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Nigeria at 61: Don’t despair over current challenges, Buhari tells Nigerians

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Terhemba Daka, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Ernest Nzor (Abuja) and Ngozi Egenuka (Lagos)
01 October 2021   |   6:10 am
It’S a mixed feeling today, the 61st anniversary of Nigeria’s attainment of independence. Amid the celebration of nationhood in the national colours of green and white...

We will track down financiers of Igboho, Kanu for threatening our national security
• Buhari reiterates restoration of Twitter after fulfilling conditions
• Lawan urges unity, faith in Nigeria
• We have what it takes to overcome today’s threats, trials, says Jonathan
• I am deeply concerned at the level of disunity in Nigeria – Atiku
• PDP bemoans rising insecurity, economic stress, others under Buhari
• APC: Our Independence provides a strong source of unity, strength
• Let’s bury old prejudices to save Nigeria, says Mark
• CAN blames nation’s woes on selfish leadership
• NADECO urges UN to fast-track referendum on Nigeria
• France, Indian presidents congratulate Nigeria
• U.S. will continue to stand by Nigeria despite challenges, says envoy

It’S a mixed feeling today, the 61st anniversary of Nigeria’s attainment of independence. Amid the celebration of nationhood in the national colours of green and white, symbolising natural wealth and peace, the reality for citizens is the exact opposite, gloom and a state of fear.

Acknowledging this reality, President Muhammadu Buhari in his Independence Day broadcast, today, said “the past 18 months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period.

Buahri


“Our original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising our economy following the deep recession while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges, but the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on all nations meant we needed to shift gears and re-strategise.  

“Despite the global inequity in access to vaccines, the government has continued to explore all available options to ensure Nigerians have free access to safe and effective vaccines.

“But as our economy continues to open after the COVID-19-related lockdowns, we have also seen the resurgence of insecurity in certain parts of the country.”

Reeling out steps taken to address the problem, President Buhari said the government was ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action.

“Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering. I use this day to ask all Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever their grievances.

“The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and the destruction of properties.
   
“Such unfiltered and unsubstantiated lies and hate speeches by a few evil persons must be stopped. Our media houses and commentators must move away from just reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers.
   
“We shall continue to work on dialogue-based solutions to address legitimate grievances. But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.  

   
“The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals. We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly.”

Speaking on the suspension of Twitter in the country now nearing its fourth month, the President said: “Social media is a very useful platform that has enabled millions of Nigerians to connect with loved ones, promote their businesses, socialise, and access news and other information.
   
“However, recent events have shown that the platform is not just an innocuous platform for information dissemination. Rather some users have misused the platform to organise, coordinate, and execute criminal activities, propagate fake news, and promote ethnic and religious sentiments.

 
“To address these negative trends, the Federal Government of Nigeria suspended the operations of Twitter in Nigeria on June 5, 2021, to allow the government to put measures in place to address these challenges.
   
“Following the suspension of Twitter operations, Twitter Inc. reached out to the Federal Government to resolve the impasse. Subsequently, I constituted a Presidential Committee to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving the issue.
   
“The Committee, along with its Technical Team, has engaged with Twitter and have addressed a number of key issues. These are National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content.
   
“Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.”  

PRESIDENT of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has called on all Nigerians to unite for the progress of the country and continue to keep faith with their fatherland.

Lawan, in his Independence anniversary message, signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi, said: “This is the first year of our seventh decade as a nation and also the second year of the third decade of the Fourth Republic. I find it remarkable that we are living in the longest era of democracy in our history as a nation.

“That may seem modest as an achievement but it is an additional cause for celebration in the light of our political experience. Every patriot will always remember with pride that historic moment on October 1, 1960, when the British Union Jack was lowered and our Green-White-Green flag hoisted in its place.

“Over six decades on, the journey has been eventful and the challenges enormous. But we can be proud of the progress that we have made, draw lessons from the missteps and rededicate ourselves to our historic mission of nation-building. We should never abandon that mission.

“The National Assembly is determined to facilitate a meaningful review of the Constitution by the people, to ensure that the instrument continues to serve its purpose and to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. A people-oriented Constitution will address the frictions that we are currently witnessing and this is why the National Assembly is taking very seriously this national assignment,” he said.

FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan has affirmed that Nigeria has got what it takes to overcome its present “threats and trials.” He has, therefore, urged Nigerians to be optimistic about the future of the country, despite the challenges currently being faced by citizens.

Jonathan stated this in his goodwill message to Nigerians on the occasion of the nation’s 61st Independence anniversary, stressing that the nation holds abundant promises for its citizens.

The former president encouraged the nation’s leaders and the citizens to rededicate themselves to the virtues of equity, justice and tolerance and strive to give their best for the good of the nation.
He further described it as a day of freedom that provides an opportunity “to reflect on our progress, celebrate our humble attainments and ponder over those dreams that are yet to be fulfilled.”

In the message released by his media assistant, Ikechukwu Eze, Jonathan wrote: “I join all citizens to celebrate the 61st Independence anniversary of our great nation, Nigeria.

“As we mark this day of freedom, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our progress, celebrate our humble attainments and ponder over those dreams that are yet to be fulfilled.

“We may have hiccups along the way and challenging times that might be stretching our resolve and determination to forge ahead. But we should not relent nor succumb to fear, discouraging trials and threats of today.

“The journey of nationhood is a marathon, which requires patience, resilience, tolerance and determination. The uncertainties of this time cannot be compared to the limitless promises that this nation holds for us all.”

FORMER Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, urged Nigerians to remain united despite their current existential challenges and struggles for economic survival. He also called on governments at all levels to enunciate policies that would lead to improved standards of living for the average Nigerian, even as he assured that the future ahead as a nation will be brighter and better.

In his goodwill message, issued by Paul Ibe, media adviser to Atiku, the former Vice President expressed concern at the level of disunity, intolerance and bigotry in the country, which resulted in conflicts with its attendant losses of human life and property.

According to him, disunity does not help Nigerians because it made it impossible for them to unite for a mutually beneficial common cause.

“I believe that our common interests are greater than those things that divide us. If we spend our energies on division rather than fighting for our common interests, it would be more difficult to bring about positive change to assuage the situation,” Atiku said.

THE opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reviewed the 61 years of Nigeria’s nationhood and submitted that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration has gone down in history as the worst in the annals of her national life.

It claimed that “the push by this administration to sink the nation is evident in our daily lives; the lies, injustices, violations, state-backed violence, impunity, nepotism, treasury looting, harsh economic policies and accommodation of terrorism, but our nation has continued to survive by the resilient spirit of Nigerians.”

The party at a press conference presided over by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, however, said “though the APC and its government have been pushing the nation to the brink, Nigeria, as a nation, will never fail.”

According to the opposition party, “it is painful that all the gains made by our nation since Independence in 1960 and especially during the 16 years of the PDP in office – including the entrenchment of national unity and cohesiveness, freedom and personal liberty of citizens, rule of law, credible elections, justice, equity, fairness and economic progress – the very elements of an independent state, have all been reversed by the APC and the Buhari Presidency.”

It alleged that the Buhari Presidency and the APC have on all fronts “taken our nation back to the pre-independence days with associated bondage mentality and frustration resulting in much-losing faith in the system and leaving our country in droves within the last six years.

“Is it not an irony that our nation is celebrating Independence in the face of subverted elections, a brazen crackdown on the opposition and dissenting voices as well as other suppressive acts, including the muzzling of free speech as witnessed in the ban on Twitter in Nigeria?” PDP queried.

It lamented that “as we celebrate Independence, thousands of our compatriots are falling victims to extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention in dehumanising cells, which underscore the horrible situation under President Buhari and the APC, as even profiled by Amnesty International (AI) and US Department of State.

“Is it not painful that under President Buhari, our nation has been opened up to terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, who are wantonly killing our citizens while their known apologists are enjoying official cover with one of them even holding office as a cabinet minister?” it further queried.

On the economic front, the party noted that “we can’t celebrate when President Buhari and the APC have in a space of six years, wrecked our once robust economy and turned Nigeria into the poverty capital of the world, where over 82.9 million Nigerians can no longer afford their daily meals.

“How can we celebrate when the APC has plunged our nation into economic slavery with over N33.1 trillion accumulated debt, a 33 per cent unemployment rate, collapse of productive sectors and a weakened naira from the N167 to a dollar handed over to President Buhari in 2015 to a dismal N576 to a dollar today?”

BUT the Chairman APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, said Nigeria’s 61 years of Independence provides a strong source of unity and strength. The governor said the long history of integration among the various ethnic, and socio-cultural groups should be a source of unity in diversity for the country.

“At 61 years, Nigerians should concentrate on issues that unite the country rather than divisive tendencies,” he said.

Governor Buni said although Nigeria might not have reached where it wanted to be after 61 years of independence yet, we have cause to celebrate our existence as a country.

“We should remember that every country including the developed nations has their challenges, ours should not be an exception to contest our existence as a country and provoke our growth and development.”

He said as a ruling party, APC is redefining party politics in Nigeria through institutionalisation of a strong internal democracy and a bottom-up approach to give ownership of the party and power to the people. He appealed to Nigerians to support and cooperate with the Buhari administration in its commitment to build a prosperous nation.

FORMER President of the Senate, David Mark, has called on citizens to bury old prejudices to religion, tribe or ethnic leanings believed to be antithetical to development.

Mark listed the misfortunes occasioned by the 30-month-old Nigeria/Biafra civil war, several ethnoreligious conflicts and agitations in some parts of the country as unfortunate incidents hindering developments.

In his goodwill message to Nigerians by his media adviser, Paul Mumeh, he noted that the security, socio-economic and political challenges bedeviling the country demand that “we bury mundane issues of attachment to religion, ethnic or tribal leanings and come together to rescue Nigeria from the precipice.”

To this end, he tasked governments at all levels to do all that is necessary to restore hope and rebuild citizens’ trust and confidence in leadership to actualize the project in Nigeria.

IN its message yesterday, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) noted that for the past 61 years, bad and selfish leadership has largely contributed to the unfortunate state of the country, adding that these bad leaders did not plan for the country to grow and if they did, never made efforts to implement the development plans.

In a statement titled: ‘Nigeria will Experience Showers of Blessings’ by CAN President, Rev Samson Ayokunle, he lamented that the political leaders embezzled the commonwealth of the nation and by their action, threw the citizens into unnecessary sufferings and pains.

“Unemployed youths have taken to criminalities. Youths are trying frantically to run abroad to search for a better life. Some in the process perished in the Mediterranean Sea or ended up being used as sex slaves. Some got themselves engaged in armed robbery and internet fraud, among others.

“The situation of the country appears bleak but knowing that God is not man and with him, all things are possible, this is the right time to believe that there shall be showers of blessings because some people are praying for this country.”

THE National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) has called on the United Nations, its Security Council and other global bodies concerned with the peaceful co-existence of the world to urgently fast-track their preparations to conduct variously demanded referendums to ascertain the wishes and aspirations for self-determination of various ethnic groups in Nigeria.

The group in its statement to mark Nigeria’s Independence anniversary and signed by its General Secretary, Chief Ayo Opadokun, said the call became necessary because of the agitation of various ethnic groups who have lost hope in efforts to redeem the country from drifting towards the precipice.

The pro-democracy group, blaming the 1999 Constitution for various social, political and economic challenges facing the country, expressed its support to some self-determination groups that threatened not to allow 2023 general elections to hold under the 1999 Constitution.

NADECO, however, told the international community “to accept that their failure to act timely on these legitimate demands for their intervention may be tantamount to an invitation to possible national conflagration and unmanageable national crisis, which may result into consequential deleterious situations on the West African Sub-Region, the African continent and the world in general.

“Let it be remembered that Nigeria as the most populous black nation in the world has about 200 million citizens residing in a suffocating geographical and political space, the possible reaction of the entrapped ethnic nationalities who are already overwhelmed with repression, discriminations on religion, gender, ethnicities can quickly result to national upheavals, forced dispersal and migration with their attendant global consequences.”

The group regretted that Nigeria remains an underdeveloped and retarded nation, 61 years after its independence from the British colonial government and blamed its underdevelopment on the 1999 Constitution, which the group said was imposed on Nigerians by the Military.

Blaming President Buhari for the spate of killings, maiming and kidnappings in almost all states in the country, the group alleged inability of the government to deploy modern technology, nepotism and favouritism to a particular tribe in the country for insecurity and increase in the activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the country.

FRENCH President, Emmanuel Macron, has congratulated the President on the occasion of Nigeria’s Independence anniversary today. In a statement yesterday, he said: “You know my personal attachment to the relationship between France and Nigeria, the continent’s leading economic and demographic power. I firmly believe that it is in the mutual interest of our two countries to strengthen this relationship on all fronts.”

According to him, since his visit in July 2018, the ties between the two countries have been strengthened, especially in the economic field. The creation of the Franco-Nigerian Business Council will allow the birth of many structuring projects between France and Nigerian companies.

“We can do even more together because France and Nigeria share many common interests both on regional and security issues and on global issues. I hereby hope that our countries will intensify their exchanges on all these subjects.”

ALSO, the Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind, yesterday, congratulated Nigeria and its people on the celebration of the 61st Independence Day anniversary.

Reporting President Kovind’s good wishes to Nigeria, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the Indian leader observed the friendly and deep-rooted ties between his country and Nigeria.

In a congratulatory letter to President Buhari, Kovind conveyed his best wishes to the Nigerian leader as well as the continued prosperity of the country.

“India and Nigeria have strong relations. Despite challenges during the pandemic, our economic relations have gained strength.”

MEANWHILE, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, has pledged that President Joe Biden administration will continue to stand by Nigeria in spite of the many economic and security challenges confronting the West African nation.

The American envoy stated this in a statement titled: ‘Reflections on 61 years of U.S. – Nigerian Engagement’. Leonard said the U.S. Mission in Nigeria “recognise that security and economic concerns weigh on the minds of all Nigerians”, adding that it has been working in solidarity with the Nigerian government to address the challenges together.