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Democracy Day: I Will Assemble A Strong Team – PMB

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By JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, CNIBUZO UKAIBE, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO

To effectively drive his administration Next Level Agenda in the next four years, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he would assemble a strong team. He unveiled a 10-year plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty and renamed the National Stadium, Abuja after the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola. Buhari  took up religious, ethnic and political leaders, blaming them for the raging violence in most parts of the country. He, therefore, vowed to deal with all trouble makers in the country as well as scale up the ant-corruption fight to free resources for national development. In his speech at the June 12 celebration to mark this year’s Democracy Day held at the Eagle Square, Abuja,the president said that correcting injustice is a prerequisite for peace and unity, adding that as part of the process of healing and reconciliation, “I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and recognised the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with national honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

“The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the presidential election of that year. Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium,” he said. LEADERSHIP recalls that former President Goodluck Jonathan had renamed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after Abiola in 2012 but was rejected by some Yoruba leaders and other stakeholders. Apparently referring to his next cabinet, President Buhari assured Nigerians that he would put together a strong team to drive the Next Level agenda. He said:

“Despite the challenges over the last four years, my optimism about Nigeria’s future is unshaken and Nigeria’s role in the world as an emerging economic force is without a doubt. Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians and allies to implement our transformative plans and proposals. “We will see significant focus, resource and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age. “We will accelerate investments in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare programmes, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best trained people,” he said.

The president attributed the rising cases of kidnapping and banditry to corruption and decades of neglect of critical institutions. According to him, there exists a strong correlation between economic inequality and insecurity, stressing that when economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. He added that when the government actively reduces inequality through investments in social and infrastructure, insecurity reduces. Buhari remarked that the disturbing increase in the rate of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities could be attributed to the decades of neglect and corruption in social investment, infrastructure development, education and healthcare. “This issue is further compounded by the impact of our changing climate and ecology. The Economic Community of West African rican States (ECOWAS) and Sahel regions, starting from Chad all the way to Mali, are also experiencing adverse impacts of drought and desertification, which have triggered waves of human displacement; conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; terrorism, and a fundamental socioeconomic change to our way of life. “These issues are regional and not unique to Nigeria. The problems call for increased regional and international cooperation in developing a sustainable solution,” he said. As ECOWAS chairman, Buhari said that he would host a regional security summit of heads of states in the Sahel to develop a joint strategy to continue our efforts in addressing these issues.

Nigerians Must Rise Against Corruption, Says President Buhari said that at the heart of inequality and insecurity, is pervasive corruption. He said that when he took office he realised that if anyone who fights corruption, corruption will fight back, declaring that “we have seen this at all levels. “For Nigeria to progress, a collective resolution to address corruption and foster broad-based prosperity is required to create a country that is not only for a few privileged, but for all Nigerians. “This charge is not only to civil servants, ministers, legislators and state government functionaries, but also to corpoate leaders,” he stated.

The president said that his administration would make greater investments in rural economies and aggressively source local raw materials. He pointed out that national development cannot occur from Abuja alone and charged the states to join the drive because the federal government cannot do it alone. He also implored state governments, especially those with large rural economies, to solicit for investments in their states, adding that they should invest in  human capital, reduce bureaucracy and corruption, host and attend investment summits and improve the ease of doing business. He averred that his administration is taking bold steps in transforming Nigeria and liberating the people from the shackles of poverty.

FG To lift 100m Nigerians Out Of Poverty Meanwhile, President Buhari has disclosed that the federal government would in the next 10 years lift 100 million Nigerians from the poverty line. Buhari pledged that his government would continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information. He said that in the face of these challenges, “our government elected by the people in 2015 and re-elected in March has been mapping out policies, measures and laws to maintain our unity and at the same time lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and onto the road to prosperity. “This task is by no means unattainable. China has done it.

India has done it. Indonesia has done it. Nigeria can do it. These are all countries characterised by huge burdens of population. “China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it. With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years,” he said. …Blames Religious, Ethnic, Political Leaders For Violence The president gave religious, ethnic and political leaders knocks when he accused them of masterminding inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence in the country. He said that the leaders were hoping to benefit by “exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country.’’

Buhari said that in spite of the activities of the saboteurs, his administration had remained focused in fulfilling his campaign promises in the areas of security, economy and fighting corruption. The president said: “When I took the oath of office on May 29, 2015, insecurity reigned. Apart from occupying 18 local government areas (LGAs) in the Northeast, Boko Haram can at will attack any city including the Federal Capital Territory; can threaten any institution including bombing the United Nations building and Police Headquarters in Abuja. “Admittedly, some of the challenges still remain in kidnapping and banditry in some rural areas. The great difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting these challenges with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence.

“We are meeting these challenges with superior strategy, firepower and resolve,’’ he said. Buhari reiterated the greatness of Nigeria in the comity of nations and the need for every citizen to work towards reclaiming the glory. Conspicuously absent at the event were former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. Others were former Head of State. Gen. Yakubu Gowon and former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babagida and Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. However, the presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Benin Republic, Botswana, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Niger Republic, Senegal were witnessed the ceremony. While the vice presidents of Equitorial Guinea and Zimbabwe represented their principals. Representatives of the presidents of Guinea Conakry, Republic of Ireland, Cameroon, Czech Republic, India, Japan, Serbia, Morocco, and Liberia were also present. Also, first class traditional rulers, captains of industries and members of the diplomatic corps were well represented.

Among the royal fathers that graced the occasion are the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammed Abubakar Sa’ad III, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Etsu Nupe, Dr. Yahaya Abubakar, the Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Haliru Dantoro, the Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi amongst others. Similarly, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Ogun State, Aremu Olusegun Osoba, the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio were among the former governors present at the occasion. Among the incumbent governors were Lagos State’s Babjide Sanwo-Olu, Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Atiku  Bagudu (Kebbi), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), and Willie Obiano (Anambra). Business mogul and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, chairman of Forte Oil, Femi Otedola, founder of UBA, Tony Elemelu and other captains of industries represented the private sector.

From the diplomatic community, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and the vice president, Madam Finda Koroma, were present. Declaring June 12 Democracy Day Not Enough – Atiku In his reaction to the June 12 events, former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, questioned the democratic credentials of the President Buhari and the APC-led administration. Atiku said that it was not enough for the Buhari administration to declare June 12 a Democracy Day when “it is disrespectful of the rule of law and wantonly disregards court orders on issues that border on fundamental human rights.” He declared that it was not acceptable that an administration which failed to deliver on its promise of change to Nigerians and propelled the country into a near-comatose state would lay claims to being a true friend of the June 12 struggle. Atiku, in a statement he personally signed to mark the day, said that the significance of the celebration of June 12, 1993 presidential election is a reminder of the nation’s history to becoming a democratic country.

While he recalled that on this day 26 years ago, Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism, Atiku stressed that the collective decision by Nigerians to elect democracy on that day was not to aggrandise the political elite or to replace military dictatorship with civilian autocracy. “No! The choice of democracy was to restore power to the people,” he stated, adding that “suffice it to state that the idea of June 12 is not merely to declare it as a Democracy Day – much as celebratory and commendable it might seem – the idea behind the event of June 12, 1993 embodies something much more big than that.  It was a threshold moment in our national life that demands of us as democrats to do a soul searching and ask the salient question of all time: how better off are Nigerians?”

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