he will re award the contract. When I heard this story I shed tears for Anambra State because perchance, this lethargic politician could become our next governor.

In 22 years he didn’t call attention to the road or criticized past administrations for abandoning the project. He did not consider prosecuting the contractor who collected the contract money and absconded. He didn’t tell his audience his role in the scam and what efforts he put in to ensure the contractor’s full compliance with the terms of the contract. Now he wants to be elected governor in 2021 so that he will re award the contract for a rural road he abandoned 22 years ago.

What simple mindedness when others are planning for skyscrapers, hanging bridges, real airports, integrated water schemes and critical rural development. Thank God, we are no longer who we were in 1999. We were a different people then. This is 2021 and Azuka Okwuosa’s ambition of taking us back to yesterday tells a loud story of his lack of relevant experience to be Anambra’s next governor. Moreover, his baggages of godfathers marks him out as the next worst thing that will happen to Anambra State.

Okosisi Nnamdi Iloduba.

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