The 2015 Second Plenary Of The Catholic Bishops Conference Of Nigeria
GOODWILL MESSAGE FROM HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI, GCFR, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, REPRESENTED BY PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 2015 SECOND PLENARY OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA ON SEPTEMBER 13th 2015, IN PORT HARCOURT.
I am greatly honoured to have been invited to join you at this second plenary of your Conference. I bring you very warm felicitations on behalf of the Government and people of our great nation Nigeria.
I remember with gratitude the kind courtesy extended to me to address the conference earlier on in the year when I came here as the Presidential candidate of the APC. That occasion gave me a crucial opportunity to address the extremely divisive campaign of the then ruling party, to the effect that I was a radical extremist intent on Islamising Nigeria.
I was able to show why neither my professional, political nor religious antecedents could have justified that hateful campaign, but more importantly also affirm that the business of the State is to protect the lives, livelihoods, and properties of all Nigerians regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation. And also that the Constitutional position to which I subscribed and have since sworn to uphold, is that there shall be no State religion, and all Nigerians are guaranteed freedom of worship. In sum, that Government must not dabble in religion.
As it turned out, by the sheer mercies and grace of God, we were elected into office in the elections of March 28 2015. Our Pan-Nigerian mandate was to deal with the issues of Security, the Economy and Corruption.
On security, we are on course to militarily rout Boko Haram, and make them incapable of taking and holding any territory. Suicide bombings in some parts of the North East are the desperate acts of the terrorists to create a sense that they are still in play. With vigilance and good local intelligence we will make those cowardly acts practically impossible. We must however now turn our attention to the enormous task of de-radicalisation and re-orientation of the young people who have been led to believe in the warped rhetoric of Boko Haram.
Part of that task is in deconstructing the hopeless socio-economic circumstances that make young men and women rebel against their own societies, when they cannot see a future for themselves in them. Which brings me to the economy. Clearly we must change the paradigm of thinking about our economy and the ultimate good of the majority. While we create an enabling environment for free enterprise, we must reason, plan and budget with the understanding that almost 2/3 of our people are extremely poor, and must be helped first to survive and then to fully participate in the economy of the nation.
Consequently, we must create safety nets for the very poor and vulnerable while ensuring that social spending is also a direct investment in the economy. We must invest substantially in relevant education, teacher training, and vocational and entrepreneurial training.
The country is today experiencing its worst economic situation in decades. A terrible combination of waste, corruption, and a severe downturn in oil earnings, have drastically reduced our expendable resources. We must now urgently find means of investing in infrastructure as a crucial component in the medium to long-term imperative of diversifying our economy.
Meanwhile, we must block leakages and improve our revenue base. Our fight against corruption is not just a moral battle for virtue and righteousness in our land; it is a fight for the soul and substance of our nation. Corruption in our country is so endemic that it constitutes a parallel system. It is the primary reason for poor policy choices, waste and of course barefaced theft of public resources. It is the main reason why a potentially prosperous country struggles to feed itself and provide jobs for millions. The hundreds of thousands of deaths in the infant, maternal mortality statistics, the hundreds of thousands of annual deaths from preventable diseases are traceable to the greed and corruption of a few. This is why we must see it as an existential threat, if we don’t kill it, it will kill us.
I have always been impressed with the social consciousness exhibited by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. I know that top of your agenda are both purely spiritual and issues concerning our Nation and people. Your bold critical interventions at various crucial moments in our national journey, have helped to caution, admonish and ultimately stabilize the polity. This is as it should be. This nation belongs to us all; leaders in every sector owe it to this generation to contribute in building a good society.
For us elected into government, we have since set about the daunting tasks before us, with vigour and commitment in the full assurance that by the grace of God, our country will become safe, secure, prosperous and virtuous.
We covet your prayers daily.
I wish you fruitful deliberations.