May 29 Good-bye and Welcome Notes, By Muhammad Ajah

Posted by News Express | 28 May 2015 | 2,887 times

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“I will continue to fight for your future, because I am one of you. I will continue to fight for improved medical care for all our citizens. I will continue to fight for all citizens to have access to first class education. I will continue to fight for electricity to be available to all our citizens. I will continue to fight for an efficient and affordable public transport system for all our people. I will continue to fight for jobs to be created through productive partnerships.” —Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan when he assumed office as the President of Nigeria.

Two facts come to fore from the above: One is the past experiences Nigerians have had from notes of incoming leaders; and two is the very high expectations that are mostly frustrated at the end of every democratic government in Nigeria. The outgoing would wish the in-coming well when the former had not fulfilled10 per cent of its promises to the electorate. The in-coming would make pledges to develop the nation. The first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth republics are notes in the book of history in Nigeria. 

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, pioneer President of the Nigerian Senate, Governor-General of the Federation, and former Premier of (defunct) Eastern Region once stated before the caucus of his political party, former National Council of Nigerians and the Cameroons (NCNC) in Yaba, Lagos, on May 12, 1953: “…between the North and the South, which nature had indissolubly united in political, social and economic marriage of convenience. In my opinion, there is no sense in the North breaking away or the East or the West breaking away; it would be better if all regions would address themselves to the task of crystallising common nationality, irrespective of extraneous influence at work. What history had joined together, let no man put asunder. But history is a strange mistress, which can cause strange things to happen.”

Former President Shehu Shagari said, in parts in his inaugural speech on October 1, 1979: “With the swearing-in-ceremony this morning, I have formally assumed office as your first executive president. The Second Republic has come after almost 14 years of military rule, in the course of which we went through a civil war. This is an occasion which calls for sober reflection on the problems of the First Republic, in order to appreciate the magnitude of the task ahead. The problems of creating a national government; a viable economic base and the integration of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria in fairness and without acrimony overwhelmed the First Republic. These problems are still with us. And, it is our determination to do our utmost to contribute to their solution. This administration is determined that the slogan of ‘One Nation, One Destiny’ shall be translated into reality. We are not so naive as to think that nationalism is a natural phenomenon, which comes about automatically, as we grow. It has not been so in any part of the world. National integration requires hard work. There is need for a dedicated leadership and citizenry imbued with faith to cultivate a widespread national feeling for ‘One Nigeria.’ You all remember when the Government of Gen Murtala Mohammed and Gen Obasanjo came to power, it gave a pledge to return this nation to civil rule on October 1, 1979. They have kept their word as true men of honour. Today, the country has been duly handed over to a democratically elected government. History will indelibly record this nation’s gratitude to their exemplary leadership, dedication, statesmanship and courage.”

Former President Obasanjo said on May 28, 2007 that a new generation of leaders will take over the great responsibility of running this great nation. “In the past eight years, Nigerians have worked together with me to revive our national image, our economy, and to place us firmly on the path of sanity and progress. Tomorrow morning (May 29), we will, for the first time in our history, witness a peaceful transition of political leadership from one democratically-elected government and personality to a new set of elected president, governors and legislators. As we usher in our new President and new Government tomorrow, let us take a moment and reflect on our journey so far. When we started on this journey on 29 May 1999, Nigeria was at its lowest ebb and shunned, not only in the international arena but, even here at home.”

According to him, many Nigerians had lost hope of the future of the country. Nigerians were leaving Nigeria’s shores in droves in search of better conditions in more advanced countries of Europe, the United States of America and the Middle East. “We are poised to witness positive changes for the benefit of our people. We have ceased to be one of the most heavily indebted nations of the world and can now be truly independent in all that we do for our country. With determination; with tenacity and with the courage of our conviction, we can continue to face the future with confidence.

“I am particularly gratified to note how united our country is today; better than any other time in the past. In the past few months, Nigerians from every corner of the country have amply demonstrated their yearnings for national unity, for harmony and for progress. The recent events have indicated that we are no longer divided along ethnic, tribal, religious lines or North-South divide. We have become simply Nigerians interested in the development and progress of our country. This is a great gain. Let us respect this spirit of oneness and unity in all that we do from now on. Nigeria is in a better shape today than any time since 1979. We have started to move to the glory that God has ordained for us.”

Late President Umaru Yar’Adua noted in his speech that the challenge is great. The goal is clear. The time is now: “We must continue to do the necessary work to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation, and maintain a stable exchange rate. All this will increase our chances for rapid growth and development. Central to this is rebuilding our basic infrastructure. We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development. We will make these plans a reality…We are determined to intensify the war against corruption, more so, because corruption is itself central to the spread of poverty. Its corrosive effect is all too visible in all aspects of our national life. This is an area where we have made significant progress in recent years, and we will maintain the momentum.

“To fulfill our ambitions, all our leaders at all levels – whether a local government councillor or state governor, senator or cabinet minister - must change our style and our attitude. We must act at all times with humility, courage, and forthrightness. I ask you, fellow citizens, to join me in rebuilding our Nigerian family, one that defines the success of one by the happiness of many.”

President Jonathan’s inaugural speech was full of promises, as his predecessors’. His words:

“I want to assure you that I will do my utmost at all times, to continue to deserve your trust. Today, our unity is firm, and our purpose is strong. Our determination is unshakable. Together, we will unite our nation and improve the living standards of all our peoples, whether in the North or in the South; in the East or in the West. Our decade of development has begun. The march is on. The day of transformation begins today. We will not allow anyone exploit differences in creed or tongue to set us one against another…We must demonstrate the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice to transform our nation. We must strengthen common grounds, develop new areas of understanding and collaboration, and seek fresh ideas that will enrich our national consensus…The leadership and the followership must strive to convert our vast human and natural resources into the force that leads to a great Nigeria. The Nigeria of our dreams must be built on hand work, and not on short cuts. Let me salute the Nigerian workers who build our communities, cities and country. They deserve fair rewards, and so do the women that raise our children, and the rural dwellers that grow our food.”

One is tempted to ask: Has there been any appreciable change in the lives of Nigerians, after going through the beautiful handover and acceptance speeches by the past Nigerian leaders? Have the so much discussed economy, education, power and transport sectors improved for the benefit of the larger population of Nigerians? Have the problems of creating a national government, a viable economic base and the integration of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria in fairness and without acrimony been resolved? Has there been a dedicated leadership and citizenry imbued with faith to cultivate a widespread national feeling for ‘One Nigeria.’? Have we really revived our national image and our economy and placed them firmly on the path of sanity and progress? Have our leaders at all levels – whether a local government councillor or state governor, senator or cabinet minister – changed their style and attitude? Have we not allowed anyone to exploit differences in creed or tongue, and us against one another? Have we demonstrated the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice to transform our nation? And have we ceased to be one of the most heavily indebted nations of the world?

The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently gave a sketchy answer to the last question at a roundtable discussion with Finance Reporters, on the oil marketers and the alleged Federal Government’s $60 billion debt. She said: “I read that President Jonathan has left $60 billion debt for Nigeria. I have not addressed this issue. I just wanted to go my way on this issue. I just want to say we have always had the statistics for debt made public: the total debt is $53.7 billion. The total debt stock includes all the borrowings, concessional loans taken with a 40-year repayment period, since 1960. A lot of it is multilateral loans, which give you 10 years of grace and 40 years repayment period. So, no $60 billion was accumulated during Jonathan’s tenure. This debt stock also includes both the Federal Government and states’ debts. $9.7 billion, representing 15 per cent, are external, while $54.0 billion are domestic, representing about 85 per cent.

“Let’s look at the domestic side of the loan. As at October 2007, $18.573 billion of the $54 billion domestic loan was outstanding: it was already there. Between 2008 and 2011, $17.3 billion was accumulated. Between 2012 and 2015, $18.1 billion. One further fact about the $18.1 billion is that the debt came because of something that happened before this administration came. Salaries were increased in 2012 by 53 per cent across board. That led government borrowing to skyrocket from N524 billion domestic borrowing in 2009 to N1.36 trillion in 2010.”

Meanwhile, as we welcome a handover of power from Goodluck Jonathan to Muhammadu Buhari, the former has expressed readiness for questioning on the handover notes. The vice president, Namadi Sambo, while presenting Federal Government’s activities between 2011 and 2015 to the Ahmed Joda-led Buhari’s Transition Committee, said Jonathan’s administration was available for queries and questions that might be raised on how it ruled Nigeria within the last four years. “I want to add that all of us are always available after this report between now and May 29; anytime you need to meet with us, we are ready to come and sit and clarify.” Again, which sector can Nigerians pinpoint to have been improved by the outgoing government?

Meanwhile, one time president, Chief Obasanjo, has urged Nigerians to be patient with the incoming President Buhari, because, according to him, it will take time to fix the Jonathan administration’s rot. “The situation was like this when I took over in 1999: no light, no fuel, but it didn’t take us so long before the issues of light and fuel were resolved. The incoming president has a lot of experience; he’s not a greenhorn. It is not as if he hasn’t been into power before, he is experienced. He knew what we did to turn things around when we were there together during the military regime. We did it together, and it was as a result of our performance that we were invited to do it again.”

Muhammad Ajah, writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance, is based in Abuja. E-mail: Photo shows Buhari receiving handover notes from Jonathan . . . today in Abuja.

Source: News Express

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