I am highly delighted to witness this commemoration of our country’s 55th independence anniversary. It is the first since we got the chance to reclaim our country. Nigeria and and its people have traveled a tortuous path over the last few decades. We are nowhere close to where we ought to be, no thanks to the legacy of bad governance, corruption, abuse of power and disunity that has been foisted by leaders who could have done better.
Yet we can celebrate the small mercies that have been afforded us. Despite our differences, and the many tensions and stresses that have buffeted our land, we remain bound together as a united country. We can celebrate because 2015 is the year that the peoples of this country decided it was time to begin the rebirth of a nation. Against the most concerted campaign ever mounted by a government to divide the people it was meant to lead, Nigerians refused to be set against each other. I pay tribute to the many sacrifices that were made to make the historic elections of this year possible. What the voters of 2015 did was to make democracy a bulwark of patriotism. In other words, the people cast their votes for their country. May we never again be saddled with people who prefer themselves above the country.
As we joyfully celebrate today’s occasion, I urge us all to remember that we are only at the beginning. The tasks before us as a country and a people are immense. The challenges are so huge that they can easily disorient the unwary, and insert depression where resolve is needed. As I contemplate the magnitude of the job at hand, I am encouraged by aspects of the Nigerian character. We have proven repeatedly that when we set our heart to a challenge, we can master it. But our collective weakness is that we demonstrate this burst of creative energy only in emergencies, in moments of crisis when the consequence of failure is too tragic to contemplate. Yet episodic feats of competence and performance are not sufficient to build a country. Such feats certainly inspire, but we should strive to be a land of people who consistently do our best in every assignment, small or large.
The opportunity we have been given for national rebirth imposes on us a duty to take steps to improve the life chances of people. We have a duty to improve access to jobs, education and healthcare. And we can do this only in a climate of peace and security. I urge us all to respect and uphold the humanity of others, and to foster harmony in all our little corners. The ordinary people of this state have not benefitted from the division, acrimony and violence that the entrepreneurs of ethnic and religious hatred have unleashed. Enough is Enough!
We have been delighted by the parade and the marches put on today. I say a big thank you to our people in uniform for a good show. Our school children and young people have also given us a grand spectacle, and they deserve our applause. They have truly demonstrated what can be achieved through discipline and rigorous preparation.
On this occasion convened to celebrate independence, I wish to remind us that as we liberated our country, we must also free our people by making the light of quality education accessible to all. Education is emancipation! The provision of free basic education in decent schools and with skilled teachers is one of the priorities this government will accomplish in its four-year term. We have spent the past few months planning school repairs, the provision of school furniture and the training of teachers. Today, we move to declare a state of emergency in education. We ask for your support as we begin to implement extraordinary measures in the educational sector. Tomorrow by God’s Grace, the Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology will announce the raft of measures that will be taken to ensure that our schools’ infrastructure, tools and teacher quality are improved significantly within the next six weeks. We are determined that one legacy of the rebirth of our country will be the restoration of education as a tool to free our people from the fetters of ignorance.
On this occasion, the Kaduna State government decided to extend mercy to prisoners. Pursuant to Section 212 of the Constitution, the prerogative of mercy was exercised in favour of 14 prisoners. The government commuted the death sentences of five convicts, who will now serve prison time. Five prisoners serving sentences of three years and above were released on the basis of good behavior or time served already. In addition, three prisoners were released on the basis on age while one person was released due to ill health. In doing our duty to show mercy, the government warns that it will not tolerate crime and threats to security.
I will not end my speech without conveying the message of our leader and mentor President Muhammadu Buhari on the APC’s philosophical reason for being, and contained in his nationwide broadcast earlier this morning. I quote him verbatim:
“And better results for our country is what the APC government for CHANGE is all about…Change does not just happen. You and I and all of us must appreciate that we all have our part to play if we want to bring CHANGE about. We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust. We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.”
Once again, I wish us all a happy 55th independence anniversary.
Thank you for listening.
God bless Kaduna State
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nasir El-Rufai is Governor of Kaduna State.
This address was made at the celebration of Nigeria’s 55th Independence Anniversary, at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, October 1st, 2015.