*Pledges to assemble ‘strong’ cabinet
* Says 100m Nigerians can be lifted out of poverty in 10 years
By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari on the occasion of the maiden Democracy Day has named the Abuja Stadium after late politician and democracy icon, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
Abiola had won the June 12 , 1993 presidential election but was denied the opportunity to claim his mandate my the military regimes of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, until he died in detention in 1997.
His travails and chaos that followed hastened the hand over of power by the military to a democratically elected civilian government in 1999.
President Buhari has not only declared June 12 a public holiday in Abiola’s honour, but has also conferred him with the country’s highest honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
Speaking during a military and cultural parade at the Eagle Square, Abuja on Wednesday as part of events to mark the first Democratically Day, Buhari said: “As we all know, correcting injustice 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.
“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called MOSHOOD ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM.”
The President used the occasion to address the nation on his second term mandate, since he did not make any speech during his inauguration two weeks ago, on May 29th.
He pledged to assemble a strong team to drive his vision for the next four years, stating that the principal thrust of his government would be to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavors and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria.
He is yet to name his proposed cabinet members two weeks after his inauguration, as the Ninth National Assembly elected along with him, was only inaugurated two days ago.
The President declared that good governance would guide Nigeria out of the woods, insisting that his government has been mapping out policies, measures and laws to maintain national unity and lift Nigerians out of poverty.
“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.
“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 stated.
Detailing his second term agenda, the President said: “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 programs, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best trained people.
“On food security, our farmers have made great strides in local production of rice, maize, cassava, poultry, fertilizer, fisheries and sesame. We remain resolute in supporting private sector in emphasizing backward integration and export expansion plans.
“Felling of trees to provide energy for domestic use is taking its toll on our rain forests, our ecology and our climate. Accordingly, we are taking steps to harness cleaner and more sustainable sources of electricity. We export over 2 million tons of cooking gas, yet we consume less than half a million tons.
“We will work to address this issue and support rural communities with challenges of safely switching from firewood to cooking gas.
“Dedicated agro-industrial processing zones will be developed on a PPP basis to increase farming yields, agricultural productivity and industrial output.
“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. As I mentioned earlier, critical feeder roads will be built to facilitate easier transportation for people and goods from rural areas to major roads.
“We are at advanced stages of securing investments to modernize and expand our transmission and distribution infrastructure, ensuring that electricity is available and affordable for all Nigerians.
“Several rail, seaport and airport projects are at various stages of completion. We will open the arteries of transportation nationwide.
“It is a fact that Nigeria has more gas reserves than it has oil. 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.
“Fellow Nigerians, this Government will not tolerate actions by any individual or groups of individuals who seek to attack our way of life or those who seek to corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us.
“We will crack down on those who incite ordinary innocent people to violence and unrest. We will ensure that such actions are met with the strong arm of the law.”
Buhari further harped on harmonious coexistence among Nigerians in the face of insecurity, declaring that “ost 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”.
Nevertheless, Buhari concluded that “in my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want CHANGE, But CHANGE has come, we now must move to the NEXT LEVEL”.
The Democracy Day event was attended by some world leaders, including 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 are 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.