As Nigeria celebrates its 62nd Independence Day today, President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged afresh to bequeath a sustainable democratic culture by the time he exits office next May.
Buhari, in his last Independence Day speech this morning, says only good governance anchored on electing credible leaders on the basis of free, fair, credible and transparent elections, can guarantee the gains made by his administration.
He believes that the Electoral Act 2021 as amended with its landmark provisions “further assures us of a more transparent and inclusive Electoral Process.”
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also share the view that the future is promising for Nigeria.
Tinubu, in his goodwill message, asked all citizens to “eschew violence and recourse to divisive, incendiary politics that pull against the fabric of national unity and concord, while Atiku is convinced that Nigeria will rise again.
Explaining his passion for free and fair elections, Buhari says it is as a result of the role played by the majority of Nigerian voters in electing him president in 2015 after “my various attempts, failures.”
“Having witnessed at close quarters the pains, anguish and disappointment of being a victim of an unfair electoral process, the pursuit of an electoral system and processes that guarantee election of leaders by citizens remains the guiding light as I prepare to wind down our administration,” he says.
He adds: “You would all agree that the recent elections in the past two years in some states (notably Anambra, Ekiti and Osun) and a few federal constituencies have shown a high degree of credibility, transparency and freedom of choice with the people’s votes actually counting. This I promise would be improved upon as we move towards the 2023 General Elections.”
He urges all candidates in next year’s elections to “conduct issues-based campaigns devoid of hate speeches as well as other negative and divisive tendencies.”
He draws the attention of youths to the danger posed by violence during elections and warns them to “desist from being used by politicians for this purpose.”
Reeling out his achievements over the last seven years, the President says: “We took some time in settling down and we re-positioned the economy by providing strategic interventions in core areas at both the federal and sub-national levels.
“One of the areas where we have made significant progress is in the eradication of deeply entrenched corruption that permeates all facets of our national development.
“We strengthened the Institutions for tackling corruption and also cultivated international support, which aided the repatriation of huge sums of money illegally kept outside the country.
“The increasing number of prosecutions and convictions, with associated refunds of large sums of money is still ongoing. Furthermore, we would continue to block opportunities that encourage corrupt practices.
“In order to address Insecurity, we worked methodically in reducing Insurgency in the North East, militancy in the Niger Delta, ethnic and religious tensions in some sections of Nigeria along with other problems threatening our country.
“Our efforts in re-setting the economy manifested in Nigeria exiting two economic recessions by the very practical and realistic monetary and fiscal measures to ensure effective public financial management. In addition, the effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account and cutting down on the cost of governance also facilitated early exits from recessions.
“Fellow Nigerians, this administration removed several decades of uncertainty for potential investors in the oil and gas sector with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021. This landmark legislation created opportunities for foreign investments in addition to improving transparency in the management of the sector.
“Our administration has given the desired priority to the Agricultural Sector through a series of incentives to Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises that resulted in creating millions of jobs. Leading this initiative, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention in a number of areas as well as the Anchor Borrowers Programme had created the required leverages for Nigerians towards self-sufficiency in food and the necessary attraction for farming as a business.
“The growing contribution of non-oil exports, especially in agriculture, information and communication technology as well as the performing arts to our national economy will enhance our foreign exchange earning capacity.
“We are confronting current economic challenges such as debt burden, growing inflation, living standards and increasing unemployment accentuated by our growing youthful population. These problems are globally induced and we would continue to ensure that their negative effects are addressed in our policies.
“This administration will continue to ensure that our fiscal policies are supported by a robust and contemporary monetary policy that recognises our peculiarities in the midst of the growing global economic difficulties.
“This is evidenced by the recent Monetary Policy Committee decision to maintain all parameters, especially interest rates and marginally increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 14% to 15.5% and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 27.5% to 32.5%. It is projected that this would further insulate our economy from over exposure to uncertainties at the international market by restraining growth in core inflation.
“As we continue to de-escalate the security challenges that confronted us at inception of this administration, newer forms alien to our country began to manifest especially in the areas of kidnappings, molestations/killings of innocent citizens, banditry, all of which are being addressed by our security forces.
“I share the pains Nigerians are going through and I assure you that your resilience and patience would not be in vain as this administration continues to reposition as well as strengthen the security agencies to enable them to deal with all forms of security challenges.
“At the inception of this administration in 2015, I provided the funding requirements of the security agencies, which was also improved in my second tenure in 2019 to enable them to surmount security challenges. We will continue on this path until our efforts yield the desired results.
“As we put in place all measures to ensure that Nigeria takes her place in the Comity of Nations, we recognize the importance of a well-educated populace as a panacea to most of the challenges we face.”
On the current strike by university lecturers, Buhari says he is “very pained by the recurring disruption to our tertiary education system and I am using this Independence Day celebration to re-iterate my call for the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the classroom while assuring them to deal with their contending issues within the limits of the scarce resources available.”
We offer renewed hope to Nigeria’s quest for national greatness — Tinubu
Asiwaju Tinubu in his own Independence Day message said while the path toed by Nigeria since 1960 has not always been an easy one “we walk it nonetheless because it is the road hewn by our own hands, ingenuity and aspirations.”
He paid tribute to the Nigeria’s founding founders and nationalists who devoted themselves to making the dream of an independent and proud Nigeria a reality.
“But we must not forget. We commemorate this day so that our nation shall forever hold in remembrance those who won our nation’s independence,” he says.
“There is no way we can repay them for their patriotism except to remember them and strive to match their love of country and their sacrifice for it. Some gave not only their best years but their very lives so that Nigeria can be born. Their labour shall never be in vain!
Indeed, we have come a long way from 1960 when we gained independence. We have walked far since then. Still, the best of our national journey lies before and not behind us.”
Reviewing democracy in the country since 1999,Tinubu is of the view that “while, we have firmly established democracy as our way of governance, we still have work to do in perfecting our form of governance such that government will always and completely be for, of, by and because of the people.
“That our people live in the dignity afforded by prosperity, justice, freedom and an unyielding belief in our capacity to overcome any obstacle was what compelled our founders to strive for the independence we now enjoy.”
He said Nigerians on this Independence Day, should “commit ourselves to Nigeria’s unity as well as to our collective improvement. In unity, we must see each other as brothers and sisters regardless of our ethnic, religious or regional diversity.
“In seeking national improvement, we must join hands in growing the economy, creating jobs, feeding the hungry, educating our youth, caring for the sick and protecting our people and their way of life from evil and misguided foes who seek to destroy all that is good.”
He was grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration for “their patriotic efforts in the service of the nation. We give utmost thanks to the committed service of the brave members of our armed forces, security and law enforcement agencies some of whom have given their very lives in defence of our freedom against terrorism and violent extremism.
“We thank all who have dedicated their lives to public service and to the belief that this nation can be made great. We thank each and every law-abiding citizen of our great nation who dedicate their lives in the hope that Nigeria will be better and more united.”
Continuing, he said: “Today, I speak not of politics but patriotism. The time for politics will come soon enough but the time for and demand of patriotism never fades.
“May we all seek the best for Nigeria regardless of partisan affiliation and may we never undermine the national purpose in pursuit of narrow gain.
“As the nation heads toward the coming election, may we all eschew violence and recourse to divisive, incendiary politics that pull against the fabric of national unity and concord.
“My running mate, party and I stand committed to a prosperous, violence-free, and democracy-filled Nigeria. I ask you all to do the same. Only by so doing shall we honour the sacrifices and devotion of our nation’s founders. In this way, we bring a dependable promise of renewed hope to our quest for national greatness.”
Nigeria shall rise again, says Atiku
In a similar message, Alhai Atiku Abubakar expressed optimism that Nigerian shall rise again.
The Independence anniversary, according to him, should reawaken consciousness towards the consolidation of unity amongst the diverse people of the country.
The country, he noted, has passed through different phases of challenges, saying however, that “the democracy that we have is the requisite antidote to the current challenges that we face.”
He said Nigeria is beset with challenges, especially inadequacies of economic plans to cover a large percentage of people who live below the poverty line.
On the security challenge in the country, Atiku believed it was caused mainly by the increasing lack of unity amongst Nigerians.
But he said that as one people living under the canopy of one country, “we will surmount our challenges and enthrone the Nigeria of our dreams”
He charged Nigerians to pay attention to building national unity as the country gears up for next year’s general election, urging all Nigerians to “give the issue of building national unity primary attention.
“Nigerians should elect leaders who are individuals with proven track records of being protagonists of unity and peace.
“I believe that when we fix the issues that continue to compromise our national unity, we would invariably fix issues that upset our peace and security and subsequently create an environment that can encourage economic prosperity.”
Lawan: We must remain resolute in defence of national unity
Senate President Ahmad Lawan urged Nigerians to remain resolute in the defence of national unity and promote fairness, justice and peace.
Lawan said the National Assembly would “continue to work for good governance and to strengthen our bond as a nation.
“The Almighty God in His infinite wisdom brought us together in our diversities. He has also preserved our Union despite the challenges that we have encountered in nation-building and socio-economic development since our Independence in 1960.”
He saluted Nigerians for the “resilience of our faith in our country in the face of those challenges.”
He said: “This precious faith in Nigeria and the lessons we continue to learn from our errors and triumphs will help us in building the great and prosperous nation that is our desire and destiny.
“On this day as we remember the labour of our heroes past, I urge us as a people to remain resolute in the defence of our unity, the pursuit of national prosperity and the promotion of fairness, justice and peace for the benefit of all our people.
“We have subscribed to democracy as our preferred form of Government. We should therefore nurture it patiently for the development of our country and the good of the present and future generations of our people.
“On our watch, your National Assembly will continue to work for good governance and to strengthen our bond as a nation.
“It is with these objectives in mind that we have passed many critical laws in the ninth Assembly. Some of those legislations had defied passage for many sessions. But we broke the jinxes, passed and got them signed into law.
“As we approach another election cycle, I implore our political actors to carefully weigh their words and actions towards ensuring peaceful electioneering as well as free and fair polls, in line with what is clearly emerging as a legacy of this Administration. We should be issue-based in the campaigns and avoid hate speech and violence.
“We are proud that we in the ninth National Assembly have provided the nation with an electoral law that has tremendously strengthened the electoral process. The law will make our votes count and promote confidence in the credibility of the process. And we shall continue to support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver credible elections.
“Our Armed Forces and other security agencies have, in recent times, made encouraging progress in the fight against insecurity in our country. They need the support of us all to sustain the tempo and up the game in their patriotic efforts, until security is restored to all parts of our country.”
FG pledges improved welfare
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige commended Nigerian workers operating under different unions for their immeasurable contributions to the sustenance of Nigeria’s independence.
The minister assured the nation’s workforce that the administration of President Muhanmmadu Buhari would leave no stone unturned in ensuring an improved welfare for all workers, in the face of extant challenges that have eaten into the national minimum wage.
Ngige noted that the federal government was not unmindful of the runaway prices of goods and services and their deleterious consequences on salaries and wages.
PDP urges Nigerians to keep hope alive
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) beseeched Nigerians to keep hope alive as the country celebrates its 62nd independence anniversary.
In a statement yesterday, the party said it was regrettable and heartrending that Nigerians were celebrating yet another independence anniversary under palpable bondage.
Party spokesman Debo Ologunagba who signed the statement said: “In the last seven years, the APC has balkanized and dislocated the unity of our country, promoted mutual distrust among the once happy and harmonious people; created a mass of internally displaced persons; the worst since the civil war in our country.
“Since 2015, Nigerians have witnessed life-discounting experiences with hyper-inflation, escalated unemployment, collapse of the nation’s currency and economic meltdown arising from poor and uncoordinated fiscal and economic policies of the administration.
“This gloom in the state of affairs of the country is revealed by official statistics which shows unprecedented 20.9% inflation rate, 30% unemployment rate, high cost of food and medication, over 20 million out of school children, university shutdown for almost a year, collapse of the productive sector, weakened naira to abysmal N720 to a Dollar and over N40 trillion external debt without corresponding evidence in infrastructural and human capital developments in the country.”
The PDP called on President Muhammadu Buhari to use the remaining period of his administration to ensure and guarantee peaceful, free, fair and credible 2023 general elections.
IGP orders tight security nationwide
Police Inspector-General Usman Baba directed the deployment of adequate personnel to provide protection for citizens, critical national infrastructures and ensure the success of all activities lined-up for the country’s 62nd Independence Anniversary nationwide.
IGP also advised police officers to prevent any untoward situation throughout the period of the celebration and beyond.
He directed strategic Police Managers comprising Assistant Inspectors General of Police and Commissioners of Police in all the Zonal and State Commands and the FCT to ensure high visibility and confidence boosting patrols around the venues of the celebrations, residential areas and other public places to prevent infiltration by hostile elements and ensure a peaceful celebration.
He enjoined citizens to cooperate unflinchingly with officers of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, for improved security management at various public gatherings during the Independence celebration.