…Renames Abuja National Stadium after MKO Abiola
…APC hails Buhari for correcting past injustices
…President’s speech falls short of expectations – PDP
Mathew Dadiya & Tunde Opalana, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that in the next ten years, 100 million Nigerians will be moved out of poverty with leadership and a sense of purpose, adding that China, Indonesia, Singapore Korea and host of other nations have done it and Nigeria can do it.
The President made the announcement at the Eagles Square, venue of the maiden edition of the Democracy Day celebration.
The June 12 Democracy Day is celebrated in recognition of June 12 1993 annulled presidential election in which the presumed winner, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, is honoured.
On removing 10 million people out of poverty, he said in spite of the challenges, he is optimistic of prosperous and secured Nigeria.
Buhari said: “My firm belief is that our people above all want to live in peace and harmony with their fellow Nigerians. They desire opportunity to better themselves in a safe environment.”
The President said that in the face of challenges facing the nation, the APC-led government under his administration had since 2015 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, President Buhari said, “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.”
He said that China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes, India succeeded in a democratic setting saying, “We can do it.”
The President acknowledged that a huge responsibility rests on his and succeeding administrations to develop harness and fulfill our enormous potential into a force to be reckoned with globally.
The President said in the next four years, he will improve the lives of the people by consolidating on the gains of the last four years especially the Social Investment Programme (SIP).
Buhari added that he knows that there is strong correlation between inequality and insecurity which results in banditry, kidnappings and the likes as result of neglect by past administrations, assuring that his administration will do more to better the lives of citizens and curtail these challenges.
President Buhari said: “Our Government will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, education, technology and improved information.
“Our social intervention programs are a model for other nations. Together with state governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“A database of poor and vulnerable households is being carefully built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning in this Administration’s war against poverty.
“A database of unemployed but qualified youth has also been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes.
Cumulatively, nearly 2 million beneficiaries have received aid under this Programme apart from Anchors Borrowers Programme and School Feeding initiative each reaching 2 million recipients. And we will do more.
“We know that there exists a strong correlation between economic inequality and insecurity.
“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.
“This issue is further compounded by the impact of our changing climate and ecology.”
Meanwhile, President Buhari has renamed the Abuja National Stadium to Moshood Abiola Stadium.
The decision to rename the national edifice after the late politician is aimed at correcting injustice which he said is a pre-requisite for peace and unity.
“As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested 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 elections of that year,” Buhari said.
The President said that the principal thrust of his second term administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavours and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria.
He recalled that he was involved at close quarters in the struggle to ‘keep Nigeria one’ and he can therefore do no more than dedicate the rest of his life to work for the unity of the country and upliftment of Nigerians.
President Buhari noted that most of the instances of inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence were and are still as a result of sponsorship or incitements by ethnic, political or religious leaders hoping to benefit by exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country.
“Our country Nigeria is a great country. According to United Nations estimates, our population will rise to 411 million by 2050, making us the third most populous nation on earth behind only China and India.
“We have water, arable land, forests, oil and gas and vast quantities of solid minerals.
We are blessed with an equable climate. However, the bulk of our real wealth lies in Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Mining. We possess all the ingredients of a major economic power on the world stage.
“What we require is the will to get our acts together. And our strength is in our people – our youth, our culture, our resilience, our ability to succeed despite the odds,” he added.
President Buhari, who admitted that some of the challenges still remain in kidnappings and banditry in some rural areas, said that 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.
He boasted that his administration was meeting these challenges with “superior strategy, firepower and resolve.”
“Thus far, we Nigerians can be proud of our history since Independence in 1960. We have contributed to UN peace-keeping responsibilities all over the world; we have stabilised Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and two years ago we prevented the Gambia from degenerating into anarchy.
“Without Nigerian influence and resources, the liberation of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and ultimately South Africa would have come at greater cost. This fact had been attested by none other than the late Nelson Mandela himself.
“Elsewhere, 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.
We can therefore be proud to be Nigerians. We must continue to be Good Neighbours and Good Global Citizens.
“At home, we have been successful in forging a nation from different ethnicities and language groups: our evolution and integration into one nation continues apace,” he stated.
Speaking further, he said that when his administration came to office in 2015 after a decade of struggle, they identified three “cardinal and existential challenges”-security, economy and fighting corruption which were confronting the country and made them their campaign focus.
According to him, none but the most partisan will dispute that in the last four years we have made solid progress in addressing these challenges.
President Buhari and other world leaders arrived the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the Democracy Day celebration at 10. 20am while the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came in at 10:00am.
World leaders in attendance include the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; President of Liberia, George Weah; President of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Others were President of Senegal, Macky Sall; Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda; President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow; President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou; President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Gómes Vaz and President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon, among others.
The new Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, his Deputy, Ovie Omo Agege, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, his Deputy, Idris Wade were all in attendance.
Members of the late MKO Abiola’s family, including Kola were also at the Eagles Square.
All the troops of the Nigeria armed forces carried out parade march in slow and quick time marching, musical display, silent drill and cultural troupe performed.
Meanwhile, all Nigeria’s former presidents – Gen Yakubu Gowon; Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Ernest Shonekan; Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar; Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were conspicuously absent at the historic event.
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has joined Nigerians to celebrate the country’s new Democracy Day, describing the gesture by President Muhammadu Buhari as a correction of past injustices.
Describing the celebration as not only significant in the annals of Nigeria’s political history, APC said it is also momentous in all ramifications.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government has once again demonstrated its avowed commitment to correct past injustices and celebrate heroes and heroines that paid the supreme sacrifice for the democratic freedom that we all cherish and enjoy today.
“In correcting past injustices, the APC-led government is also committed to equitable administration of our commonwealth for the benefit of all Nigerians”, the party said in the statement which was signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu.
The ruling party noted that the world over, democracy in its various forms and with its inevitable imperfections, remains the most representative system of government.
“This government would continue to commit itself to the finest ideals of our democratic values and ethos by its progressive actions and programmes for our people and our great country.
“We hereby urge all Nigerians to continue to appreciate the importance and significance of today’s occasion by continuously guarding jealously this hard-earned democracy, over which so many of our compatriots paid the ultimate sacrifice”, APC added. Related
However, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congratulated Nigerians on the occasion of this year’s June 12 Democracy Day, it noted with regret that President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the nation adequately fell short of expectations of the citizenry.
The party said Buhari’s address, rather than giving Nigerians hope in this despair situation, dwelt much on churning out tales of not too impressive performance of his government.
The PDP berated the President for not having words of hope for the victims of escalated insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and bloodletting in various parts of the nation.
It noted how sad it was that on a day like this, Mr. President dwelt on “false performance claims” and had no soothing word for millions of compatriots that have been subjected to the worst form of economic misery that they are now resorting to suicide and slavery mission abroad.
Buhari’s speech, according to the party, had no clear commitments or assurances on fundamental issues of constitutionality, rule of law, separation of power, justice, fairness, free speech and rights of citizens, which are the hallmarks of democracy.
The party said: “Mr. President also had no regrets for the manipulations, infractions and violence that characterised the 2019 general elections, under his watch, for which the nation now has an unprecedented 766 election petitions, including the highly manipulated Presidential election.
“President Buhari did not express any form of remorse for the barefaced constitutional violations, assault on institutions of democracy, particularly the legislature and the judiciary; human rights violations, assault on the media and the general siege mentality in the polity under his watch”.
The PDP, however, held that it is a national tragedy that Democracy Day is being celebrated under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration that have desecrated all democratic values and despoiled electoral processes just to have itself in office.
The party insisted that the Buhari Presidency and the APC cannot celebrate Democracy Day when they are still overburdened by the guilt of their questionable presidential electoral victory.
“How can this administration superintend over a Democracy Day celebration when it has questions of constitutional violations, electoral manipulations, media clampdown, and victimization of opposition, emasculation of free speech, brutalization, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, as already detailed in various reports, including those by the United States Department of State.
“It is disheartening that the same electoral manipulation, violations and injustices for which the icon of June 12 Democracy Day, Chief MKO Abiola died, have brazenly taken center stage under the APC misrule.
“Today, just like on June 12, 1993, our citizens are despondent, particularly over the rigging of the February 23, 2019 Presidential election as their quest for a people-oriented and inherently democratic leadership to move our nation forward was frustrated,
consequent upon which our party and our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are seeking justice,” said the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement.
The PDP, however, urged Nigerians not to despair but continue in their aspiration for the retrieval of the stolen presidential mandate at the tribunal so that the nation will have a truly democratic and purposeful leadership for the good of all.
“Our party urges all compatriots to use the occasion to reflect and redouble their efforts in the collective quest for the re-entrenchment of true democracy and its tenets of rule of law, freedom, tolerance, dialogue, peaceful co-existence, justice and the sanctity of our electoral process,” the PDP said.