Address On Nigeria’s 60th Independence
Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike,
Governor Of Rivers State
It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to the ceremonies marking the 60th Independence Anniversary of our country, Nigeria. As we join the rest of the country and other well-wishers to celebrate independence, let us start by appreciating our forefathers through whose struggles our nation was freed from colonial rule on the first of October 1960.
As you know, political independence was necessary for us to take full control of our destiny and steer our nation and our people towards a progressive and prosperous existence. And so, today’s reality is that we have been a free nation; absolutely free from the shackles and indignities of being ruled, dominated and exploited by imperial Britain for the past 60 years.
This is no trivial historical milestone and achievement, for which we are justified in rolling out the drums to celebrate with other friendly nations who share in our excitements and wished us well no matter the circumstances and challenges of the moment.We therefore salute the courage, sacrifice and heroism of our founding fathers that resulted in the birth of this potentially great nation.
We shall forever be grateful to them not only for the plateau of independence they delivered to us on a platter, but also, for reclaiming and restoring the pride and dignity of our people to self-rule. We also appreciate our past and present national leaders and the Armed Forces of Nigeria for their labour and sacrifice to keep this nation together for the last consecutive 60 years in the midst of the challenges, which continues to manifest in many forms and proportions.
At independence, our founding fathers envisioned to build our nation with due regard to our diversity and with visionary enthusiasm provided the basic building blocks for sustaining a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria in the foundational constitution documents.
We had democracy, regional autonomy and fiscal federalism as the guiding principles for political, social and economic relations between the central government and the constituent regions.
No one part or region was deliberately denied against what was due to it; neither was any ethnic nationality politically and economically unduly favoured above all others by the central government. Above all, the regions controlled their resources and were engaged in healthy competition for development and transformation while remaining loyal to the corporate existence and progress of the Federal Republic.
Under these arrangements, Nigeria thrived on a peaceful and progressive path and as great author, Chinua Achebe, once affirmed: “there was a country” at least in the First Republic, when true federalism and regionalization of political power and resources held sway.Unfortunately, the fundamental foundational principles of negotiated constitutionalism, regional autonomy, and fiscal federalism were blatantly jettisoned by long years of misguided military incursions and adventurism into the nation’s body politics.
Although the military has since vacated from politics over 20 years ago but the constitutional, political and economic substructures they mischievously imposed on us, especially the inherent error of commission or omission in the nationalization of communal lands and resources, have continued to challenge and diminish the nation’s fragile peace, unity and socio-economic progress.
And so, 60 years after independence, nation-building remains a far cry and the lofty goals and aspirations of our founding fathers for a politically transparent, economically healthy and socially peaceful and prosperous nation remain betrayed while the way to a glorious future is arrested.
No one is in doubt about the fact that ours is a nation blessed by God with enormous human and natural resources, yet, after 60 years of self-rule we are still held behind as a nation teeming with one of the poorest and helpless population in the world with an average income per capita of less than a dollar per day.
Without inadequate access to social, political and economic rights, including quality education, healthcare, nutritious food, housing, social security, information technology, energy and transport infrastructure, Nigeria’s misery index remains one of the worst in the world. And then, violence, banditry, rampant killings and insecurity continue to plague and ravage sizeable parts of our country for over a decade, destroying communities, farmlands and causing massive dislocations and untold sufferings to already desperate and hapless populations.
Never in our history since the end of the civil war have Nigerians been so divided, despondent and distressed with prognosis that clearly point to the fact that the cracks are getting deeper in the much-strained, abused and debased walls that have managed to hold this nation together. As things stand now no one can really predict the future survival of this nation if we continue to maintain this nebulous, rigged and generally rejected federal system through corruption, repression and the abuse of both legitimate and illegitimate state institutions.
We may as usual choose to gloat in the limited progress we have made since independence, especially the relative expansions in access to education, healthcare and other socio-economic infrastructures without giving any considerations to the serious challenges preventing us from building a free, fair and just nation that would command the total loyalty of all nationalities above all other interests.
However, let it be known that the persistent failure and or resistance to heeding the voices of reason in confronting and resolving the contending core political and economic issues troubling this nation as quickly as possible is akin to postponing the doomsday, which looks inevitable with the way things are going.
Our nation can be strong and progressive if we practice true democracy, fraud-proof electoral system, effective and politically neutral law enforcement, deepen the rule of law and enable the practical independence of our judiciary. Again, our nation can only be free from the perpetual state of crisis, violence and threat of disintegration if we exhibit and courage, sincerity and commitment to rational restructuring, effective devolution of powers, resource control and true federalism as our governance system under a people-propelled and robustly negotiated constitution that secures basic human rights and social justice as the touchstones of our existence both as a nation and as a people.
Therefore, as we celebrate the 60th independence anniversary of our country, let us all reflect on the need to save Nigeria from the self-destructive direction it is wrongly headed. Let us resolve to take the right steps to lay and institutionalize the necessary constitutional and political systems that will enable us to build a free sovereign democratic and functional nation under God where everyone, including the unborn generationbs, can have equal access to political, social and economic opportunities and live in peace, security and happiness with one another.
This is the only way for us to have and build an inclusive and prosperous nation unhindered by divisive and seditious tendencies and loyalties to sectional interest in our match towards realizing the lofty aspirations of the founding fathers and other patriots.
As the Governor of Rivers State, I wish to reaffirm the subscription of the people of Rivers State to the unity and continuous existence of Nigeria and our resolve to welcome, accommodate and live in peace with our neighbours and our brothers and sisters from other parts of the country on the basis of reciprocity, mutual accommodation and tolerance.
The commitment of our government is to build a State that is home to all Nigerians and foreigners alike who desire to either reside, visit or invest and share in the social and economic opportunities on offer and in our prosperity. In the last five and half years, we have prioritized and improved the living conditions of our people with unprecedented investments in the provision of socio-economic infrastructures across the length and breadth of the State.
We are constructing roads, flyovers, jetties, markets and expanding healthcare and education facilities throughout the State including our rural areas to accelerate economic growth and make life more meaningful for our people.We have spared no efforts in advancing and achieving security and Rivers State is now reckoned as one of the few most peaceful States in Nigeria and with a much-improved business environment that is attracting investors into the State in their numbers.
We have prudently managed our economy and kept it on the path of safety and stability such that we have been acclaimed as the most fiscally viable State in the Country, generating resources enough to meet our capital and recurrent expenditures. Clearly, we have a bright future and our dream is to create a prosperous State that offers viable opportunities for everyone who works hard to lift him or herself from the valley of want and poverty into the plateau of economic progress and prosperity.
Although much has been achieved in our determination to build a better and prosperous Rivers State, we believe that there is much more to be done to mobilize resources to build our economy and generate good jobs for our youths and a prosperous and dignified life for all our people.
I therefore call on everyone to stand with us to confront our common challenges and together take Rivers State to the promise land of our dreams as we will achieve more if we stand together and act as a united people with a common destiny.
Finally, as I wish all Nigerians a happy Diamond Jubilee anniversary, let us all take pride in our diversity and rise above narrow ethnic and other sentiments to build a truly peaceful, united and prosperous nation.
May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God bless Rivers State