President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria.
He said he was committed to ensuring that Nigeria became a country where all, irrespective of background, could aspire to succeed.
Buhari made the promise in his national broadcast aired early on Monday to mark the nation’s 58th Independence anniversary. Taking a look at the nation’s journey in the past 58 years, the President said Nigeria had come a long way even if the journey had not ended.
He said, “As we celebrate the 58th anniversary of our Independence, we know we are on the right path.
“Although we have our differences, they count for far less than the values, virtues and common aspirations that unite us as a nation.
“We have so much for which we should be grateful, and in which we should rightly take pride. Our journey is not finished but we have come a long way.
“I want to assure you that as President, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve what really matters: a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria, where all, irrespective of background, can aspire to succeed.”
Describing the anniversary as a day of celebration and solemn reflection, Buhari lauded and remembered the nation’s founding fathers who he said laboured so hard and sacrificed so much to build and bequeath a nation like Nigeria.
He said it was the responsibility of all stakeholders to consolidate the great legacy.
While saying that there had been a steady improvement in the security situation in the North-East, the President said he remained committed to ending the crisis and making the region safe for all.
He promised not to allow the Boko Haram sect achieve its goals which he said included capturing territories, destroying democracy and denying children the right to education.
Buhari paid glowing tribute to the men and women of our armed forces, the police and other security and law enforcement agencies, who he said had been working under the most difficult conditions to keep the country safe.
“As their Commander-In-Chief, I assure these our gallant men and women that I will continue to empower them by deepening their professionalism and providing all the necessary force multipliers and enablers required for them to prevail on the field.
“I am looking into all reported cases of inadequacies in relation to their entitlements, their welfare and those of their families,” he said.
The President also noted that efforts were on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youth in the region and re-establish livelihoods, as well as strengthen their capacity to guarantee for themselves and for the country a brighter future.
He also said his administration had put machinery in place to end the incessant herdsmen and farmers clashes across the country.
He promised to deal decisively with perpetrators of violence.
He urged stakeholders to resist the temptation of viewing the conflict as either religious or ethnic based.
Buhari said, “The age-long conflict between herders and farmers that was being exploited by those seeking to plant the seeds of discord and disunity amongst our people, is being addressed decisively.
“We will sustain and continue to support the commendable efforts by all including civil society organisations, local and states governments and our traditional and religious leaders in finding a durable solution to this problem.
“This being a transhumance issue, we are working with countries in our region that are also facing similar difficulties to complement our common efforts.
“In this context, I must warn that the perpetrators of murder and general mayhem in the name of defending or protecting herders or farmers will face the full wrath of the law.
“Meanwhile, we urge all peace-loving Nigerians to reject any simplistic portrayal, at home or abroad, of this conflict as either religious or ethnic-based.”
The President noted that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world most affected by environmental degradation, as a consequence of climate change.
According to the President, the nation is a signatory to almost all conventions and agreements aimed at slowing down the effect of climate change and mitigating its evident consequences.
The consequences on lives and livelihoods of the shrinking of the Lake Chad and the pollution caused by oil exploitation activities alone, he said, made it mandatory on the government to be at the forefront of the struggle for a safer and more sustainable environment.
Buhari added that his administration was making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets “despite vicious and stiff resistance.”
He said the brazen theft of public fund was no more under his administration.
The President said, “The shameful past practice of the brazen theft of billions of naira is no more.
“Shady oil deals and public contracts that were never delivered have become things of the past.
“Consequently, and this is very evident across the country, we have done more with less in infrastructural developments.
“Roads, railways, major bridges, schools, energy and power, air and seaports, the welfare of serving and retired personnel both civilian and military including payment of legacy debt such as pension arrears, have been attended to.
“There is now an enabling environment for local and foreign investment in Nigeria. We are building a rules-based system — a level playing field that is free from fixers and intermediaries.”
“This is the cornerstone to help genuine investors and honest consumers, and the platform that will allow for the real reforms that we intend to deliver over the coming years.”
On the economy, Buhari said his administration was gradually strengthening the economy with a stable naira and falling inflation rate.
He said the government was building an economy that was moving away from over-reliance on oil, consequent upon which the nation had witnessed a massive return to farms and seen bumper harvest, despite recurrent floods across the country.
These positive developments, he noted, were the result of the collective pursuit of a common vision through hard work and dedication, “after the missed opportunities and disappointments that followed the return to democracy in 1999.”
Buhari observed that at the forefront had always been the nation’s youths who he said had been at the vanguard of the struggle for independence.
He added, “They (the youth) fought in the war to keep the country united. And it was they who kept alive the struggle for democracy and human rights in our country at times when these were at risk, especially following the June 12th 1993 election and the historic 2015 election process.
“Even today, our youths play a central role in Nigeria’s continuing progress and developments in all fields of our national endeavour –technology, agriculture, mining, engineering and especially creative arts. Together we are building a more diverse, inclusive and self-reliant economy.
“In the past three years, we have introduced many policies and programmes targeted at youth development and youth empowerment. We support the ‘not too young to run’ legislation aimed at giving the youth a greater say in our national politics and governance.
“The school feeding programme in primary schools is aimed at encouraging enrolment and attendance.
“We are building on what we have already introduced to support schools and universities to which funds have recently been released for the upgrade of facilities, training programmes for our entrepreneurs, and rehabilitation schemes for victims of terrorism and human trafficking.”
Buhari urged Nigerians to all rise to the responsibility of shutting out “those disruptive and corrosive forces that hide in today’s world of social media.”
“We need critical minds and independent thinking, to question and question until we are satisfied we have the facts. Otherwise, all the progress we have made as a democracy since 1999 is at stake,” he said.
The President also restated his commitment to the conduct of free and fair elections in the country.
He promised to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission was truly independent.
Buhari, however, admitted that developing a thriving democracy was not an easy task.
He said there could be no quick fixes or short cuts.
The President added, “I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly independent and properly staffed and resourced.
“The ballot box is how we make our choice for the governments that rule in our name.
“Developing a thriving democracy is not an easy task. There can be no quick fixes or short cuts.
“These are the most important lessons that we have learnt in our 58 years as an independent nation.”
At the international level, Buhari said Nigeria remained a responsible and respected member of the international community, playing active positive roles within ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations as well as all other regional and international organisations and institutions of which we are members.
He said the country would continue to support initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of our times: global and regional crises and conflicts, terrorism, trans-border crime, climate change, human rights, gender equality, development, poverty and inequality within and between nations, among others.
In this context, he said his government was working hard to achieve both the AU 2063 Agenda for socio-economic transformation of our continent; and the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which together aim at addressing these challenges.