Pesident Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria must remain a strong and united country despite the current challenges.In a nationwide broadcast to mark the 61st independence anniversary, the president reiterated that the country’s unity is not negotiable.
“Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation,” he said.
The president said the federal government would arrest and prosecute persons inciting violence in the country.
He said government would take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten national security.
On the recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, the president said the ongoing investigations being conducted revealed certain high-profile financiers behind them.
He said government was “vigorously pursuing financiers of secessionist agitators including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly.”
“As a government, we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering.
“That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood,” he said.
The president called on Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue regardless of their grievances.
“The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties.
“Such unfiltered and unsubstantiated lies and hate speeches by a few evil persons must be stopped. Our media houses and commentators must move away from just reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers.
“We must all come out and speak against the lies being peddled. At this point, I would want to sincerely appreciate the large number of our Traditional, Religious and Community leaders as well as other well-meaning Nigerians who, in their various fora are openly spreading the message of peaceful co-existence and conflict settlement through dialogue in their respective communities,” he said.
COVID-19, security challenges
The president said the past 18 months had been some of the most difficult periods in the history of the country.
“Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.
“The original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising the economy following the deep recession while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges. But the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on all nations meant we needed to shift gears and re-strategise.
“Nigerians came together as one to fight against COVID-19. It is this attitude and by the special grace of God, we continue to survive the pandemic as a nation and indeed, provide leadership and example at regional and international levels.
“The doomsday scenario predicted for our country never came. Even as the Delta variant continues to spread, we have built the capacity we need to respond now and into the future,” he said.
The president appealed to Nigerians not to take COVID lightly, stressing that public health and social measures, wearing of mask and getting vaccinated should be adhered to.
“We can control this pandemic, but it requires effort on everybody’s part. The investments we made in response to COVID-19 will also serve our country to tackle any future disease outbreaks or pandemics.
“Despite the global inequity in access to vaccines, the Government of Nigeria has continued to explore all available options to ensure Nigerians have free access to safe and effective vaccines.
“Some five million vaccine doses have been administered to Nigerians through efforts led by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and we will continue to explore options for purchase or acquisition of vaccines such as through COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.
“I will take this opportunity to remind the global community that the current state of access to COVID-19 vaccines is unacceptable. We cannot afford a situation where a handful of countries keep the global vaccine supply to themselves at the expense of other nations.
“We must act now to accelerate equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the message I conveyed to the international community in New York last week.
“As we push to source vaccines for our immediate needs, we shall invest more to support our pharmaceutical and research agencies to come up with ideas for locally developed vaccines. Should another pandemic arise in the future, our question is simple; will Nigeria be ready?
“Accordingly, I have directed the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health, Education and Science and Technology to work with Nigerian and International pharmaceutical companies and research organisations to enhance Nigeria’s domestic pharmaceutical capacity.
“Already, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority is raising a $200 million fund for this initiative that will complement the Central Bank of Nigeria’s ongoing N85 billion Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme to support local researchers in the development of vaccines and drugs to combat communicable and non-communicable diseases, including COVID-19,” he said.
The president said the country has already commenced its journey to pharmaceutical independence.
“This journey, which will take years to achieve but will ultimately result in Nigerian based companies developing the Active Pharmaceutical substances and competence needed for us to make our own drugs and vaccines,” he said.
He also expressed concern over resurgence of insecurity in certain parts of the country, stressing that “we are taking the fight to enemies from all angles and we are winning.”
“I launched the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, the Deep Blue Project, which is designed to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea. I am happy to inform Nigerians that we have taken delivery of key assets for this project and very soon, its impact will be felt.
“In the North East region alone, over eight thousand Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered. To support our surge approach to fighting banditry, the Nigerian Armed Forces have recruited over 17,000 personnel across all ranks. Furthermore, I have also approved for the Nigerian Police Force to recruit 10,000 police officers annually over the next six years.
“I am also pleased to note that most of the Air Force platforms we acquired over the past three years have started to arrive in Nigeria. These will positively impact our security operations in all parts of the country.
“In line with section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the security and welfare of Nigerians continue to be the prime focus on which programmes and projects of our government revolves,” he said.
APC tasks PDP, others
In its message, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has advised the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other opposition parties to avoid do-or-die politics ahead the 2023 general elections.
The ruling party also said President Buhari is committed to building a solid foundation that will stand the test of time, institute good governance and service delivery.
In an Independence Day statement released Thursday in Abuja, the chairman APC caretaker/extraordinary convention planning committee and governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, said APC was redefining party politics in Nigeria through institutionalisation of a strong internal democracy and a bottom-up approach to give ownership of the party and power to the people.
The statement, signed by signed by Buni’s spokesman, Mamman Mohammed, said:
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is committed to building a solid foundation that will stand the test of time, institute good governance and service delivery.
“It is pertinent for us as a ruling party and other political parties in the opposition not to see politics as a do-or-die affair but a ladder to nation building.
“We should therefore play clean, pure and wholesome politics to promote democratic growth and developmental politics that is beneficial to the people of Nigeria” Buni said.
He appealed to Nigerians to support and cooperate with the Buhari-led administration in its commitment to build a prosperous nation.
On this year’s independence anniversary, Buni said the long history of integration among the various ethnic and socio-cultural groups should be a source of unity in diversity for the country.
“At 61, Nigerians should concentrate on issues that unite the country rather than divisive tendencies,” the governor further said.
Governor Buni said although Nigeria might not have reached where it wanted to be after 61 years of independence yet, “we have cause to celebrate our existence as a country.
“We may have some challenges but we still remain a united country with lots of hope to prosper and attain greatness as a united country.
“We should remember that every country including the developed nations has their challenges, ours should not be an exception to contest our existence as a country and provoke our growth and development.
“We should face the challenge and contribute to national growth and development for us to collectively achieve our target of a better Nigeria.”
PDP fires back
However, in its review of Nigeria’s 61 years of nationhood, the PDP concluded that the APC-led federal government is pushing the nation to the brink.
Addressing newsmen at the party headquarters in Abuja Thursday, PDP National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan said “it is painful that all the gains made by our nation since independence in 1960 and especially during the 16 years of the PDP in office, including the entrenchment of national unity and cohesiveness, freedom and personal liberty of citizens, rule of law, credible elections, justice, equity, fairness and economic progress; the very elements of an independent state, have all been reversed by the APC and the Buhari Presidency.
“The Buhari Presidency and the APC have on all fronts taken our nation back to the pre-independence days with associated bondage mentality and frustration resulting in many losing faith in the system and leaving our country in droves within the last six years.”
“Is it not an irony that our nation is celebrating independence in the face of subverted elections, brazen crackdown on the opposition and dissenting voices as well as other suppressive acts including the muzzling of free speech as witnessed in the ban on Twitter in Nigeria?
“Is it not also an irony that as we celebrate independence, thousands of our compatriots are falling victims to extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention in dehumanizing cells; which underscore the horrible situation under President Buhari and the APC, as even profiled by reputable international organizations including Amnesty International (AI) and US Department of State?
“How can we celebrate when the APC government has no answers to the murdering of our youths by security operatives as witnessed in the #EndSARS protest killings of 2020 and, where those who demand for accountability in governance are being hounded, harassed and framed?
“Is it not painful that under President Buhari, our nation has been opened up to terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, who are wantonly killing our citizens while their known apologists are enjoying official cover with one of them even holding office as cabinet minister?
“The PDP holds as unpardonable that President Buhari has failed to secure our nation. In spite of the genuine suggestions by patriotic Nigerians including the PDP, his administration has remained lethargic and assuming a helpless situation.
“Nevertheless, our party celebrates our gallant troops who are making huge sacrifices to defend our nation, despite the daunting challenges they face.
“On the economy front, how can we celebrate when President Buhari and the APC have in a space of six years, wrecked our once robust economy and turned Nigeria into the poverty capital of the world, where over 82.9 million Nigerians can no longer afford their daily meals?
“How can we celebrate when the APC has plunged our nation into economic slavery with over N33.1 trillion accumulated debt, a 33 percent unemployment rate, collapse of productive sectors and a weakened naira from the N167 to a dollar handed over to President Buhari in 2015 to a dismal N576 to a dollar today?.
He stated that, instead of ending its corruption and seeking ways to revamp the economy, the Buhari administration is allegedly busy doctoring the books with false indices that have no bearing of any sort to the harsh reality on the ground,” the PDP stated.
He said: “Indeed, this is not the way to go. The incontrovertible truth is that there is no hope in sight under the APC and that is why there are no drums on the streets to celebrate Nigeria at 61.
“If anything, Nigerians are using the occasion of the 61st independence anniversary to further strengthen their resolve to take back their country from the stranglehold of the APC, come 2023.
“The PDP appreciates the confidence reposed on our party by Nigerians to lead the charge to rescue our nation in 2023. Our party acknowledges the flurry of goodwill and solidarity messages coming from Nigerians across board as further demonstrated in the massive interest by citizens in our ongoing registration exercise.”
Lawal, Mark, Atiku, others on unity
And in his message, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan urged Nigerians to unite for the progress of the country and continue to keep faith with their fatherland at this auspicious time of its 61st Independence anniversary.
Lawan, who felicitated with all Nigerians on the milestone, said: “This is the first year of our seventh decade as a nation and also the second year of the third decade of the Fourth Republic.
“I find it remarkable that we are living in the longest era of democracy in our history as a nation.
“That may seem modest as an achievement, but it is an additional cause for celebration in the light of our political experience.
“Every patriot will always remember with pride that historic moment on October 1, 1960 when the British Union Jack was lowered and our Green-White-Green flag hoisted in its place.
“That moment symbolises our attainment of freedom from colonial rule. But it also marks the beginning of the onerous task of building a united, peaceful and prosperous nation that we set for ourselves.
“Over six decades on, the journey has been eventful and the challenges enormous. But we can be proud of the progress that we have made, draw lessons from the missteps and rededicate ourselves to our historic mission of nation-building. We should never abandon that mission.
“Our founding fathers encountered difficulties from the diversity of our people and country. But they realised that the feature is not unique to us and so they wisely embraced it as a potential source of strength.
“That is why they resolutely bound us into an indissoluble union. They had a dream of a diverse, united and prosperous Nigeria as a beckon of hope to Africa and the entire Black World.
“We must keep the torch of that dream of our founding fathers burning and hand it over to the next generation of Nigerians.
“The founding fathers got nothing on a silver platter. Their dream of a glorious future for Nigeria inspired them in confronting the challenges of their time.
“That great heritage is what we are celebrating today. We must preserve and pass it to the coming generations.
“If our founding fathers had succumbed to the challenges that they encountered in their pursuit of independence, we would not today have a great country to celebrate. They faced their challenges and prevailed. Our own challenges today are numerous, but they are not insurmountable.”
Also, a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP Enugu East) Thursday took stock of the nation’s socio-economic and political history and called on citizens to bury old prejudices.
The duo in separate statements said since leaders and citizens of the country at different times could weather the storms to this stage, there is assured future for the nation .
In his goodwill message, Mark noted that the security, socio-economic and political challenges bedevilling the country demands that “we bury mundane issues of attachment to religion, ethnic or tribal leanings and come together to rescue Nigeria from the precipice.”
“Nigeria has all it takes to overcome the challenges, but government must live up to its responsibilities in order to earn the trust and confidence of the people.
“The journey has been torturous though eventful in many respects. There is strength in our diversity. Our government, religious and traditional leaders must continue to preach the message of hope and reignite the can-do spirit of Nigerians,” he said.
He counselled against divisive tendencies and asked government to “ensue justice, equity and fairness in the distribution and allocation of resources to every part of the country to ensure that no section feels marginalised or short-changed.
“I advise those fanning the embers of disintegration or war through hate speeches, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and other societal ills to sheathe their swords for peace to reign.
“No matter the anger in a man’s mind, killing or destruction of property cannot be a solution”, he stated.
In his own message, Senator Nnamani said the uncertainties in the socio-economic and political life of our country, agitations in some quarters as well as violent crimes in parts of the country could be curtailed if citizens feel a sense of belonging and accommodation in the Nigerian equation.
He noted that agitations by some ethnic nationalities were traceable to the inequalities and exclusiveness in the scheme of things.
He bemoaned the increasing economic and security challenges, saying “we need to review our approach with a view to fashioning out a workable solution to the intractable crises.”