An address delivered by Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, CON, Governor, Rivers State, to the Rivers State House of Assembly on Monday, March 3, 2014
In the last few days, Abuja has been celebrating a hundred years of our unification. Nigeria at one hundred years old is a milestone and should provide us all a time to reflect on where we have been, where we are now ad where we are headed.
As Nigerians first and more importantly as leaders with the responsibility of bequeathing a functional and prosperous nation where no man, woman, child, aged, strong, weak, able bodied or person with special needs is oppressed our 100th birthday must be a time we pause and ask if indeed we have kept our side of the bargain?
Although a common phrase the words of American President John F. Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. “ touches at the heart of the matter.” The centenary celebration came to an end yesterday. For one, it must have gone down as a memorable one for its exclusiveness. Even in Abuja, most Nigerians who ordinarily would have been the chief celebrants went about their daily chores, while the others struggled at petrol stations trying to fill their tanks almost completely oblivious of the trappings of what should have been a grand announcement of our coming of age. Even the very city of Abuja wore no look to herald such an epoch celebration. Not surprisingly though, the event of last week fit tightly into the pattern of celebrations in the last few years. Gradually but noticeably Nigerians appear to have lost our appetite to celebrate anything. Embedded in our newfound affinity for low key celebration and an infinite state of somber reflection is the true state of the nation.
Can we really celebrate when our children are being slaughtered while at school? Can we really celebrate when our fathers, mothers brothers and sisters are being slaughtered like chickens. Can we really celebrate when our fellow citizens live in constant and growing fear of kidnappers, hired assassins and armed robbers? Can we really celebrate when those constitutionally empowered to protect us turn their fury on us? In these questions lies the state of the nation.
Where is the country headed? Where will the country be in another hundred years? What legacy are we leaving behind for our children?
Mr. Speaker, Honorable members, sisters and brothers, a country is not simply judged by how long its democratic structures have been up but by the very substance of those structures and what they represent in the eyes of its people.
The findings of a survey commissioned by the All Progressive Congress, to be unveiled on Thursday in Abuja, showed that more than 50 percent of persons polled, as against 24 percent, a two to one ratio felt that Nigeria was going in the wrong direction. Again in the same poll, 60 percent of those polled worried that the current federal administration is doing a bad job of fighting corruption while an overwhelming number, wanted to see government address the employment gap by creating more jobs and reducing poverty.
The question arising from this poll is the serious one of the substance of our current democratic experience? What do our people feel and see when they get out of their houses in the morning? Sadly as leaders we must admit the truth, which stares us in the face. It is the fact that our country is drifting perceptibly into a dangerous waterfall.
Here in our state we have wrestled with these challenges. As honourable members of this Assembly, you bear testimony to this fact. You have moved your chambers as a result of the harrowing events of July 9th and 10th 2013. Our state which was beginning to recover from the hemorrhage caused by criminality disguising as militancy was suddenly plunged back into crises by a tiny group of selfish and greedy politicians.
As you are aware, we have continued to witness a dwindling of our monthly allocation to the state as a result of shortfalls in allocation from the federation account. The Federal Government has said that the shortfall is caused by oil theft. Yet one is at sea over the confusion among key members of this administration about the account of our state of affairs. In what serious country would you see a commanding height institution such as the NNPC trapped in an infinitely revolving door of accusations of corruption, yet those whose responsibility it is to act simply look on as if under a spell or simply couldn’t be bothered.
While Nigeria bleeds and is in a near a state of coma from crude oil thieves and thieves of crude oil money, this administration tells us fairy tales of a strong economy. While we feel the unmistakable tremors of a wobbling economy, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy continues to sing loudly to disguise the stuttering of an economy that is about to break down. While millions of our young ones are roaming the streets, this administration feeds us with the tales of burger flipping jobs it has created through its “Sure-P” and “You Win” programs. While students around the world are in school bracing up for the mind twisting challenges of the 21st century, our polytechnic students are at home wondering whether they will ever go back to school, their counterparts in our universities just returned to school after spending six months at home.
An American once said that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. When will the Coordinating Minister and her economic team stop digging and get us out of the hole? When will this administration understand that no economic revolution has been done on power of candlelights and “I pass my neighbor generators”. When will this administration understand that an economic system that breeds inequality is raking hot coal in its bosom?
These questions are key as we begin our march towards our next One hundred years. They are key as we wind down as an administration and begin the process of transferring the baton our successor. They are key, Mr. Speaker because our nation is dangerously weak and to fiddle with it, as is the currently being done may bring in a whirlwind whose destination no one can tell. They are key as Nigerians prepare to talk about our nation and where it should be heading to in a national conference whose agenda we pray is not premeditated and whose outcome we hope is not already pre determined.
For you as legislators, elected by the people of Rivers State to preserve their nationhood and protect their rights to good and democratic governance these questions are key and should form the basis of your over sight and monitoring of governance at all levels. At our own level as an administration we have given thought to these questions and are striving to provide those answers that are within our control and purview as we continue with our people focused projects as education, human capacity building and development, health care, public infrastructure and job creation. We remain committed to supporting our security agencies to ensure the safety of lives and property as we work on our determination to improve our state, propelling it to become the foremost destination to live, work and do business in Nigeria. As always we rely on the support as well as the caution of the Assembly in our quest to achieve these lofty goals.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished members, ours is an administration on the threshold of history. We again pledge to you and to our people that we will not fail you, God being our helper. We thank you for granting us audience as we look forward to a much better 100 years of our nationhood.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Long Live Rivers State.