BY FIDELIS EGUGBO,
NIGERIA, last Tuesday, celebrated her 59th independence anniversary. To a lot of persons, there was nothing to celebrate, while to a few others, there was a lot to celebrate. Whatever your belief, however, you are absolutely right. But, the fact remains that we are all guilty when it has to do with the level of progress we have made and ironically, we are also, victims of what the Anglican Bishop of Asaba Diocese, Rev. Justus Mogekwu, described last Sunday as “a matrimonial misadventure.”
59 years after, I strongly doubt, if there is any living Nigerian who actively participated in the fight for the independence of the country. But, there is hope for the country, if the citizens decide to rededicate themselves and put the interest of the country first before self.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, had, a few days ago, said that when it comes to the issue of security, it is “to your tents oh Israel.” Yes! At a time that nations can pinpoint with 100 per cent accuracy the location of criminals through technological aids, when nations can boast of their war arsenals, the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff was telling soldiers that if they die while fighting insurgents, it means that they did not pray enough; that they should first, consult their spiritual leaders and apparently, tell their commander that they will not go to battle field because with the prophesies of their marabouts, they would not make it back alive from the battlefield. Nigeria is a circular state and there are certain issues like security, and tax that religion may not determine what happens, otherwise, why should someone send Christians to go and fight Muslim terrorists in predominantly Muslim occupied territories?
According to Buratai, “communities, families, and groups should join in the fight and narratives to reject and prevent the ideologies of the terrorists and extremist groups. Religious bodies and organisations in particular who interface regularly with the grassroots should be at the forefront of this spiritual battle and fashion out ways of stepping up their roles. The fight against terrorism, Boko Haram and ISWAP, as well as other security threats, cannot be left to the troops in the battle field alone.”
As I was pondering about where we got it wrong as a nation, a public affairs analyst and historian, Prince Ikechukwu Iyeke quipped, saying, “the present level of mediocrity was made possible because they killed over 70 percent of its learned population during the Civil War. They killed the fathers of Nigerian independence. The deals they made with the multinationals who helped them win the war, kept Nigeria poor. We own the oil, but it is drilled and bought by the same people who only pay Nigeria commissions.”
59 years after independence, it is almost impossible for one to pass through motorable roads from one state to the other. Apart from bad roads, one has to be conscious of kidnappers and armed robbers on the roads. Aligning with Buratai, one can only pray and possibly, fast before embarking on a journey. But, is Nigeria at war? If yes, with who?
Two Sundays ago, I wrote on the issue, “Who Is A Nigerian?” If mistakes were made in the past, is the country not ripe to correct the mistakes? At the present situation, everyone is living in fear – fear of terrorists, kidnappers, armed robbers, yahoo boys, even fear of security men who, because of their alleged involvement in some heinous crimes, one can no longer vouch for. Where is the law to take its course when the Judges can also, be easily arrested and embarrassed for doing what they believe is right? At the end, if nothing is done for the rule of law to prevail, for criminals to be prosecuted without looking at where they are from, we all shall be victims.
Delta State Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa either due to his background in the Senate or due to his strong belief that Nigeria can work, is not deterred in any way as he has engaged in projects that many people believe its ripples may lead to the attitudinal change that Nigeria deserves as a nation.
Road infrastructure is very vital for development to take place. In short, without good means of transportation, socio-economic activities will be grounded and the governor being aware of such, embarked on massive construction of roads in all parts of the state. Of recent, while other federal roads have caused a lot of pains to motorists in most states of the country, Governor Okowa has approved the reconstruction of failed portions of federal roads. His administration has also, embarked on several life changing programmes, giving a human face to governance and also, giving hope to the people that, if institutions of government can work in Delta State, they can also, work in other parts of the country.
It was no wonder that during the Independence Day celebration, Governor Okowa in his address to Deltans, said, “I appeal to all Deltans and indeed all Nigerians, to rekindle their faith in a united country and in the continuous protection of democracy as the only viable system of governance, which is already bringing sustainable development to our nation in spite of obvious challenges. I wish to assure Deltans that government will not shirk its responsibilities to its citizens as we shall at all times, conscientiously pursue what is in the best interest of the state and according to the provisions of our constitution.
“I am delighted that the development profile of Delta State is on the rise. I reaffirm the commitment of this administration to the completion of all on-going projects. Government has maintained a steady focus on the economy of the State with a view to promoting prosperity and public private partnership in economic development. The State government has expended considerable resources towards improving basic infrastructures, notably roads, drainages, healthcare, electricity, schools, bridges, housing, urban renewal and portable water supply.
“This administration is determined to sustain this trend. It is however, doubtful if government alone can do all. Accordingly, this administration is exploring private sector participation in the overall development of the State. In the public sector, government is determined to plug all areas of wastages. We must all join hands to ensure that the syndrome of abandoned and shoddy contract execution become a thing of the past. Let me assure you that the State government is fully determined to ensure the good use of its resources for the provision of infrastructure and overall development of the State. This insistence might not be popular, but the overall interest of both the state and its people are at the centre of our resolve. The issue of unemployment, especially among our youths has reached alarming proportions. Previously, government held a dominant position with the State economy as a major employer of labour and producer of goods and services. Since opportunities for direct employment in the public sector are limited, unemployment has been on the increase and has become an issue of great concern.
“This is why early in the life of this administration, energy was directed towards creating opportunity that will improve quality of life for Deltans by job and wealth creation through skills acquisition. No doubt, the skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development is a life changing model. The philosophy here is to create a pool of active players in the establishment of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises –SMEs.
“So far, we have laid the foundation for a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business development. Over 20,000 persons benefited from our flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs, including Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency.My sincere appeal to beneficiaries is to avoid selling off the empowerment tools handed over to them. Such an act defeats the purpose of creating a group of determined SME operators who will turn the State’s and country’s economies around. It is expected that the progress they make can and should be the envy of those who opt for white collar jobs.
“Progress is deficient in a society that cannot feed itself, so we need to go back to the land but this cannot be done by government alone. It is on this basis that the Agricultural Development Programme – ADP – has been restructured into Delta Agricultural and Rural Development Authority. We are making conscious efforts to revamp and revitalize the agricultural sector and setting up related activities to absorb the teeming number of the unemployed youths in our midst. Various opportunities have been opened by the State government, the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and other agencies to encourage farmers at all levels. I urge our people to key into these avenues for the expansion of their production.
“The issue of unemployment among our youths should not be a reason for moral decadence, armed robbery, indiscipline and kidnapping, which are becoming worrisome across the country. Let me make it abundantly clear that as much as we believe that kidnapping and moral decadence among our youths could be manifestations of the prevailing economic situation in the country, we cannot fold our arms and allow youths to abandon the time honoured virtues, which constitute a source of pride and uniqueness to our people. More than ever before, there is the dire need for all patriots to join hands to check these manifestations of societal decay in the nation to avoid bequeathing to our children, a bleak future.
“Fellow Deltans, I like to use this opportunity to sympathize with communities and individuals, particularly those who are suffering various degrees of setbacks following consistent flooding these past few years during rainy season. I need to re-emphasize that those still in flood prone areas should relocate to higher grounds. We are committed to checking future occurrences through the institution of modern planning regimes for cities and the construction of drainage systems and embankment in the riverine areas of the State. I therefore, appeal to all residents to avoid building houses and kiosks in unauthorized places to avoid blockage of natural water-ways, with its attendant disasters. We are coming to a point where those who deliberately build on water channels will be denied compensation if their structures are pulled down.
“We should, at all times, remember our gallant officers – men and women – on the frontlines fighting against terrorists, especially in the north eastern parts of the country. Families of fallen heroes and heroines should also feature regularly in our prayers as we ask God to protect and strengthen them.
“I am pleased and proud to acknowledge the contributions of our traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, youths, workers, security agencies, legislators, the judiciary, the press and indeed, every resident of Delta State towards building a State of our dreams. Delta State will continue to maintain cordial relationship with neighboring States and indeed, all Nigerians in the true philosophy of being a shining example of love towards all.
“On this occasion of the 59th Independence Anniversary of our beloved nation, I implore all Deltans to renew their spirit of brotherhood, love and peaceful co-existence for the progress of the State and country. We reaffirm that the present administration shall not deviate from its commitments to equity, fairness and justice in all its actions.
The challenges ahead are great, but with your continued goodwill, love and support, we will build a State that guarantees economic prosperity, political stability and security.”
(As published on page 10 of The Pointer Newspaper of Sunday, October 6, 2019.)