Mr Deputy Governor
The Chief Judge,
Grand Khadi & Customary Court
President Members of the State House of Assembly
My Lords, Temporal and Spiritual
Your Royal Highnesses
My fellow Nasarawa State citizens
NOT QUITE LONG AGO, we set out on a journey filled with anguish, turmoil and uncertainties, but also buoyed with quiet hopes and confidence that many thought were as unreal as they were reckless. From this very arena, when we boldly declared our purposes to the Almighty and our country, we knew that for Nasarawa State to endure and prosper, it would have to change.
Not change for the sake of change, or as mere political slogan, but change in our values and the way we do things and, above all, change in the pursuit of those ideals which we all share and cherish — the quality of our lives, environment, freedoms and happiness. Though we dance differently to the music of our time, these ideals remain constant regardless of our ethnicity, tongue, creed or faith.
Four years on today, we celebrate the mystery of Nasarawa State’s renewal. It is the remarkable journey and story of a people determined to reshape the course of their existence, a struggle borne of a vision and courage to reinvent what many had once regarded as one of Nigeria's youngest failed States.
So it is that you have thronged out in your multitudes, under scorching sun and searing heat, to count your blessings and thank the Almighty for His mercies — big and small. But by your votes in the 2015 elections and the words we speak and the faces we wear today, you have also come to give vent to our renewed resolve to foster a new and better society.
On behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC), I thank you hugely from the depth of my heart for the fresh mandate you’ve given me, and for your support to all other APC candidates in the elections. Your sacrifices and resolve, which saw off the most obscene use and misuse of state power and resources in the pursuit of electoral advantage by our rivals across the country, would not be in vain.
With your votes and grit, you have peacefully but firmly helped eject a visionless federal Government; and thereby achieved a historic first in our national politics. By the same token, you have sent a powerful signal for the kind of politics you desire for our beloved country — a politics not of myopia, greed and indifference but of real statesmanship and service.
My words at this very arena back in 2011, when we replaced the sitting regime, would foreshadow the ascendance today of President Muhammadu Buhari, "an illustrious Nigerian who embodies the spirit of service, and the quest for real change that this country so desperately needs".
As he listened calmly in our midst that day, these words were also no less true then as they’re today: "He has inspired us all and helped to bring about the event we are gathered here to celebrate. A beacon of hope to millions, and a living testament to the finest Nigerian ideals, General Buhari's unique place in our history is assured".
He isn’t (as his record of decades in public service amply demonstrates) the sort to betray your trust and dash your hopes.
Neither am I, and today I have with you a renewed covenant affirmed, as it were, by the solemn oath of office that I have just subscribed to as the third elected Governor of Nasarawa State.
The problems that beset us locally and nationally are grave and numerous, made worse by the horrid, complex and tragic legacy of the immediate past era. Today, however, a broad coalition of Nigerians seared by the recklessness and impunity of that troubled legacy is mercifully in power in much of the country in a climate warmed by the sunshine of democracy and freedom, but threatened still by ancient animosities, extremism and new dangers.
Though we inherit an economy that is said to be Africa’s largest, the truth is that it is still dominated by a single mono-crop mineral sector, weakened by business inefficiencies, monopolistic practices, racketeering, chronic market instability, poor services, low wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our people.
The powerful forces and changes that are shaking and remaking our country are no doubt profound. But the urgent challenge before us is whether we can make change our friend, not our foe.
It is easy to misread the oases of prosperity we see around us — the gleaming cars on our roads, the budding residences in our towns, or the number of private jets owned by our elite.
But when many people are working incredibly hard for little; when millions of youths remain chronically unemployed; when access to good and affordable healthcare eludes ordinary folks; when violent crimes or communal conflicts deprive law-abiding citizens of their lives or freedom; and when millions of poor people cannot even dream the lives being led by some of us — we have not risen to the challenge of change, as we only really create and sustain the conditions for our own collective insecurity and misery.
Which is why here in Nasarawa State, we have had in the past four years to face the hard truths, and adopt bold and imaginative policies and strategies designed to secure the prosperity and wellbeing of our people.
These have been
anchored on the following premises:
An integrated urban-rural renewal programme that includes road building, digitalised land administration system, improved power and water supplies, market development, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT);
A socio-economic empowerment strategy, which focuses on women, youths, commerce and industry, financial and economic inclusion, agriculture, value addition, improved internal revenues and sports development;
Human capital development, which involved massive revival of the education sector, technical and vocational skills, capacity building in the public service, and improved welfare for civil servants; and
Robust healthcare delivery system based on a health pyramid structure, with the following components:
● Primary healthcare services aimed at better women and child mortality rate, especially in rural areas;
● General hospital expansion and improvements as alternative treatment centres to the Specialist Hospital in Lafia, and;
● Provision of new model hospitals that serve as referral centres for serious ailments and diseases in our three senatorial zones.
The results of our exertions have been phenomenal. Foreign direct investment, agriculture, value addition, commerce, education and skills, e-learning, road building, livelihoods and healthcare have all expanded and/ or been improved; our environment is cleaner and more orderly; the atmosphere almost magical; and ambition for a better life has never been higher and more widespread.
Particularly noteworthy is our provision of free primary and secondary school education, which for the physically challenged extends to the tertiary level. We also pay NECO registration fees for all examinee-citizens of Nasarawa State without any bias. Our TA’AL Model School initiative has been adjudged one of the best in the country, whilst our State is also at the frontier of special education for the physically challenged.
All these have been achieved through sensible public policies, and prudent fiscal management in the face of severe resource constraints. Today, Nasarawa State is debt-free; and is among a handful of States that not only pays the national minimum wage, but also pays its employees their salaries as and when due.
Our challenges are awesome still. From the time I first ascended office, I have always known that we would have to bring to our purpose today the vision and tenacity of those who thrive only in adversity. I knew, too, that vested interests will be offended however one tries to avoid it. But as my decades experience of private enterprise has taught me, you cannot make great strides if you’re hostile to spurts of dramatic change, or seek the easy way out of complex problems through expedient or messy compromises.
challenges are simply insistent, and solutions to them require patient and
long-term efforts — like poverty, which sears my conscience to no end. To this
there are no quick fixes or short cuts. In addition to what we are doing
already, we must invest more in our own people, in their jobs,
in their healthcare, in their business environment, and yet ensure we do not relapse into heavy debt.
And we must do so in the ways of other successful economies — provide more and equal opportunities for everyone, but also insist on personal and social responsibility from all. The notion that Government should do for able people what they can do for themselves belongs to a different age.
Poverty alleviation then is neither an act of charity, nor something that could be dealt with swiftly. But it can be done if all concerned make the right choices. So on our part, we pledge you our best and honest endeavours and, provided you keep faith in this shared voyage of hope and renewal, we assure you that we would in time prevail.
I speak, too, with a heavy heart over the wave of communal conflict, occupational violence between farmers and Fulani herders, as well as violent ethnic extremism that plagued us in the recent past. The causes for these are many and complex, some of them rooted in deep-seated animosities, and others simply the product of competition over access to land or opportunities for profit-making.
Others have overt political motivation which could easily have been contained, but for a complicit federal state which tended to look the other way even when its own security forces were murdered in cold blood in their scores. The loss of so many lives and the devastation that all these conflicts have entailed are deeply regrettable.
Moreso as they diverted huge state resources that would otherwise have been canalised to other socio-economic purposes.
I pay tribute to our traditional rulers, security agencies, community and religious leaders as well as other stakeholders who in many ways helped to regulate many of the conflicts and restore a measure of normalcy. My fellow citizens, this is our moment for peace. Let us seize it.
To our old enemies of peace — the forces of selfishness, division, profiteering, reaction, hatred and violence — we will seek to crush you if you spurn our entreaties for peace. That is our duty, that is our promise.
With the elections now behind us, the task before us all is to return to the job that the people elected us to do. Our democracy has to be the driving force of our renewal.
And so today, we pledge our co-operation with all arms of Government, as well as all other political parties and forces. Never should we return to an era of pointless and endless warfare, deadlock or drift in the name of politics.
To renew Nasarawa State, we must be true not only to ourselves, but also to the best ideals of public service. So to those misguided politicians who seek always to suborn our people to follow their false leadership, pose as misunderstood virtues, and thrive in ethnic or religious bigotry, I say to you your game is up. You know only the dark art of a generation of self-seekers, manipulators and mischief-makers. Your politics is neither of principle nor ideals, nor of innovation and vision — the true driving forces of change.
deserve better, and we will do all in our power to ensure that. As long as we
are at the helm of affairs, there will never be a return to dismal government in
Nasarawa State. Let’s be judged by our record, not by the whims and fantasies of
And so I say to all of us here and beyond, let us resolve firmly and irrevocably to reform our politics and democracy, so that power and privilege get to listen to the cries and yearnings of our people. Let us reject the self-seeking politics of those that deny our people their fair and rightful place in our democratic space.
citizens, it remains for me to end this address with a simple prayer:
Where there is darkness, may there be light.
Where there is discord, may there be harmony.
Where there is strife, may there be peace.
Where there is unbelief, may there be faith.
Where there is distress, may there be relief.
Where there is despair, may there be hope.
And where there is poverty, may there be prosperity.
God bless Nasarawa State, its people, and the Nigerian federation.