Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Thank Ye O Our God
The 46th Nigerian Independence Anniversary Speech To The Nation
President Olusegun Obasanjo
October 1, 2006
MY dear compatriots,
In our statement on Thursday, I asked that both Nigerian Moslems and Christians should make this weekend one of praise, thanksgiving and reflection. We must also use the opportunity to pray for the souls of those that departed this world through accidents and other causes in the past year while thanking God for the strength He gave us to bear the losses and move on as a people and a nation.
It is important for us to refresh our minds of where we started from in
this Administration, where we are and, of course, where we want to be. I
will take some key indicators to illustrate why we need to continue to
thank God unceasingly. In 1999, we were a nation in deep crises, shunned by
the world and steeped in anger, violence, and instability at home and
unsure of ourselves. Our dignity, pride and morale had been thoroughly
debased, contaminated, corrupted and compromised. Today, we are loved by
all, elected to important positions in international organizations,
receiving tourists and investors at an unprecedented rate, and respected
wherever we go. Our GDP growth at 1990 constant prices which was a mere
1.19% in 1999 rose to 6.23 in 2005 with the non-oil sector increasing from
4.37% in 1999 to 8.21% in 2005. The growth rate in agriculture which was
5.28% in 1999 stood at 7% in 2006, solid minerals rose from 3.79% to 9.50%,
Inflation which was as high as 14.5% in 2000 has been reduced to 10.7%, our foreign debt which was US$28.3 billion in 1999 has been reduced to US$5.3 billion through an US$18 billion debt relief from the Paris Club and repayments by government. Our external reserve was a mere US$3.7 billion in 1999. Today we are almost US$45 billion. Our agricultural policies are yielding very positive results as we are now self-sufficient in poultry and poultry products and vegetable oil. We no longer rely on imported juice drinks and our programme for producing fruits and vegetables locally is making very good progress. We are almost self-sufficient in fish and fish products as well as in rice. Our cassava production as well as cocoa and other crops have more than doubled and our strategic grains reserve for the first time reached 150,000 metric tonnes.
We are now exporting cassava to China and other destinations just as we are opening new trade routes to other parts of the world. Our core welfare indicators are all on the positive trend. Life expectancy has increased slightly from 54 to 57 years, our HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has declined from 5.4 in 1999 to 4.4 in 2005, enrollment into primary, secondary and university educational institutions has more than doubled. Adult literacy rate has increased by 5.37%, and employment rates have gone up by 7.40%.
We have invested heavily in core sectors of the economy such as water, health, and transportation. Our banking reforms have produced fewer but stronger, more reliable and efficient banks. We overhauled the pensions system, introducing an effective and efficient contributory pensions scheme. We also introduced a national health insurance scheme for the first time in our nation’s history.
Our economic policies were effective enough to earn us favourable ratings from credible international rating organisations, Fitch and Standard and Poor for the first time. These improvements in our socio-economic profiles have positively impacted on our per capita income and per capita private consumption. Without doubt, and on a comparative basis, we have done well. Our goal is to give hope, confidence and comfort to all Nigerians. It is our desire to open up new vistas of opportunities and possibilities for all. It is our design to generate, strengthen and sustain the “can-do” spirit in all Nigerians. We must thank God Almighty for His love, kindness, blessings and care. I must personally thank all Nigerians for their understanding, love, sacrifices, and support for our reform programme. We never said it was going to be easy. But as we tolerated and watched our country decay and deteriorate until it got to the precipice of collapse, so must we be courageous enough to withstand the pains of reform in order to reap its gains in full. We have done very well so far.
Impressive as these indicators of progress may be, we are still far from where we should have been if we had gotten it right since 1960 and where we now want to be. In the past we did not do many things right. But the few things that we did right, we did not sustain doing them right. This time with the Reform Agenda and the progress so far, we know that things are happening and we are doing right and we intend to stay on course. Staying on course requires that we maintain focus and commitment in our Presidential Initiatives and drive for self-sufficiency in food production and food security, increased exports to earn foreign exchange, and emphasis on small and medium scale enterprises such as processing and manufacturing. Staying focused and on course requires that we continue to work hard to make Nigeria the major tourist destination in Africa through better infrastructure, service delivery, security and safety, and better and more attractive packaging of our products. We must produce more and add value to products for both domestic and export markets.
Remaining on course means that we must complete our on-going power projects that will give us 10,000 mega watts of power supply by the end of 2007 and to continue to invest in more power generating initiatives like Mambila, solar energy, wind energy and eventually nuclear energy. We must complete our inter-modal transportation system, safer, more efficient and affordable air transport, and waterways transportation to reduce pressure on roads, ensure better roads network, and continue to make progress on the new multi-billion dollar modern railway lines. We cannot leave out ICT especially the computerization of our schools, hospitals, businesses, and ministries to cut waste, secure information, promote efficiency and service delivery. We must participate in outsourcing. Our micro- and macro-economic policies must continue to emphasise transparency, accountability, expansion, growth and product diversity. In particular, the war against corruption must be deepened and sustained if we are going to ensure the appropriate deployment of our scarce resources to the right sectors and eliminate fiscal decay and indiscipline. There will be no relenting on the fight against corruption. We have put our hands on the plough and there is no looking back, going back or sliding back.
We must continue to ensure and assure security of life and property all over the country. This is why we also have to improve on the quality of men and women in politics. Our political reforms, within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and in other sectors are designed to deepen political discourse, make politics issue-based, eliminate violence and indiscipline, expand opportunities for participation for women, encourage the emergence of new leaders, build bridges of understanding and cooperation, promote the values of tolerance, accommodation, and dialogue, and build a credible political structure for socio-economic advancement.
The sustenance of these measures in our Reform Agenda must continue. We cannot afford to falter, be diverted, distracted, confused, discouraged, intimidated or reversed. We must remain focused and resolute. This is where our future, the well-being of our children, the security of our nation, and the progress and stability of our communities lie. There is no alternative to being consistent, supporting each other, exchanging and embarking on best practices, insisting on service delivery, fighting waste and corruption, and maximizing opportunities for promoting growth, development and democracy. We must continue to enthrone equity, justice and fairness in all our affairs and interaction in this land. Those who believe that progress has not been made are either enemies of progress who are also blind and deaf. They are people who may never see any good in their own country and who spend time celebrating every minor error or impute motive into every disaster. Some are so mindless and callous that they gloat and seek political advantage in the misfortune of other Nigerians.
Clearly, these are people that want to see us back to the days of rent seeking, corruption, waste and violence which they obviously regard as progress because they benefited from the rot of the time. We have collectively rejected this bitter past and we are determined to ensure that no one or group of persons will take us back to those days of sweat, pain, tears and blood. We must continue to believe in God, in our country and indeed, in ourselves. Where do we want to be in the future as a people and a country? We want to have the basic human needs available to all, affordable, and delivered efficiently and effectively. We want electricity- generation, transmission and distribution- that will make us an industrializing country by the year 2020.
We want an inter-modal transportation that will modernize and expand our railway, road network and inland and coastal waterways. We want an educational system that will give us very close to 100% literacy with every Nigerian who can benefit from tertiary education having access to it, to acquire skills that will serve a modern knowledge economy. In the health sector, we want a life expectancy that will make every Nigerian live up to and beyond the Biblical three-score and ten with all the programmes, institutions, and management facilities required to sustain a truly healthy population. Industrially, we want an economy that will be among the 20 largest in the world; an economy that will be based on modern information and technology, management system, financial administration and transaction, and a pervading culture of excellence, efficiency, and service delivery- an economy that will export skill and knowledge to earn revenue in addition to other products.
To get to these goals and more, we must remain steadfast, courageous, disciplined, focused, and unwilling to tolerate corruption, bad leadership, and abuse of power in any form. That is the way to build and strengthen the foundations of a nation and build the confidence of a people. We must be ready to stand firm, sure-footedly and be counted. In the area of leadership, our country has seen more than its fair share of pseudo-leaders, ethnic and religious entrepreneurs, and those who define themselves as leaders rather than allow the people to so define them. We have seen those that struggle to attain leadership positions only to use it for personal aggrandisement, the suffocation of civil society, political opportunism, and corruption.
On this our independence day, we must collectively resolve to resist and reject such people, policies and programmes that have not served the interest of Nigeria. They do not mean well for Nigeria and our future cannot be anchored on such diabolical and dubious credentials and interests. In spite some drawbacks we witnessed in the past, politics in Nigeria has made some significant progress. This is evidenced in the emergence of a new generation of politicians, the conduct of elections, the culture of constitutionalism, the development of political party platforms and the effort by some parties to strengthen themselves. Nigeria has made good progress. But we are still far from where we should be or where we ought to be. We have no substitute for democracy and must continue to embrace, enlarge and deepen it.
If we are to make steady and sustainable progress, we must collectively resolve to fight political corruption and violence, election manipulation, the imposition of candidates, the culture of empty politicking, and the marginalization of women in the power and political process. We must fight those that continue to see our today and tomorrow with the lenses of our dark past; people with little to contribute to easing our pains and building a holistic and sustainable foundation for posterity. Development and greatness do not just happen for a nation. They must be made to happen and they must be sustained.
What we need for our future is not just a commitment to a culture of constitutionalism, fair competition, respect for the rule of law and genuine democratic politics and practice, but also honest, loyal, patriotic, sensitive, knowledgeable, consistent, reliable, compassionate, tested, and God-fearing leadership at all levels. Men and women who will live by the words of our national pledge. Men and women with vision and sense of mission. We all must not be afraid of reform and what is new and positive in our new brand of politics, leadership and socio-economic trend.
As we approach the 2007 elections, we must all pray hard and work together to ensure a peaceful transition. We must be vigilant and the starting point must be our families, communities, and respective political parties. We must have the courage to speak out and to insist on non-violence, fairness, due process, and justice. We must put Nigeria first and always above other interests. We must see politics not as an end in itself, but as a means to getting the very best for the society to provide service for all. We must reject those that wish to divide us along class, ethnic, gender, religious, and communal lines when it suits them.
If after 46 years of independence we cannot begin to identify and strengthen the bonds and bridges that bind us as people, it is not too late to begin now. God will complete what He has begun in the Nigeria Project. The reform agenda is being owned by the people, who, on their own, will defend the institutions and processes. The National Assembly is continuing to consider some Bills that will help give legal backing to many of the reform institutions, structures and programmes. And, the international community has appreciated and accepted our reform and will not accommodate or tolerate anyone that attempts to undermine investor confidence and our growing economy. In every way, the future of our dear country is in the hands of all Nigerians. I will like at this juncture to commend and thank those young men and women and the not so young men and women who have so far dedicated and committed themselves and their lives to the implementation of our reform agenda and what is best for Nigeria. Surely, they will be richly rewarded by God and by history. We are marching on and we are marching forward in the name of God Almighty.
Fellow Nigerians, as we celebrate, let us reflect deeply on our past experiences and think very seriously about our collective future. We have come out of the dark past and as we continue to work together and plan together, our dear country, in God’s name, will continue to make progress. We are a strong, God-fearing, proud and productive people. We must continue to hold our heads up and high, keep God in our hearts, let the common good guide our actions, and believe that with God all things are possible. I wish you all a most pleasurable independence anniversary. May God continue to bless our dear country, Nigeria.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.