Fellow Nigerians, greetings to you on this day as we celebrate together the crown we achieved as a reward of the agitation and struggles of our heroes past towards a free society freed from dependence and servitude forcefully imposed on our people over a century ago.
The conditions of the day may be a stumbling block to the realisation that it is a day we should and must celebrate. Since it is the attainment of independence that has provided us with the opportunity and capability to chart our path towards economic development; a journey that we have refused to embark on.
Dear compatriots, it is this reality that compelled you to vote “change” in the last general elections which was symbolic in the history of Nigeria’s democracy and have seen President Muhammadu Buhari being positioned as its ultimate product. This mandate you have invested in President Buhari and the All Progressive Congress, I perceive will not be wasted. It is in hope of a better country that he was given the mandate of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it is in hope of a better country that he is expected not to stop pursuing the policies that he believes will solve the challenges facing Nigeria.
As our compatriot, President Buhari is not immune to our shared pain and patience and I expect him to share in our eagerness to see things change for the good of Nigerians as soon as possible. This feeling is legitimate and well-grounded considering where we are coming from, but I must seek your patience, trust and cooperation if we must reach where we are going. I will be a part of our problem if I desist from pointing out where your contributions are needed as patriotic Nigerians. In hope of distancing myself from being the problem, I ask you to be responsible in all you do. Being responsible is the soul of every good attitude and it is the inevitable line of divide between value and vice.
So far so good, President Buhari’s administration has attended the challenges of terrorism facing our nation by forming a local coalition through coordination of our armed forces with our neighbours; Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and seeking military aid from the G7 leaders. All these efforts have not only allowed us to stand up to the challenges of Boko Haram attacks on our northeastern territories but has also given us victory in some of our previously occupied territories against Boko Haram and the victorious campaign continue still.
However the necessity to address any threat to our national security can never be overemphasized. In the spirit of ensuring security particularly in northeast and in Nigeria as a whole, it is expected that the Nigerian government of today must not only assure compatriots in this Nigerian region that security vigilance will be heightened and tightened but must also ensure it.
Though power supply has become more stable today than previous times, we are still lagging behind compared to other developing regional and continental neighbours. However, this improvement was not achieved because the Commander-in-Chief makes things happen for he is no magician but because stakeholders in this sector are cooperative, responsible and humane. Certainly, there has been an improvement in the power sector but the efforts of this government in this sector can never be regarded as enough.
Thus, our government must continue to consult with stakeholders in this sector and must continue to invest in it, create conditions that will attract investors to invest in it and make such processes transparent enough so as to avoid any form of corruption. Development is unattainable without a constant power supply which is the wheel upon which development proceeds.
Today, it is evident that Nigeria’s economy is being challenged by dropping oil prices which has put a tenacious pressure on national income revenues. Prior to this development, we have seen state-owned refineries deteriorating; income revenues from oil proceeds dripping away without hope of being recovered; and corruption eating away the whole sector.
Without being forgetful of the status quo in this sector, President Buhari’s administration must make it a priority to pursue the introduction of financial prudence and responsibility in this sector; to repair state-owned refineries so that they will be able to refine crude oil at their maximum capacity; audit oil revenues; and probe administrators and other key players in the sector for corruption. Private investors must not be enriched illegally due to mistake, overlook and corruption at the expense of government purse.
In pursuit of providing Nigerians with welfare security, government must never abandon the policy of social welfare system that should attend to the wellbeing of the elderly and the unemployed. The skyrocketing figure of those that are unemployed must never be allowed to gain momentum under this administration. Instead, these figures should be cut down by an increasing number of industries and investments that will bolster the economy.
These should not be promises that will not be fulfilled, they should be objectives that this administration must fulfil by promoting, encouraging and investing actively in local manufacturing industry and service providing, which will in turn provide jobs, earn tax income, earn export duties and make local market price to be more competitive.
Nigeria, with a population of an estimated 182,000,000 people with about one out of every four Africans being a Nigerian, is referred to as the giant of Africa. Giant or not, one thing is certain; Nigeria is a principal power in Africa and must start acting as one. This Nigerian government has made it clear that it will not only seek to address security, social and welfare issues challenging its people but will also play the influential role it is strategically positioned to play in regional, continental and global politics. This intention was seen materialised in Burkina Faso and was also reflected in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s speech which seek to attain a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Being a permanent member of the UNSC is not a trophy in itself if such privilege will be subjected to the dictates of some global powers, for such privilege must at all times protect life and means to its sustenance, and at all times must protect everything that is right and just. In preparation for such privilege, our foreign policy must chart a new course distant from that of the past that saw our sovereign state.
It should not be a temporary member of the UNSC, voting to pass resolutions that do not pursue what is right and just but instead pursue the interest of some particular global powers at the detriment of other sovereign states and global citizens. Example of such are the different resolutions passed on Libya and other matters of importance which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and displacement of millions in just few years.
Celebrating this 55th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence is incomplete if Nigerians as a people and its government will not make a strategic shift towards solving its domestic challenges and playing the role expected of it globally. To achieve this, the government must cooperate with its people to derive the best from this trust that will be established in the spirit of cooperation and development that must be self-sustainable.
Abiola Akintunde tweets via @AAbiolat on twitter and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org