President Goodluck Jonathan, Thursday, urged Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the national conference at the beginning
of Nigeria’s second centenary to build a country that would in due season lead the great re-awakening of Africa.
In acknowledging the country’s present troubles, including terrorism, the president used the broadcast to openly condemn last Monday’s slaughter of 43 school children in Yobe State and prayed that the incidence would turn a thing of the past in the next 100 years.
Noting the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates of Nigeria on January 1, 1914 by the British Colonial authorities, Jonathan said: “I consider myself specially privileged to lead our country into its second century of existence. And as I speak with you today, I feel the full weight of our hundred-year history. But what I feel most is not frustration, it is not disillusionment. What I feel is great pride and great hope for a country that is bound to overcome the transient pains of the moment and eventually take its rightful place among the greatest nations on earth.
“Like every country of the world, we have had our troubles. And we still do. We have fought a civil war. We have seen civil authorities overthrown by the military. We have suffered sectarian violence. And as I speak, a part of our country is still suffering from the brutal assault of terrorists and insurgents.
“While the occasion of our centenary undoubtedly calls for celebration, it is also a moment to pause and reflect on our journey of the past one hundred years, to take stock of our past and consider the best way forward for our nation.
Paying tribute to the country’s founding fathers, he said: “Today, we salute once again the great heroes of our nation: Herbert Macaulay, Ernest Ikoli, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alvan Ikoku, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, Dr. Michael Okpara, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Mallam Aminu Kano, Mokwugo Okoye and Chief Michael Imoudu among others.
“The situation was not helped by political instability and the frequent suspension of democracy by military coups. During the civil war, the very existence of our country was cast into doubt but through it all, the promise of a Nigeria that is united, free and strong remained in our people’s hearts.
“Thanks to the efforts of our statesmen and women, and millions of ordinary Nigerians, the union endured and flourished. I would like to specifically commend members of the Armed Forces for their contributions and sacrifices to keep Nigeria one.
“General Yakubu Gowon had the wisdom and grace to declare that the civil war had seen ‘no victor, no vanquished’ and welcomed, ‘the dawn of national reconciliation.’
“It was in this spirit that General Olusegun Obasanjo collected the instruments of surrender at the end of the war and later became the first military ruler in our country to hand over power voluntarily to a democratic government.
“While the Second Republic did not last, his fine example was later followed by General Abdulsalam Abubakar who paved the way for our current democratic dispensation which has lasted longer than the previous three put together.
“As we celebrate our centenary, I believe that it is vital that we focus our thoughts on the vast potentials of a unified and progressive Nigeria; and build on the relative stability of the Fourth Republic to achieve accelerated national socio-economic development.
“The whole world awaits this African success story. With our sheer size, population, history, resilience, human and natural resources and economic potentials, Nigeria is divinely ordained to lead the African Renaissance.
“That is why I am confident that in the next 100 years, those who will celebrate Nigeria’s second centenary, will do so as a united, prosperous and politically stable nation which is truly the pride and glory of Africa and the entire black race.”
“My call for the National Conference in this first year of our second century is to provide the platform to confront our challenges. I am confident that we shall rise from this conference with renewed courage and confidence to march through the next century and beyond, to overcome all obstacles on the path to the fulfillment of our globally acknowledged potential for greatness.”
“I have referred to national leaders who did so much to build our nation in the past hundred years but nation-building is not just a matter for great leaders and elites alone.”
“All Nigerians must be involved in this national endeavour. From the threads of our regional, ethnic and religious diversities we must continuously weave a vibrant collage of values that strengthen the Nigerian spirit.”
“The coming National Conference should not be about a few, privileged persons dictating the terms of debate but an opportunity for all Nigerians to take part in a comprehensive dialogue to further strengthen our union.”
“I am hopeful that the conference will not result in parochial bargaining between competing regions, ethnic, religious and other interest groups but in an objective dialogue about the way forward for our nation and how to ensure a more harmonious balance among our three tiers of government.”
“My dear compatriots, as we celebrate our centenary, the security situation in some of our North-Eastern States, sadly remains a major concern for us. Just yesterday, young students, full of hopes and dreams for a great future, were callously murdered as they slept in their college dormitories in Yobe State. I am deeply saddened by their deaths and that of other Nigerians at the hands of terrorists. Our hearts go out to their parents and relatives, colleagues and school authorities.”
“We will continue to do everything possible to permanently eradicate the scourge of terrorism and insurgency from our country. We recognise that the root cause of militancy, terrorism and insurgency is not the strength of extremist ideas but corrupted values and ignorance.
“That is why our counter-terrorism strategy is not just about enforcing law and order as we have equipped our security forces to do. It also involves expanding economic opportunities, social inclusion, education and other measures that will help restore normalcy not just in the short term, but permanently.”
“I want to reassure Nigerians that terrorism, strife and insecurity in any part of Nigeria are abhorrent and unacceptable to us. I urge leaders throughout Nigeria to ensure that ethnicity and religion are not allowed to become political issues.”
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Clifford Ndujihe & Ben Agande