ABUJA – We are many things as a people. Among them, is that we can be a clamorous nation.
Noise abounds. Voices rise. Critics moan. The angry and the desperate even question whether this nation should exist, whether it is an experience or experiment that has failed.
Mr. President, the noise can be loud, almost deafening at times. Yet ultimately both noise and clamor shall fade, for progress.
What shall be left is reality and fact. The core reality, the fact of our political existence, is that Nigeria is an indivisible entity; a nation of many peoples wedded in common enterprise with its better days yet before it.
Yes, we were born of a complicated past, and face a challenging present. Ah, but our future, yes our future, can be one of progress, compassion, justice and hope, if only we have the courage to make it so.
We have passed but two years under this government. In the measure of human affairs, this seems a brief period in part but also long in part. We are both the same and different now than we were then.
Before this government came into being, Boko Haram wreaked havoc on a daily basis. Spreading its evil arm across great expanses of our national territory, Boko Haram invaded town and villages, erasing the peace and normalcy of the people to replace it with wanton brutality, hatred and death.
They hoisted their dreadful flag where only the green and white of Nigeria should have been.
Today, that evil flag is not planted over an inch of our precious land. This violent scourge recedes into the darkened shadows of inhumanity from whence it came.
People once under its horrid dominion now breathe the air of freedom and safety.
Boko Haram has not been completely defeated. But there is no question, that it has been decimated and made shorter and weaker. They shall never constitute the threat they once were.
This is no accident. It is the result of the policies and commitment of President Buhari, his government and the men and women of our armed forces who place their lives on the line in silent heroism to protect this nation and its people.
Had the previous government remained in place, Boko Haram would have surely eaten more territory and devoured more people. This nation might have indeed been divided and cut asunder, not by choice but by the knife of terrorism.
The prior government used the public treasury as a private hedge fund or a charity that limited its giving only to themselves.
So much money grew feet and ran away faster than Usain Bolt ever could. That which could have been spent on national development was squandered in ways that would cause the devil to blush.
One minister and her rogues’ gallery picked the pocket of this nation for billions of dollars. While poor at governance, these people could give a master thief lessons in the sleight of hand. In governance, they earned a red card but in the corruption, they won the gold medal.
It was not that our institutions had become infected by corruption. Corruption had become institutionalised.
President Buhari has set an axe to the root of this dangerous tree. I would be lying if I said the war against large-scale corruption has been won.
It has not. It will take time and countless swings of the axe to fall such a deeply-rooted tree. But try we must. This is what the President is doing.
Gone are the times when a minister can pilfer billions of dollars as easy as plucking a piece of candy from the table.
We have much to do to combat this disease. Not only must we track down the takers. In the long term, we must review the salaries of public servants and create universal credits for our people to reduce temptation.
We must also take greater care by placing people of character, competence and goodness into key positions. When they fail, they must be removed without remorse or favor.
Unlike its predecessor, this government has demonstrated the will to walk this path. While this might not cause much fanfare or celebration, this cleanses the institutions upon which a nation’s wellbeing is founded with a future assured.
The economy remains our biggest long-term challenge. The prior government operated during times of plenty. The opposite is the case now. Sadly, that plenty was stolen or directed toward policies of no lasting consequence to the average Nigerian save to compel them to say another opportunity had been wasted.
Through no fault of its own, this administration had to grapple with a rapid fall in oil prices.
That fall brought recession and collapsed our exchange rate regime. More fundamentally, it showed that the very economic model upon which this nation operated was outmoded and flawed. Unfortunately the past administration did nothing to re-calibrate the economy.
With fewer resources at hand, this government is compelled to do more. It must respond to immediate needs in a way that leads to long-term economic reform.
This will be a complex journey. This government has taken the first steps in the right direction.
We are inching out of recession. The exchange rate has stabilised. Internationally, we are seen as on the mend and have been recognised for making significant progress in the ease of doing business.
In hindsight, the election of president Buhari had an air of inevitability to it. Despite the odds arrayed against him, the sovereign will of the people lifted him to victory.
He is truly the right man for this time and place.
This is why I am pleased by the publication of this book with the just and appropriate title Making Steady, Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Security.
The president’s media team, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Laolu Akande, worked with the various ministries to assemble this comprehensive, objective catalogue of the work this government has done.
This book is a good account of the work this government has accomplished to date.
This book is needed for it sheds light on what may be obscure to the average person.
President Buhari is a man who exercises an economy of speech. He is a man of action not of chatter.
He will not spend time blowing his own trumphet because his preference is to move to the next important task.
Thus, it is apt that these men serve him in a way he would never think of serving himself.
I have already discussed the progress made regarding security, corruption and the general economy, this triad being the core promises made by the President and our party to the Nigerian people.
But this book reveals so much more being done in all areas of life. This work may not be spectacular but it is essential. It may not be flashy but it is foundational and enduring.
In agriculture, where the bulk of our people make their living, this government has strengthened research and development to enhance productivity, it has taken steps to increase exports, while rationalizing fertilizer and seed distribution. Farm credits and financing have improved allowing farmers to expand existing crops and grow new ones, including fisheries and aquaculture.
I don’t know about you, but I call this the progress we need!
In education, this administration has reduced the number of out-of school children. School lunch programs for the poorest among us have been initiated.
Teachers have been hired and are being better trained. This government seeks to inject ICT into the school system. Universal Basic Education is more of a priority than ever before. Our universities and other tertiary institutions are better funded than ever before.
I don’t know about you but I call this the progress we need!
With regard to labor, this government works with the private sector to create jobs and to engage people in the training required as we transit from a mono-dimensional economy to one more diverse and reliant on industry and skill.
I call this the progress we need!
Regarding social welfare, the opposition scoffed when this government announced living stipends for the poorest families. Now this is becoming reality. Relief of the poor has replaced the ridicule of the uncaring. The selfish unbelievers scoff no longer.
I call this the progress we need.
Regarding infrastructure, this government is making progress in building and rehabilitation of strategic ports, bridges, railways and highways.
I call this progress that we need!
This government responded when states were unable to pay workers salaries. This saved tens of thousands of families of civil servants from wallowing in despair and poverty.
I call this the type of responsible government we need!
I could go on with examples. But due to the constraints of time, let me say just that this book demonstrates this government has moved with a sure and steady hand toward sustainable progress.
While each change may not be dramatic in itself, the cumulative effects of these reforms make for a stronger nation and a future assured.
Yet, I lay caution to those people whose words and actions would counsel complacency.
True, much good has been done by this government to ignore. However, too many of our people remain too poor and put-out to ignore as well.
Daylight comes but not yet to all and not in equal measure.
Due to the neglect of prior governments, our economy was not allowed to blossom in a way that offered jobs to the poor and empowered the common man.
Where prosperity should have stood, poverty was erected. Where progress should have been established, stagnation assumed residence. We are trying hard to escape this deep hole.
While we work toward this good end, we must recognise the situation of millions of our people. Wrongfully denied for so long, they suffer still. But we ask them to take heart. Don’t forfeit hope. Understand that tomorrow will not be as the past when what was built and bought was not intended for you.
What we now building, is meant for you. This is your government and you will be the beneficiaries of its policies and programs. You are no longer the forgotten. You are the hope and promise of a nation and its future.
As this government implements its economic plans, the griping poverty you have long suffered will give way and ultimately turn into the fertile progress and prosperity that only good governance can bring.
We do this with a sense of urgency!
We race against unrelenting time. By incident of technology, the black liquid underground could be converted into money and international prestige.
By further incident of technology, that liquid is already progressively losing its economic value. We no longer have an underground vault of money. One day, the liquid beneath our feet will simply be that – merely liquid beneath our feet.
We must train our policies to ensure when that day finally comes we will not be lost again. The history of a depressed economy must not be allowed to repeat itself.
Here, permit me to offer a few observations on how we might proceed. There will be those who might distort what I say here as evidence of “space” between President Buhari and me. There evidence will be false and their news about this will be fake.
Mischief never dies. Fortunately, nor does the truth.
What I proffer today is done in the spirit of utmost respect and affinity by one who wants the best for this government and for Nigeria. I say these things to encourage the government to achieve the greatness the times demand and of which this government is capable.
The battlefront upon which this nation’s fate shall be decided is the economy.
On this, almost all else shall hang.
In addition to talking about this book which describes our immediate past and present, I want to briefly mention another document: The 2018 budget.
This budget moves us farther in the right direction. It is a bolder, more creative one than this government’s earlier editions.
It shows this government has embraced its progressive identity despite the chorus of opposition. Also that it more clearly realizes the depths of the economic and financial challenges before us.
One of the important aspects of this budget is the capital expenditure for needed infrastructure.
This investment means the government fully recognises our economy must grow but that it cannot expand beyond the parameters of the infrastructural grid that serves it.
With this book and with the budget we come to the place where past intersects with the present to interact with the future. The place where what we do or don’t do will dictate the Nigeria of tomorrow.
We are inching out of recession but growth must increase.
It is time to lead our people to a place where poverty and hunger become infrequent and where prosperity and hope are the daily fare of the common man.
There are three key ideas I would like to table before you today.
First, we are among the world’s most populous nations and potentially one of its most powerful. No populous nation has ever attained prosperity without first establishing a robust industrial capacity.
In one form or another, England, America, Japan and China implemented policies to protect key industries, promote employment and encourage exports.
These nations represent the past, present and immediate future of national economic achievement.
If Nigeria is to be a leader in the next phase of global economic history, we must learn from these prior successes. The common thread between these nations was the objective of buffering strategic industries in ways that allows for the expansion and growth of the overall economy.
In this vein, our national industrial revolution plan must be more than mere words. It must be refined and implemented with a laser-like focus. Just as the private sector may partner with government on public endeavors, government must guide and support the private sector into new areas of industry and production.
Government must invest in research and new products the private sector may find risky and uncertain in the initial stage. Government policy must push and incentivise the private sector into the production of goods that will be demanded in the immediate future and for some time to come.
This requires a heretofore unprecedented coordination between the private sector and government.
Whether we focus on steel, textiles, cars, machinery components, processed agricultural goods, other items, or any combination of the above, we must manufacture things the rest of the world wants to buy and not necessarily the things we think are the easiest to do.
Second, as a corollary to the push for industrial maturity, we need a national infrastructural plan that accords with both the industrial plan and with extant agricultural activity. The fulcrum of this plan must be continued progress in the achievement of adequate and affordable electric power, especially solar and winds.
Third, we must help the common farmer by improving rural output and incomes. We must return to commodity exchange boards or similar mechanism to allow farmers to secure their income and hedge against loss. An active and expanded agricultural loan scheme is needed to further promote these goals.
In addition, more needs to be done to make business and consumer credit available by lowering interest rates. We also must move toward true federalism by the balance of power and responsibility between the federal government and the states. In so doing, we attain the correct balance between our collective purpose on one hand and our separate grassroots realities on the other.
Again I say, this book is a good portrait of what the Buhari government has accomplished. Anyone who seeks an accurate assessment of governance in Nigeria today must make this book their reading companion.
The work attempts to expertly chronicle what has been done. Its title: Making Steady, Sustainable Progress is unassailable.
Any person with a passing regard for truth must admit that change and progress has come. We are indeed a more secure, industrious and forthright nation than we were two years ago.
But, my people, only half the story has been told. For we have, at the very least, the second half of this term remaining and I dare not say any more than that for the time being.
The deeds of this book are now our history. It is this taste of history which allows us to face the future in better circumstance.
Our future is one of beckoning challenge yet potential greatness.
Through no fault of their own, too many of our people are without. Too many parents cannot properly feed and clothe their precious children, too many young adults exist in the void of joblessness, and too many of us do not have the resources to care for elderly parents who once cared for them. We must cure these wrongs.
If I were an architect, I would say that President Buhari has used the last two years to wisely lay the deep and wide foundation for a new building called a better Nigeria.
Today, as I stand before you all, I implore him and his government.
The good you have started…. do it the more.
The good that you have yet to achieve …. get to it with a laser- like focus.
If we do as we must, we can well TOGETHER construct this new building so that it will have place and habitation for those who have lived outside and on the margins to come in and finally partake of the bounty and good harvest a proud and true nation has to offer its people.
Let this be the story of the next book to be written of this government.
NOVEMBER 16, 2017