•Says his government won’t shirk responsibility of protecting lives, property
•Atiku blames ‘lazy leadership’ for Nigeria’s woes
Festus Akanbi, Nseobong Okon-ekong and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos, Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Laleye Dipo in Minna
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in his New Year broadcast decried the level of violence in the country, saying insecurity is setting Nigeria back at “critical points” through the destruction of public and private investments.
According to him, the raging insecurity is having an adverse effect on the economic growth of Nigeria, but the nation is on a difficult journey to nationhood and greatness.
On the same day, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said aside the effect of the COVID-19 last year, Nigeria suffered greatly in 2020 because of “lazy and uninspiring leadership, especially from the government at the centre.”
The President said: “The persistence of various forms of violence has meant that in the most affected parts of the country, the fabric of inter-communal harmony woven through years of investment of effort at building trust, mutual respect, and harmony has been threatened.
“Insecurity as a challenge has direct repercussions on our national economic stability, growth, and development, setting us back at critical points through the destruction of public and private investments.
“In parts of the country where chronic poverty, social exclusion, and disillusionment among sections of the youth were already a problem, the cycles of violence that have been unleashed by mindless groups like Boko Haram and others have thwarted the efforts of government to undertake the social policy and associated investments that could make a huge difference in the quality of life of our citizens.”
He said his government would re-energise and reorganise the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police with a view to enhancing their capacity to dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremists and criminal groups waging war against our communities in some parts of the country.
He continued: “In the midst of all these challenges, I had initially pledged that as your elected President and Commander-in-Chief, I would ensure that these ongoing challenges will be faced head-on with renewed determination and with all the appropriateness and urgency required. Your voices have been heard and we would continue to listen to you, and all the key stakeholders who are committed to the unity of Nigeria to ensure that every region of this nation is safe for us all, while guaranteeing that the future is also secure for the coming generation.”
“In line with the current security challenges, we are facing as a nation, I would like to reiterate the promise I made recently when over 300 of our boys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara were successfully rescued by our security operatives.
“However, we recognise that we rapidly have to move to a more proactive and pre-emptive posture to ensure that these sorts of traumatic incidents do not become a norm. Our administration is fully aware of the responsibility we have to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, and we will not relent in learning and adapting to changing threats to our national security and civic wellbeing.”
Speaking on his agenda for the economy, the President said “Our focus is on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency. This has helped reduce the growing food related inflationary figures and have in considerable measure positively impacted our food security status during the long months of the pandemic lock down.
“We are also currently rebuilding our national infrastructure base and, in the process, introducing transformation through the rehabilitation, modernisation, and expansion of the railway system, national roads and bridges both in rural and urban centres, alongside the airports and seaports.
“The reforms we have put in place in the power sector would guarantee increased efficiency in our drive to significantly expand the generation and distribution of electricity for use in homes and factories.
“As an administration we are currently undertaking a series of special interventions designed to boost job creation and support the entrepreneurial drive of our youths.
“With the recent opening of our borders, we expect that the pent-up demand of legitimate cross-border and international trade will boost the fortunes of the many small businesses and agricultural enterprises that depend on Nigeria’s trade and commerce.
“The message to our West African neighbours is that Nigeria is once again fully open for those willing to conduct business in a fair and equitable way.”
President Buhari also unveiled a robust plan to fight corruption to a standstill, raising the need for cooperation between the executive, legislature and the judiciary arms of government.
“On the anti-corruption drive of our administration, we have recorded substantial gains so far and this year, we are committed to continuing along the path of eradicating corruption, through collaboration with all the arms of Government to effectively prosecute this fight.
“While we would be working with the Legislature to enact laws that would strengthen this fight, we would also be looking at reviewing some of our laws which would ensure that this fight is more effective. On the part of the executive, we would ensure the diligent and timely prosecution of corruption cases, while appealing to the judiciary to ensure that corruption cases are dispensed with expeditiously.”
“I call upon all Nigerians to carefully recall the circumstances of our coming to office, the facts on the ground and the resources at our disposal since 2015 with the accomplishments of this administration.
“Keeping our country on a forward march is a duty which we all have and share. In this regard, keeping our country safe from a resurgent cycle of COVID-19 as this administration finalizes its plans to procure and efficiently and effectively distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, I urge you all fellow citizens to observe strict COVID-19 prevention protocols.”
Promising to be fair in his dealings, President Buhari stated, “As your elected President, my pledge to you is the same as it has always been; I will play my part fully and without fear or favour. I invite all of us to do the same. It is what we owe to the founding generation of our beloved country and also to the coming generation. It is what we desire for national prosperity for all demands.”
Meanwhile, the New Year broadcast by the President is eliciting mixed reactions from politicians and the organised private sector.
One of the organisations that described the President’s speech as a veritable blueprint for Nigeria’s development is the Buhari Media Organisation which maintained that the speech indeed captures the essence of the Nigerian state’s history and developmental essence.
Speaking with one of our correspondents yesterday, the chairman of the organisation, Mr. Niyi Akinsiju said the speech appropriately distilled the nation’s challenges while highlighting government efforts to resolve those challenges.
“For the first time in a presidential speech, the essential nature of the youthful characteristics of the Nigerian nation is acknowledged ànd the determination by government to unleash the energy of the youthful population of the country strongly captured in the President’s submission to ‘turn the passion of the Nigerian youths to ideas and opportunities.’
Babangida Aliyu says the president has done well but…
The former governor of Niger State, Muazu Babangida Aliyu says he is happy that Buhari is reassuring Nigerians that he is ready to tackle the socio-political problems currently facing the nation.
“That is what is expected of him, that is what we want to hear from him, but he should do more than giving assurances,” the former governor said in reaction to the New year message of President Buhari.
On Security, Aliyu also expressed happiness that the President promised to rejig the nation’s security architecture saying that insecurity has made many businesses to collapse.
“We need to create confidence in the people” he declared.
“Agriculture has closed down; businesses are not functioning; people cannot move about freely; there is no likelihood that oil will rebound to the pre-Covid 19 era, all these the president should address to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians,” the former governor said.
Princewill: Buhari Ready to Open New Page for Youths
A chieftain of the All Peoples Congress in Rivers State, Tonye Princewill believes the President’s broadcast is full of hopes for Nigerians.
He said, “For me, I like to dwell on the hope offered by President Buhari in his 2021 New Year address to the nation. Nigeria is not the only country that is facing serious economic challenges at this time. However, we must commend Mr. President’s willingness to address the issue. In the coming days,
He explained that many of the investment in infrastructure like railways, roads and bridges and the power sector, which the President mentioned in his speech had not yet produced the kind of impact that can bring major transformation, “which is the focus of this government.”
The good news, according to him, is that the government has started and it can only get better. “It may be a struggle to pull off a magical recovery of the economy, but the administration has shown capacity for the task,” he stated.
Expressing similar optimism about the President’s agenda in his broadcast, a chieftain of the APC in Imo State, Chief Longers Anyanwu says he is pleased with the President’s concern for the youths.
Anyanwu said: “My take from Mr. President’s New Year speech is about his concern for the youths of the country. The fact that he describes Nigerian youths as the country’s greatest natural resources and went on to acknowledge their verifiable successes in different fields in Nigeria and abroad shows that this administration is ready to open a new page in its engagement with the youths.
APGA Tasks Buhari on Effective Delivery of Programmes
In its reaction, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) described the President’s speech as reassuring. The party, however, expressed worry that the federal government might not be able to fully implement most of the pronouncements of the President in his Friday broadcast.
National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Ike Oye who spoke THISDAY yesterday said: “The President’s new year speech was quite reassuring. But my only worry is the diligent implementation of the outlined programmes.
“2020 was a challenging year to all Nigerians, especially the downtrodden. I expect the President to redouble his efforts on tackling insecurity, lawlessness, unemployment, hunger and corruption that are ravaging our nation.”
The Broadcast is Empty, Directionless –PDP
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) party described the President’s speech as empty, directionless and that it merely confirmed that the nation has become leaderless.
The party, in its reaction to the President’s broadcast, underscores the urgent need for compatriots to come together and salvage the nation, which it claims is fast heading to a failed state.
A statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan lamented that it is appalling that on New Year Day, all that President Buhari could offer a troubled and frustrated nation was a regurgitated script full of lame excuses and empty promises that address nothing.
According to the PDP, “As a President, President Buhari has not demonstrated the capacity to play his own part, as he claimed, having failed to find solution for the security and economic challenges that pervade our nation under his incompetent and lethargic watch.
“The myriads of lame excuses in Mr. President’s address again underline our national misfortune of a weak leadership that is unable to resolutely confront and vanquish bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and vandals who are now holding our nation hostage, ravaging our communities, kidnapping and beheading our compatriots without restrain.
“The least Nigerians expected from Mr. President, in the New Year, was a decisive will to tackle our security challenges by reviewing his parade and heeding the demands by Nigerians to rejig our nation’s security architecture”, the PDP lamented.
The main opposition party said that the situation at hand requires more than an armchair commander in chief who only dwells on excuses for manifest failures. “President Buhari’s New Year address only points to the fact that our nation is in dire need of a leadership that is willing, able and ready to engage from the fronts.”
On the economy, the PDP said “Mr. President failed to articulate a definite economic recovery blueprint. He had no clear strategies to shore up the value of our naira, repay and end our foreign borrowings, revamp our external reserves, give hope to foreign investors, move promises of job creation from the perpetual drawing board and guarantee food security, health care among others.
“Mr. President had the opportunity to redeem his administration by taking steps that will address high costs of food, education and housing deficit; address the high price of fuel, multiple taxes and tariffs that bear pressure on businesses and families as well as how to enhance national productivity and grow our Gross Domestic Produce (GDP).”
In the same vein, it said that the PDP finds it lamentable that President Buhari, in his reference to the demonstration by the youths, did not make any decisive pronouncement to end the on-going persecution of EndSARS protesters or order a Presidential inquest into the reported Lekki killing.
Moreover, it said that the failure by the President to make direct commitment on budgetary provisions exposes a lack of will and direction, and shows that the next two years under the Buhari-led APC administration would leave the nation with forlorn hope.
“Nevertheless our party urges Nigerians not to despair but use the New Year to reinforce their bond of unity and continue to work together in their collective resolve to use opportunities offered by democracy to rescue our nation from misrule,” the PDP said.
LCCI Urges Buhari to Match Words with Actions
The PDP’s repudiation of the President’s reform agenda in his broadcast came on a day the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) expressed veiled doubt about the seriousness of the President to meet his promise with action. The LCCI said it would fold its arms until the President is able to actualise his pledge with action based on previous experiences where similar promises ended up as mere political talks.
For instance, it said it would adopt a wait and see attitude to the claims made by President Buhari’s that his administration’s focus on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda has helped to moderate food inflation in the country.
The Director General of the LCCI, Dr. Muda Yusuf, told THISDAY that although “the President’s message focused on key concerns of business and the citizens, the challenge is often the gap between what is said and the actual outcomes. We need to match the message with corresponding actions and results. The president’s message covered the key areas of infrastructure, security and the COVID -19 pandemic and the energy sector reform. We wait to see how quickly these promises would be translated into concrete outcomes.”
Fayose: President is a speech reader
Among Nigerians who took a swipe at the President for his speech was former Governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose, who dismissed the speech as lacking in passion, commitment and action.
Fayose said it was obvious that Buhari merely read a prepared speech to Nigerians, as the President’s speech was devoid of passion, commitment and action.
Describing the President’s speech as lifeless, Fayose said it was easier to coach the President to read speeches than to teach him how to do his work. “That is why the President continues to fumble anytime he goes for international engagements; that is why his responses are not coherent, they ask him one thing, he says something else. The President should stop making himself a laughing stock,” he said.
“Buhari prefers to read to Nigerians than to address them. There is a difference between talking to your people and reading speeches to them. Nigerians are still waiting to hear their President talk to them; they are tired of hearing speeches. It is easy to see that the President is merely a speech reader. He reads the speech they give him, that is why this government has not been able to meet the expectations of Nigerians.
“Nigerians want to hear that service chiefs have been relieved of their positions. They are tired of listening to a president that celebrates the release of abducted school children, they want to know why the nation should allow the abduction to take place in the first place.
“Nigerians want to hear concrete statements that address their pains. This is a President that cannot reshuffle the cabinet; he cannot replace his service chiefs. As it is, the President is not only clueless, he is caught up with a challenge of old age,” he said.
Abaribe: Enough of excuses by President
Speaking on the President’s broadcast, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who pledged the readiness of the National Assembly to support the current administration to tackle insecurity in the country, however criticised the President’s alleged penchant for excuses for his failures.
He said, “The legislature, particularly the minority caucus is ready to cooperate with the presidency in any sincere and genuine effort to tackle insecurity in our country and keep our people safe.
“Nonetheless, President Muhammadu Buhari must as a fact face governance and stop making excuses at every turn, especially his penchant at making references to 2015 as reasons why he fails to perform. It does not end at making broadcast, but in exhibiting genuine seriousness in governance for all Nigerians.
“He is elected to provide governance, by so doing he must be ready to proffer solutions, right wrongs where it exists and solve problems besetting the country in every facet and not always relapse to advancing excuses to explain away palpable failures. As for us in the minority caucus, we are willing as always to cooperate with the presidency in any sincere and genuine effort to provide good governance to Nigerians.”
OPC: We must talk about our co-existence
Presenting his group’s position on the President’s broadcast, President of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Prince Dele Osibote, commended President Buhari “for saluting the resilience of Nigerians and the willingness to live together as one, the question is to live together under what conditions?
“I hope the President can have the courage to allow Nigerians discuss the terms of their relationship.
“We must talk about our common existence as a people. One section of the country cannot continue to dominate others. True, Nigerian desire to live as one in a country, where no ethnic feels inferior and another superior,” he stated.
Atiku Blames ‘Lazy Leadership’ for Nigeria’s Woes
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said that aside the effect of the COVID-19 last year, Nigeria suffered greatly in 2020 because of the lazy and uninspiring leadership, especially from the government at the centre.
Atiku, who was the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, in his New Year message, thus advised Nigerians to put their differences aside, saying “we are exposed to a common threat of terrorism, kidnapping and sundry criminalities; the threat of economic meltdown, unemployment and poverty.”
He called for the same kind of cooperation displayed in the fight against COVID-19 to be deployed in finding solutions to the other problems in the world.
Atiku wrote: “It is with a glad heart that I welcome everyone to the New Year, 2021. The out-gone year was quite dramatic and it is only by the grace of the Almighty God that we survived to witness the succeeding year.
“It is cheering that we are entering the New Year with refreshing news of a handful of certified vaccines against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. And better still is news of commencement of vaccination in some parts of the world. I am expectant that the vaccine(s) would soon be available for vaccination in Nigeria. It is also hoped that very soon life would return to normal.
“As a country, we have taken our share of the blow that COVID-19 dealt to the globe. And worst still, we suffered a multi-facet downcast on account of lazy and uninspiring leadership from the government at the centre – most especially.
“But just as I often do, I pray that God should heal the hearts of families who have lost loved ones to the disease, as well as those who died on account of insecurity and ringing poverty occasioned by poor management of our national economy.”
The former vice president said damage that the pandemic had done to the lives of many would take some time to overcome, but “the fundamental lesson that the scourge reinforces is our bond as one species of homo sapiens, in which an attack on one is an attack on all.”
He continued: “Moving forward, we would require the same kind of cooperation that it takes to develop an antidote to COVID-19, to come up with solutions to many of the other ills that confront our world. Perhaps, that is the lesson to be taken from the pandemic, and it should be our pathway into the New Year.
“Just like it was with the deadly virus, we are exposed to a common threat of terrorism, kidnapping and sundry criminalities; the threat of economic meltdown, unemployment and poverty; and, even our solution to the problem of climate change must be within the focus of conserving the planet we call home. We cannot wholly defeat any of these threats if we refuse to cooperate and work together irrespective of our intangible differences.
“As Nigerians, we are all aware of the challenges that bedevil the country. We need not begin to enumerate them. But what we must not let happen is allowing our weakness to wall our strength.”
Atiku said Nigeria’s diversity offers a rare opportunity of plural perspectives to finding a solution to the country’s problems, and that if Nigerians fail to take that advantage, “we would be weaker while the problems keep growing bigger and the blame will be on us.”
He added: “As we embrace this New Year with brighter hopes of restoration, let us do so with even a stronger commitment to unity, cooperation and mutual love. Let us work as one people, under one God with one country to call home.
“I wish every Nigerian a prosperous Year 2021 and I do pray that every family shall find renewal in the New Year.”