Nigeria at 59: Buhari sees hope, Atiku warns against tyranny

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed optimism in Nigeria’s ability to overcome its challenges, even as he urged the citizens to remain united. He made this known in a statement to mark Nigeria at 59 independence anniversary.

“Let me reiterate my call for unity across our dear nation. Nigeria will emerge from our present challenges stronger and more resilient than ever – but only if all of us join hands to entrench good governance, foster inclusive economic development, and defend and protect our nation from all those who would wish us ill,” he said.

Nigeria at 59: According to Buhari, the anniversary is a time for Nigerians to collectively remember the sacrifices made by the nation’s founders, soldiers, public servants and others and “rededicate ourselves to attaining the goals which we have set for ourselves: a united, prosperous and purposeful nation in the face of 21st century opportunities and challenges.”

Highlighting some of the economic achievements of his administration, the president said: “We are significantly increasing investments in critical infrastructure. Last year, capital releases only commenced with the approval of the budget in June 2018. However, as at 20th June this year, up to N1.74 trillion had been released for capital projects in the 2018 fiscal year.

Implementation of the 2019 Capital Budget, which was only approved in June 2019, will be accelerated to ensure that critical priority projects are completed or substantially addressed. The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has been directed to release N600 billion for Capital Expenditure in the next three months.

“To maximise impact, we shall continue to increasingly welcome and encourage private capital for infrastructural development through Public Private Partnerships. Through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, which I initiated in January this year, we are giving incentives to private sector inflow of over N205 billion in 19 Nigerian roads and bridges of 794.4km across in 11 States of the Federation.”

But former vice president and presidential candidate in the last general elections, Atiku Abubakar, declared, “all is not well” with the country. In a statement to mark the independence anniversary, he noted that beyond prayers and pleas for understanding, it is time for Nigerians to take democratic action to reposition their country.

Nigeria at 59: According to him, “I could call for prayers, as others would indeed call for today. I could also call on Nigerians to show more understanding, as indeed many have said in the past and will undoubtedly say again today.

“But I am mindful of the fact that the time for rhetoric has long since passed and now is the time for all lovers of Nigeria to take concrete steps to aid Nigeria’s progress by not just praying and showing understanding, but also taking democratic action to ensure that the ideals of our founding fathers – unity and faith, peace and progress – are not set aside on the altar of tyranny.”He described the judiciary as being “under attack” and judges as being “persecuted for enforcing the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.”

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He regretted the situation where “the media cannot freely express itself without the fear that those who wield the big stick would use it on them for saying things as they are.”According to him, “All is not well when Nigeria is now officially the world headquarters for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow, while the needs of the governed are not being met.”

He said that “rather than just call for prayers today, I am calling on all Nigerians to believe in Nigeria’s betterment, to work for Nigeria’s betterment, and to insist that no one in Nigeria, no matter how highly placed, shall be bigger than the laws of our land.”

Atiku noted however that the state of the nation “is not all gloom and doom,” stressing: “There is still hope. Much hope.” He commended Emir of Kano Muhammed Sanusi II for promoting girl-child education and
Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle for “massively investing in public education.” He also applauded the efforts of the chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyeama, towards the repatriation of Nigerians from South Africa following xenophobic attacks in that country.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) urged Nigerians not to surrender to despondency amid the excesses, impunity and recklessness of retrogressive forces in high places seeking to “undermine our national cohesion, freedom of our citizens as guaranteed by the constitution, and emasculate the will and aspiration of the people.”

The party said: “It is indeed depressing that after 59 years of independence and efforts by patriotic Nigerians in nurturing democratic practice and tenets, the last four years have experienced a complete retrogression to primordial division, impunity, constitutional and human rights violations, assault on institutions of democracy, disobedience to court orders, electoral malpractices and governance by a cabal.”

Nigeria at 59: In a statement by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the party celebrated the resilience and industry of Nigerians and their fortitude to remain united despite the odds.It expressed optimism that the nation would come out of the woods, urging the people to rekindle their commitment towards unity, stability and development of the fatherland, especially as they await the retrieval of the “stolen presidential mandate” at the Supreme Court.

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) accused the President Muhammadu Buhari administration of plunging the nation into crises.

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In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, the group said: “Instead of positive change, the All Progressives Congress government has only succeeded in unleashing immeasurable pains, division, incompetence, banditry, tribalism and hopelessness among other ills on Nigerians in full measure.”

Insisting, “there is indeed absolutely nothing to celebrate,” the Coalition said: “The Buhari administration has turned Nigeria into a huge joke among the comity of nations. Buhari has so far displayed incompetence in administering this nation. His leadership style has rubbished all the efforts made by the nation’s founding fathers and past leaders to reposition the country for the benefit of all.

“At the moment, the nation’s economy is at its lowest ebb. There is an atmosphere of insecurity across the nation’s landscape. The rule of law has been set aside as his administration chooses which court orders to obey and which ones to reject.”

It added: “We hope and pray that justices of the nation’s Supreme Court will resist the siege placed on the judiciary by the present administration and do the needful on the appeal of the opposition presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, that is currently before them. The judiciary needs to stop Buhari if the country must move forward. The justices can rescue Nigeria from Buhari and stop it from collapsing.”

But in its message to the nation, the ruling All Progressives Congress said: “As a nation, we are better together than apart. Hence, we must be wary of those who hide under religion, politics, tribe and sundry groupings to turn us against one another. Despite our perceived differences, our strength and progress depends on our ability to harness our rich diversity,” the party said in a statement by National Publicity Secretary Malam Lanre Issa Onilu.

It said further: “In spite of the inherited and our current challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has made commendable strides on so many fronts, most significantly the fight against graft, diversifying and revamping the economy, curbing insurgency and emerging crimes, promoting positive values in our national life, strengthening our democratic institutions and processes, and achieving a respectable international standing.”

Nigeria at 59: The party further praised the country’s founding fathers who fought for independence, and paid tributes to members of the Armed Forces for keeping the country united and defending its territorial integrity.

Also, Senate President Ahmad Lawan admonished Nigerians not to lose hope in view of the nation’s current challenges, promising that representatives in the Ninth National Assembly would provide legislative support for initiatives aimed at making Nigeria better.

“Our historic mission today is to keep in mind those dreams of our founding fathers, put our hands to the plough of nation-building and hand over to future generations a great foundation to build on,” Lawan said in a statement.

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He noted: “God has endowed us with all it takes to be great. It is imperative on all of us therefore to play our parts individually and collectively to build the nation we envision and achieve our destiny of prominence and influence on the global stage. With our creativity, resilience, hard work and the eagle spirit, we shall surely ride the storms of these challenges to reach the heights that we desire.”

Nigeria at 59: Lawan’s deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege, called for unity, even as he urged citizens to renew their commitment towards building the country by joining hands with government to take Nigeria to the next level. He also expressed optimism that with determination, the country will surmount its challenges.

“Many great minds have quietly been making great sacrifices in the best interest of our great nation. On this special day, we should resolve to further the onerous task of nation building,” he said in a statement signed by his spokesman, Yomi Odunuga.

Nigeria at 59: Omo-Agege further saluted Nigeria’s heroes past and present, “especially our teachers, farmers, public servants and all those security and law enforcement agents whose diligent service means a lot to the current and future generations.”

Nigeria at 59: Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said: “As we mark Nigeria at 59 Independence Anniversary, we must remain steadfast, united and prayerful for our country to remain one and overcome her challenges.

“It is also incumbent on us all as citizens to pray for our leaders so that God Almighty will continue to guide them aright. Let’s all work together as one people.“In the face of some of the challenges confronting us as a country, we have no choice but to work hard to overcome them. As leaders, we are already doing that. But we need the support of the citizens,” he said.

Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump has extended his warm wishes to Buhari and Nigeria in a message released by the U.S. Mission.He said: “Nigeria is among our strongest partners in Africa. We share common goals of expanding trade and growing our economic relationship. We are allies in the global battle against terrorism, and we want to see Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa driven out of the region and other insurgencies like them dismantled. “The U.S. welcomes efforts by your administration to diversify opportunities for your talented, creative, and hardworking people to the benefit of both our countries, Africa, and the world.”

Nigeria at 59…

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