These are some certain lessons and points to pick from President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day speech.
1. PRESIDENT BUHARI’S LIFELONG COMMITMENT TO SERVING NIGERIA
Having studied, worked and lived in every part of Nigeria, interacted with Nigerians of all ages and ethnic, religious and political affiliations, and even fought a war for the unity of the country, President Buhari’s overriding ambition is to continue to work for the unity, peace, progress and prosperity of Nigeria.
“I can therefore do no more than dedicate the rest of my life to work for the unity of Nigeria and upliftment of Nigerians… Throughout my adult life, I have been a public servant. I have no other career but public service. I know no service but public service.”
2. A LOT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED, EVEN IN THE FACE OF GREAT CHALLENGES AND VESTED INTERESTS
A great deal has been accomplished in the last four years – in Infrastructure, Ease of Doing Business, etc. – but a lot more needs to be done. The recession is well behind us; we have since then enjoyed 8 consecutive quarters of growth. The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index – a measure of manufacturing activity – has risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017.
External reserves have risen to $45 billion enough to finance over 9 months of current import commitments. The Social Investment Programme, the largest in Africa, has become a model that other countries are seeking to copy. Longstanding debts are being cleared, including pensions, progress is being made in the fight against corruption.
Nigeria is attracting investments across various sectors: agro-processing projects; petrochemicals; crude oil and solid minerals; energy exploration; software development; telecoms; health, education, manufacturing projects. All of this progress is happening in the face of powerful interests that wish to retain the status quo.
“We [have] encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want CHANGE, But CHANGE has come, we now must move to the NEXT LEVEL… We are not daunted by the enormity of the tasks ahead. Instead, we are revived by this new mandate…”
3. NIGERIA’S INHERENT GREATNESS IS NOT IN DOUBT
Nigeria’s greatness is not in doubt: evident in its demographics, natural resources, regional and continental clout, and most importantly, its people. That greatness must be fully realized.
“Our strength is in our people – our youth, our culture, our resilience, our ability to succeed despite the odds… Nigeria’s role in the world as an emerging economic force is without a doubt.”
“Nigeria is the Big Brother to our neighbours. We are the shock-absorber of the West African sub-region, the bulwark of ECOWAS and Lake Chad Basin Commission.”
4. POLITICAL WILL TO RESOLVE SECURITY CHALLENGES
All of the security challenges being faced today have been with us for a long time. But there is a big difference between 2015 and 2019: Political will and determination. And that will has since started yielding fruit: Boko Haram is now on the defensive, unable to hold territory the way it did in 2015 and prior, and the challenges of banditry and kidnapping are being met with unprecedented resolve.
“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.”
5. PRIORITIZING SMALL BUSINESSES AND RURAL ECONOMIES
The Administration will continue to prioritize these. A Nigeria that works for everyone, not only the wealthy or the connected. It is doable. And Nigeria is already now well on its way. Rural economies will be integrated into the mainstream through the provision of cheap access to credit and the provision of infrastructure: feeder roads, electricity, etc.
“The Nigerian economy rises and falls on the strength of [small business] investments and productivity.”
“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 characterized by huge burdens of population… With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
6. INFRASTRUCTURE REVOLUTION IN PROGRESS
No administration in recent history has been this committed to investing in and upgrading Nigeria’s infrastructure: roads, bridges, power plants, air and sea ports, rail networks, and so on. Infrastructure will create jobs, attract investments, reduce the cost of doing business, reduce inequality, improve security, and help grow the Nigerian economy and transform the country into an economic powerhouse. But even with the much that has been done, there is still much more required.
“Despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernize our roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems… Over 2,000 kilometers of ongoing Federal road and bridge projects across the country will be completed to reduce journey times and the cost of doing business.”
7. FIGHTING HUNGER, POVERTY AND INEQUALITY, AND CREATING PROSPERITY
One of the administration’s driving ambitions is the reduction of poverty and inequality in Nigeria. Hence the focus on small businesses, which are the engine of the economy, on rural economies, in which a large portion of the population is to be found, and on ramping up the domestic production of food. Already a lot has been achieved on the road to self-sufficiency in rice, maize, cassava, poultry, fertilizer, and other agricultural products.
Apart from ensuring that Nigeria works for all Nigerians regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, religion, etc, another reason why we must fight poverty and inequality is because of the link between them and security. Law enforcement is not the only solution to Nigeria’s insecurity challenges.
“When economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. But when we actively reduce inequality through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces… The disturbing increase in rates of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities can be attributed to the decades of neglect and corruption in social investment, infrastructure development, education and healthcare.”
8. EXPLOITING NIGERIA’S GAS POTENTIAL
Nigeria is in fact more a gas country than an oil one. This gas potential must be harnessed, for domestic and international benefit. There is plenty of room for new investments in gas projects – not just Liquefied Natural Gas but also Cooking Gas. And Nigeria stands to reap a lot of environmental benefit from scaling up the domestic consumption of Cooking Gas, as a replacement for the commonly-used firewood.
“Over the last four years, we have become a net exporter of urea, which is made from natural gas. We invite investors to develop more natural gas-based petrochemical projects.”
9. THE STATES HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY
The Federal Government alone cannot develop Nigeria. States have to rise and pull their individual and collective weight, by investing in infrastructure, in security, etc. The progress Nigerians seek will only be achieved when every tier of Government is fully committed to solving our problems and challenges.
“Nationwide development cannot occur from Abuja alone; it must occur at States. And Government cannot do it alone. I therefore implore all State Governments, especially those with large rural economies, to aggressively solicit investments in your states.”
10. RIGHTING THE WRONGS OF THE PAST
The designation of June 12 as National Democracy Day; the National Honours given to MKO Abiola, Babagana Kingibe and Gani Fawehinmi; and the renaming of the National Stadium, Abuja, as Moshood Abiola National Stadium – these and more are steps President Buhari has taken to right the many wrongs of the past, and promote unity and a sense of justice in Nigeria.
Source: The Nation