Abuja — Nigeria is celebrating 60 years of independence but President Muhammadu Buhari told the country Thursday to use the occasion as the start of national healing.
Burdened with an ailing economy following Covid-19 and low global oil prices, Africa’s most populous country has also faced security challenges from Boko Haram. But Buhari cited negative ethnicity as the core problem the country must deal with.
In his speech to the country, Buhari referred to “faultlines” among Nigerians since independence. He said the faultlines have always led to bigger challenges when sealing them would be easier.
“If we pursue our aspirations together, we will be able to achieve whatever we desire. Together, we can change our condition for the better and, more importantly, together we can do much more for ourselves and for our country.”
“Nigeria is not a country for Mr President, any ruling or opposition party, but it is a country for all of us and we must play our part, irrespective of the challenges we face, to make this country what we desire.”
Nigeria’s 60 years have seen coups and counter-coups between 1969 and 1991. But, in modern times, the country has battled Boko Haram, a terrorist group that initially sprouted from the northern regions but which has snowballed to neighbouring countries.
Buhari argued that the democracy enjoyed in Nigeria since 1999, with successive peaceful power handovers, must be continued and that civilians must always decide who leads them.
Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Get the latest in African news delivered straight to your inbox
“Today is my unique privilege to re-commit myself to the service of this great country of great people with profound diversities and opportunities. We are bound by destiny to be the largest and greatest black nation on earth.”
At this stage of nationhood, Buhari said it was important to reflect on how “we got here to enable us work together to get to where we aspire to be as a strong indivisible nation, united in hope and equal in opportunity.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of oil. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, Buhari said the country has suffered a significant drop in foreign exchange earnings and internal revenues due to 40 percent drop in oil prices. Coupled with a general slowdown in economic activities in the country, Nigeria has seen a 60 percent drop in government revenue.
Buhari did admit that Nigeria can no longer depend on oil and vowed to help the country diversify.
Since 2017, Buhari had measures in support of the economy and support for the vulnerable. These include protection of traders from middlemen, supporting farmers access credit, and introducing a school feeding programme. His administration had also promised to provide jobs.