On this day 52 years ago, the British union jack was lowered and a new and distinctly different flag has hoisted within the precincts of what was then known as racecourse. The flag with the colours, green, white, green, made a statement of the birth of a nation whose diverse people, united by their pride in self and nation, would be the frontline nation in a continent that was gradually opening up to the world.
Today 52 years after as Nigeria celebrates another independence day, we are confronted with unfortunate challenges of delayed hope and rising insecurity. Of dreams; some of them stillborn, others struggling to come to fruition but also some that have come true.
We are certainly not where we were 52 years ago. There are new stories, which we can tell, successes that we can point to, and giantstrides, which we have collectively achieved as a nation. Our story today is not one of only unmet dreams, but one of passion, and of the can do spirit that is typically ours.
While no one can deny that we have some distance left on our journey to development, we can see the signs of movement and motion.
Here in our state, we are making deliberate moves. When it pleased the almighty God and the people of Rivers State to entrust me with the privilege of leadership in our dear state, it was clear to us that we had to redefine our goals and objectives. An erosion of thosevalues that our people held dear had seen our state gradually lose its pride of place as a prime destination of choice in our country.
Our educational system had broken down, and years of neglect had left our infrastructure in ruins. We had to act fast and after wide consultations we declared a state of emergency in the education sector. Let me reiterate what I have often said; that the first policy of this administration is education. Our determination to bequeath to future generations a knowledge economy is not negotiable. Today we can beat our chest to say that we have consistently retained the first place with regards to primary education in the country. Our huge investments in this sector will be fully appreciated by posterity. Like you know we are currently equipping in 250 primary schools, some of which have been put to use. We will continue this process as we conclude the building of the remaining already awarded 250 schools. We still plan to award contracts for another 250 schools to bring the number of primary schools in the state to the 750 we promised our people upon assumption of office.
In the secondary education sub sector, the model secondary school in Eleme, now named, Ambassador Nne Kurubo Secondary School, will begin operations on October 25th. Our plan is to admit 700 pupils in the school in the first instance. The break down of admissions will guarantee a mix of Rivers state children, both by birth and residency, as well as two children from each of the states of the federation.
All these children will go to school for free and will bear no additional cost, either of uniforms, schoolbooks, laptops, sandals, food or tuition. The Rivers state government will be fully responsible for them. We expect that more secondary schools will come on stream between now and end of first quarter 2013.
Our exercise to recruit additional teachers is on going. With the initial steps concluded, we are set to employ 13,000 new teachers. This would increase our present wage bill from N8 billion to about n9 billion. But, government must meet the needs of our people and one of our major responsibilities as government is to ensure that our children are well educated.
While we work on the building of a new campus of the state owned university of science and technology, we will continue with the intervention of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency in the area of sending our children to some of the top schools in the world. Despite the debilitating cost of sending 300 students abroad each year, our commitment to enhanced human capacity development is unwavering.
It is also in this light that we are speaking with reputable universities abroad for a partnership with the Rivers State university of Science and Technology as well as the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education. Discussions for these partnerships have reached advanced stages. We continue to call on our people to partner with government to improve education, as this sector is the bedrock of all other sectors in any economy.
One area where our people continue to experience challenges despite our huge investments in the same is in the area of roads. Let me use this opportunity to reassure our people that road construction and rehabilitation is a continuous process. Some of the our roads are over 50 years old and require some repairs and maintenance. We have already directed the Ministry of Works to ensure that those roads that broken down are fixed once the rains are over.
This administration has currently under construction about a thousand kilometres of roads with about 300 already completed. As we strive to reduce the challenge sour people face, we have completed the rehabilitation of some of the roads in the old Port HarcourtTownship. Contract has been awarded for the completion of the other roads in town that have not been rehabilitated. We would also be carrying out similar rehabilitation in Borokiri, Diobu and D/line areas.
The expenditure needed to deliver on this promise is huge but we are committed to it. Rehabilitation of old Port HarcourtTownship alone is estimated to cost government N17 billion naira. Part of our funding constraint comes from the fact that we are building roads for other tiers of government. For instance we have to carry out remedial jobs on part of the east west road, from Onne to the Rumuokurushi inter change (popularly known as Eleme junction).
Although it is a federal road project, the delays on the project directly affect our people who are forced to spend long hours on that road because of its very bad state. The same thing applies to the road from Omagwa to Owerri. We will re mobilise that contractor and hope to complete that road by December 2012.
The goal of this government is to continue to render accountable and transparent leadership in our service to our people. While we understand the need to meet our aspirations as a people, we plead for patience and your understanding. Today we reinstate our commitment to leave Rivers State greater than we met it. Our focus on diversifying the economy is the reason we are embarking on refocusing our people on entrepreneurship and setting new goals. Besides investing in agriculture, which has huge employment potentials, we are also focusing on technical training and middle level manpower development. Before the end of the year, we would be concluding discussions with a team from Germany that would be handling vocational training for this segment of our population. The idea would be to guarantee that our people at all levels are equipped with the requisite skills to be global player in all segments of the economy. We are certain that our focus on diversifying our economy will bring with it numerous gains especially in our quest for a productive rather than rent culture.
What this means is that we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dream of a greater Rivers state and indeed a greater Nigeria.
Let me appeal to our people to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others.Freedom carries with it responsibility. As we celebrate 52 years of freedom, we must remember that it is our collective destiny and nobody but Nigerians will build our nation for us.
We must shun ethnicity, nepotism, religious bigotry and divisions. We must remember that we are one people with one destiny, closely knit together with no other nation to call home but this one. Our passion must be to work together to grow our country and make it a pride in the comity of nations. We have a responsibility to bequeath to our children a nation where “ no man is oppressed.”
My good people of Rivers state as we begin our journey into our 53rd year as a people let us rest assured that tomorrow carries great promises and great hope. It is true that the road ahead may not be all smooth and that it would mean a lot of hard work. Yet there can be no resting on our oars for both leaders and the led alike until we reach our destination. We are people of a great country. Nigeria is the pride of Africa and the world is looking to us to take our rightful place. We must rekindle hope today, as we remember the labours of our heroes past. We must not do our part to keep their dream alive and the torch burning.
Our pledge to you today is that we will give our people reason to hope again and keep our state on the path of prosperity and hope. We make this pledge under God knowing that He can and will enable us get to our Eldorado. Together we can make it, together we will make it.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
God bless Rivers State.