BY: SAYO AKINTOLA
President Goodluck Jonathan has assured Nigerians to continue to be resilient and put aside political, sectional or other parochial considerations, and support whole-heartedly the efforts of his administration in tackling the unprecedented challenges that face the country.
He made the assertion on Wednesday in a nation-wide broadcast to commemorate the 54th anniversary of Nigeria as a sovereign nation. ‘’I am more than confident that our tomorrow will be better than our yesterday and today’’, he said, adding that Nigeria has got the human and material resources to excel ‘’and we shall lead the way in that journey to our manifest destiny’’.
Describing the menace of Boko Haram as the greatest security challenge Nigeria had faced since the end of civil war; Jonathan urged Nigerians to stand up in unison against insurgency and ensure an enduring peace in the country in order to facilitate economic development.
‘’it is important that we remember all the precious souls that have been lost in the unprecedented war of terror unleashed on some parts of our country by these individuals who want to compel us to live our lives their way. They will not succeed!’’
In their mission, he lamented that they had maimed and raped, adding that they had killed men, women and children, rendering many children orphans and several women widows.
Jonathan pointed out that the insurgents had made violence their ideology and were bent on destroying the country, insisting that ‘’dear countrymen and women, we will not allow them’’.
He commended the nation’s security forces who night after night, day after day, had continued to engage the terrorists in battle. ‘’My gratitude goes out to our armed forces whose will has been greatly challenged by this insurgency more than any other time, since the civil war’’.
He noted that they had remained undaunted and unwearied in the face of constant challenge and mortal danger. Driven by patriotic zeal, he pointed out that they were turning the tide by their prowess and determination.
As Commander-in-Chief, Jonathan vowed to continue to do all it takes to enable them to keep on inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror, adding, ‘’fellow Nigerians, it is our collective duty as patriots to avail our men and women in uniform of all the support they need to fight and win this war’’.
He reiterated his administration’s commitment to make Nigeria safe for all Nigerians, ‘’irrespective of our places of birth, how we worship God and our political persuasion. To all those waging war against our country, I ask that you lay down your arms and embrace peace’’.
To those who have genuine grievances, he affirmed that Nigeria would listen to them, ‘’if you bring your grievances to the table of dialogue. To the good people of Nigeria, let me restate that our task of building a better and greater country must not waver’’.
While the nation continues to deploy her resources in the fight against the terrorists, the president noted with dismay the great toll the conflict has taken on the people.
To this end, he said the government had launched the Victims Support Fund, an independent multi-sectoral charity, which would aggressively solicit resources to augment Government’s statutory intervention, in bringing succour to the injured, the displaced and the bereaved.
In partnership with Nigerian business leaders and international partners, he said the Safe Schools Initiative which is aimed at promoting safe environments for education nationwide, starting with the North East region had been introduced.
He added that the Presidential Initiative for the North East, a comprehensive programme to fast-track the economic restoration of the region, which has been the epicentre of terrorist activity, has been set up.
‘’Our overall objective is to do all we possibly can, to sustain in the North-East, the momentum of economic advancement, which is on-going in other parts of the country, despite the machinations of the terrorists and their sponsors’’.
He noted with dismay that the terrorists do not mean well for anyone, of whatever religion or dispensation, stressing that their persistent choice of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, for gruesome attack, provides an insight into their abnormal mind-set.
On economic front, he said his government’s power sector reform was on course with the ultimate objective of generating enough electricity to power the Nigerian homes, industries and businesses. ‘’We are making giant strides in the Agricultural Sector which we are re-positioning to diversify our economy. We will continue to upgrade our infrastructure to make life easier for all and create an enabling environment for enterprise to flourish’’.
Over the last four years, he said the implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the Oil and Gas Sector had ensured major increase in the participation of indigenous Oil and Gas companies in the industry, adding that several critical infrastructure projects had been commissioned and commenced.
Today, following the rebasing of our economy, he enthused that every international monitoring and ratings agency now acknowledges Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of five hundred and ten billion dollars ($510 billion) ‘’which also places us as the 26th largest economy in the world. This is progress’’.