The 13th Annual Dialogue Of Daily Trust Newspapers
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON AS SPECIAL GUEST OF HONOUR AT THE 13TH ANNUAL DIALOGUE OF DAILY TRUST NEWSPAPERS ON THE 15TH OF JANUARY,2016.
THEMED: 50 YEARS SINCE 1966: IS NIGERIA RISING?
Let me first express my sincere appreciation to the management of Daily Trust Newspapers for organizing this dialogue which it has been hosting in the last 13 years. This speaks to the commitment of the newspaper to the significance and importance of national discourses in charting a course for the overall development of our country.
We thank you for this initiative.
And I am also grateful to be invited to participate today and listen to the distinguished speakers who have been carefully selected to lead this important dialogue themed around a very interesting topic.
While we look forward to the insights on the topic from our lead speakers today, what is clear is that between 1966 and now, Nigeria has passed through a time of great opportunities, have demonstrated clear potentials but suffered more than a fair share of poor leadership and a very worrying case of elite failure.
We -and here I mean more importantly the elites-have bogged this country down with tribal tensions, preferment of ethnic loyalties as against a true Nigerian national spirit, unbridled religious intolerance and the lack of the right scruples, all coming together to deprive the masses of this nation of the benefits of our wealth, that fatness of our resources and potentials of our opportunities. It has been a story of wasted opportunities, over and over again in the past 50 years.
While the elites contended for the fatness of the land, with little or no care in this world for the ordinary masses in our midst, the outcome is that today 50 years after the first military intervention Nigeria has a population where more than two-thirds are regarded as extremely poor. That is about 110 million people.
In fact, in our experience, the elites have done so well for themselves that the collective commonwealth has had to be resorted to in order to bail out a few business elites-when their businesses failed, while at times some among us wonder why we are planning to bail out the poor!
At the same time, we have failed to locate social-economic policies in the conditions of the majority of our people, so much so that even while some prosperity was being recorded in the private sector, the fate of the common man was not the worry of policy-makers. It was as if we were keen only on building a society that encouraged profit-making by a few above an overall better world for the larger number of our people.
Expectations that Nigeria would by now be one of the leading economies in the world so far have fallen through, and there are countries who in the ’60s were not expected to advance ahead of our nation that has since attained greater heights politically and economically today in the comity of nations. It is the story of wasted opportunities.
For instance, during the last 16 years, we have witnessed otherwise unimaginable cases of outright misuse of opportunities. Between 2010 and 2014 the price of crude oil rose to unprecedented levels, over $100 per barrel and we cashed in. But today as we grapple with the stark reality of dwindling oil revenues, our nation has virtually no savings to fall back upon nor any significant infrastructural development in place to showcase the days of plenty.
Instead what we have are tales of woe, stolen commonwealth and a ridiculous narrative of excuses from those who are accused of arrantly pocketing what belongs to us all, and wantonly abusing the public trust soberly entrusted on their shoulders! So that we now hear of phrases like “the curse of oil,” when what God actually granted us was the blessing and fatness of the land.
In the last 50 years, we have passed through a prolonged period of planlessness. We abandoned long-term planning, our budgets become bloated on the recurrent side, with countless abandoned projects everywhere, corruption became the norm, industries collapsed, infrastructures decayed, educational standards dropped, healthcare vanished, values damaged, work ethic ridiculed, and the poor became poorer!
Besides, while we were grappling with ethnic politics and military rule, some other contemporary nations were putting their acts together in order to arrive at the enviable stations they are today. We lost the initiative to develop sectors that ought to be the commanding heights of the economy today. We abandoned agriculture content with our rent-collecting fate from the oil industry.
So that I won’t bore you with too many grim details of our wasted opportunities, let me state very clearly that Nigerians took the bull by the horns last year and said enough is enough.
For the first time in the nation’s history, we had a free and fair election that democratically and successfully ousted an incumbent government, replacing it with the party of opposition. What Nigerians said with that election is “we want Nigeria to rise! And Nigeria shall indeed rise by the grace of GOD!
The undeniable significance of the March 28, 2015, presidential elections is that it created an incredible opportunity for reform. And we won’t let that chance pass us by again! It was a vote against corruption, a vote for change in the way and manner the resources of Nigeria is being managed.
Now, being good Nigerians we are often so-well gifted in enunciating what the challenges are. While this is truly a very critical element by itself, what we have to learn to do better is to follow-through, and walk the talk.
And that is why President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to dedicate his entire life to giving Nigeria and Nigerians the true leadership they deserve. We are united with Nigerians that this country is going to rise again. We are working at it day by day. And we will not relent!
As far as the Buhari administration is concerned now is a great opportunity to make this nation truly great. While it is the case that we have so many things that have gone wrong, so much corruption and stealing, yet we are aware of the mandate and know that it is time now to fix all that has gone wrong in the past.
We have determined to deal with the unemployment of young people, that is why we announced a budget proposal where the government would directly be employing about one million people this year, 500,000 graduate teachers and additional 500,000 non-graduates who would be vocationally trained.
We have comprehensive social investment interventions that would see us spending a very significant per cent of the total budget on the poor, the unemployed and the masses of Nigeria. This will in turn spur economic growth, inclusive growth for that matter.
About half a trillion Naira have been set aside for social investment interventions that cut across jobs, safety nets, small scale businesses including market women and artisans. For instance, we want to ensure this year that about 500,000 market women, artisans, and small-scale businesses get affordable, soft loans.
We have to deal with infrastructure, that is why we have announced a budget with 30% focus on capital projects with a great emphasis on power, road and rail infrastructures.
Knowing that it is time for Nigeria to rise, I want to assure you that every single day that President Buhari spends here in Abuja, that I spend in Abuja, we will work hard to achieve the promises we have made.
Nigerians can be sure of an honest and transparent government, you can be sure of hard work. You can be sure that everything we promised, we will do.
I want to thank you once again for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to listen to our distinguished speakers for today.
God bless Nigeria!
For the first time in the nation’s history we had a free and fair election that democratically and successfully ousted an incumbent government, replacing it with the party of opposition. What Nigerians said with that election is “we want Nigeria to rise! And Nigeria shall indeed rise by the grace of GOD!