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My fellow Nigerians, I come here today to speak to you truthfully about the present situation of our nation. I bring not sweet promises or catchy slogans aimed at applause. For I know that when you wake up tomorrow morning, numerous struggles will await you, the kind I am shielded from by the luxuries of this great office you have bestowed upon me. As your president, I owe you the truth. And I am confident that as a nation, we are strong enough to handle the truth.
My fellow Nigerians, our nation is facing a series of crises we must confront with frankness and boldness. Insecurity is rampant; Nigerians are being kidnapped, robbed and killed in unacceptable numbers. Nigerians are experiencing poverty in unacceptable numbers. Our children are being deprived of an education in unacceptable numbers. Our youths are unemployed in unacceptable numbers. Our doctors, our engineers, many of our brightest minds are emigrating in unacceptable numbers. Our under-performing economy and booming population is fuelling struggle for resources that leads some to exploit our ethnic and religious differences, rendering us more divided and mutually suspicious. Our challenges are many; you know them as well as I do.
It is time we shed our national assumption we are pre-ordained for greatness, that God somehow loves and favours us more than he does our fellow African brothers and sisters and other nations. Fellow Nigerians, all tomorrow has to offer a nation is the result of what it does today. We are not entitled to greatness; we have to earn it. At this juncture in our nation’s history, we have reached a cross-road, and if we want to achieve the potential we all believe Nigeria has, it is time to take a sharp turn from the path we are currently travelling and seek the road to deserved greatness.
I know decades of corruption and irresponsibility in the political class, to which I belong, have made some of you so disillusioned, you believe nothing we say anymore. I don’t blame you. We have used too many fine words to break too many promises. We have let you down, we have failed you, and we have failed this country. In the name of all who have participated in governing this country and who regret their transgressions, I apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.
But I realize that even in the happy event you grant us your forgiveness, a new direction requires far more than apologies. It requires action. Urgent action. But, my fellow Nigerians, while action must be urgent, it must also be prudent. In our years of military-rule, we often experienced governance by self-declared “men of action”. Indeed, they often governed decisively. The problem was their decisive decisions were more than occasionally decisively wrong. This nation can no longer afford the mistakes of urgent action lacking wise direction.
Any emergency requires all hands on deck. Our Nigerian ship is currently sailing in precarious waters and we need everyone on board who can help steer to lend a hand.
The most precious resource this country has is not crude oil or natural gas, it is you. It is what you have in your minds, your ideas, your talents, your creativity that is the most valuable commodity in this country. I know many of you have ideas for resolving our various challenges, but we have not listened to you carefully enough. Many of us in positions of power have let ourselves believe that since we ended up presidents, ministers, governors and senators, surely this must mean we are the smartest in Nigerian society. But the truth is there are Nigerians out there who know things we don’t even know, and we are even ignorant of this lack of knowledge. Many are willing to share their knowledge for love of Nigeria and horror at the direction she is going. They know we all sink or sail in the same boat. Surely if we the governing class knew it all, this country would not be where it is today, would it?
So, to those Nigerians willing and able to propose workable solutions to our most pressing problems, be it at local, state or national level, please come forward and make your suggestions. We have 774 local governments. If each chooses from within its constituents’ suggestions one idea, that idea can be presented at a national conference attended by top decision-makers in government. Ultimately, a practicable number of policy suggestions will be chosen and implemented. Those whose ideas are implemented will not receive any direct financial benefit other than a modest travelling allowance for their conference trip. We do not want this to become another government jamboree opportunists are tempted to manipulate for monetary gain.
This does not mean those who provide actionable solutions to help salvage this country will not be rewarded for their efforts. They will, in the form of our most prestigious national merit award, which I will consider myself privileged to personally confer them. Also, a street will be named after each of them in every Nigerian state. They will enjoy the gratitude and esteem of Nigerian society for the rest of their lives. I believe this will be strong enough motivation for truly patriotic Nigerians with practicable solutions for this country.
From 1949 to 1950, when the British were still here, they conducted consultations with Nigerians from every corner of the country, seeking their input on what a new Nigerian constitution should look like. Many of their suggestions were factored into the 1951 Macpherson Constitution. If a British government could absorb the ideas of everyday Nigerians for this country, I see no reason a Nigerian government cannot do the same. Let us tap into our people’s creative juices while offering them the opportunity for meaningful participation in the Nigerian project.
My fellow Nigerians, I am not, as your president, attempting to shirk responsibility for Nigeria, I am asking you to share the steers with me. This government is not asking you to do our job for us, we are asking you to help us in doing our job better. To help us in salvaging this country. To help us in atoning for our past sins by creating the environment for a better future. To help us understand things about the world today some of us in government may not understand. To help us finally make this nation the great country we have always dreamed of. Only together can we save this country. Only together can we keep it one. Only together can we survive. Only together can we succeed. Thank you for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!