AN ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN (GCFR) ON THE OCCASION OF A TWO-DAY RETREAT FOR MINISTERS AND SPECIAL ADVISERS, BANQUET HALL, STATE HOUSE, ABUJA, 15TH - 16TH JULY, 2011
1. Let me begin today's retreat for members of the Executive Council of the Federation and Special Advisers by expressing gratitude to the Almighty who has made it possible for Nigeria to wade through difficult times in our determined march towards greatness.
2. This is the first in a series of retreats that we have initiated to help retool and energize key managers of the administration towards a more purposeful, effective and productive service delivery. Our thinking is that since Ministers, Special Advisers and other aides are coming from various backgrounds, a programme of this nature will also serve as a foundation for building team spirit. This retreat will be succeeded by another retreat with the private sector, targeted at growing our economy with inputs from all stakeholders. We are determined to tap into the impressive pool of talented Nigerians hungry to join hands in developing our nation.
3. I wish to also express my personal gratitude to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, who has graciously agreed to chair the first session of this event. He comes with very unique experience, and great commitment, as a statesman and father-figure in our polity. Ladies and gentlemen, you’d all agree with me that we have a lot to learn from President Obasanjo.
4. As you are all aware, Nigerians are waiting to see how quickly we are able to translate ideas and words into actionable and measurable outcomes for the benefit of all. Our compatriots are eager to see the fulfillment of the promises we have made in terms of visible growth in the economy, job creation, improved electricity supply, security, better health care facilities, qualitative education, an effective public transport system, a sincere and determined fight against corruption and working for enduring peace and happiness for all Nigerians.
5. Whilst again congratulating Honourable Ministers and Special Advisers on their appointments, let me remind you that Nigeria is greatly endowed with human talents. Therefore, you must see your appointment from a mass of qualified Nigerians as a God- given privilege to serve the people of our country. For those of you who have been there before, this is a second chance for you to improve on your previous performance. For first- time ministers, I urge you to seize this moment of opportunity to serve Nigeria with your heart and all your might.
6. I made a pledge to Nigerians during my inauguration on the 29th of May, 2011 that with God's help I will never, never let them down. Those few words encapsulate the passion that I want to see in myself and in this cabinet.
7. We promised that there will be improved funding of educational institutions that already exist and that we will ensure quality access to education for all Nigerians of school age. I promised to tackle the issue of youth restiveness and insecurity by investing in education. We also pledged at various times to reduce the incidence of unrest in the education sector by being proactive in addressing issues of staff welfare, and other concerns. I look forward to making sure that these promises are fulfilled in the life of this administration.
8. Nigerians have indicated that their priority is improved supply of electricity and even as this administration is set on implementing the various goals set out in the Roadmap to Power Sector Reforms. Nevertheless we have to ensure a successful completion of ongoing short term investments which must deliver additional power to Nigerians within the time promised.
9. On energy security, I repeatedly promised Nigerians that we will continue to build on the prevailing peace in the Niger-Delta to expand our oil and gas industry's productive capacity by ensuring that incidents that necessitate the declaration of a Force Majeure by the oil multinationals are few and far between and also by ensuring transparency and accountability in the extractive industry. In the downstream sector, we should gradually begin to phase out the importation of petroleum products in the short term by improving the capacity utilization of existing refineries and in the long term by building new ones. I also expect that Nigeria should have Strategic Reserves as there should never be a scarcity of petroleum products, since we must at all times have more than we need for distribution.
10. The policy of gradually reducing the importation of cement so that local manufacturers can grow their productive capacity has been useful in placing the country on the way to self sufficiency in cement production. We must replicate this in the area of agriculture. We must begin to implement policies that gradually reduce the importation of those products in which we can easily establish a comparative advantage even as we provide assistance through funding, training and tax incentives to local manufacturers to encourage local manufacturing of goods.
11. In the area of infrastructure, I will be looking out for tangible results in the repair of our existing roads and the construction of new roads. Moreover, we cannot be a nation of over a hundred and fifty million people that depend solely on road transportation. We need to build on our railways. Of particular interest to me is that projects such as the Lagos to Kano rail tracks which will ease the burden on Nigerians are completed within the projected time.
12. Our aviation sector has made progress in recent times including the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON). We must now make sure that we also have Total Voice enabling control towers at our airports. We must also bear in mind that the nation's airports must project Nigeria's image properly by being well-maintained and modernized.
13. We should also be mindful of the current security challenges in the country. There are those who have taken up arms against the state and their fellow citizens. We must be ready to do whatever needs to be done, within the scope of the rule of law, to bring about peace. We must lay more emphasis on an intelligence based approach to meeting our national security challenges.
14. I am pleased to note that this administration has obeyed every court order and has shown due regard for the Nigerian constitution and other statutes. I expect that every government functionary will respect the sanctity of our constitution and follow due process in the discharge of assigned duties.
15. In addition, I also expect that we would collectively uphold the finest qualities of a democratic government by practicing collective responsibility. As long as we take a decision or formulate a policy in these chambers, every one of us is expected to uphold and defend that decision or policy. We must work towards ensuring full implementation of our budget in years ahead.
16. Honourable Ministers, Special Advisers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are not here to reinvent the wheel. Where a particular model of governance has succeeded in bringing happiness to the governed, we must not hesitate in drawing lessons from its successes. However, we must also not be shy in deploying revolutionary leadership in the governance of our MDAs where such is required to make them work. Ministers must effectively supervise their ministries, agencies and departments under them and ensure that they are positioned to add value to good governance and create jobs for our youth.
17. We have taken steps to tinker a little with some ministries. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has been renamed the Ministry of Trade and Investment and a new Ministry of Communication Technology has been created. We took these actions in our nation’s interest so that the vast opportunities existing in these sectors can be properly harnessed to grow our economy and create jobs for our people.
18. Ladies and gentlemen, transformation in my view simply means taking what you have and making the best of it and in so doing produce results that can bring about a paradigm shift.
19. To give you a graphic example of what a paradigm shift can do, I commend to you the story of Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister. In all of recorded human history before 1954, it was said by the experts that it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. Then on the 6th of May, 1954, Roger Bannister, after more than a year of rigorous training, ran a mile in under four minutes and shattered the myth. Now the thing to note is that from 1954 till date, over a thousand people have ran a mile in less than four minutes. Why? Because Roger Bannister challenged their belief-system and empowered them with the mental attitude to do the seemingly 'impossible'.
20. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we need to do in Nigeria. We must by our deliberate action challenge the prevailing cynicism of the average Nigerian and engender a paradigm shift that inspires hope and confidence.
21. Having said that, let me again reiterate that public funds are meant for the public good and I am quite pleased to know that this administration's fidelity to the rule of law is common knowledge because neither the Vice President nor I will offer protection to any one in government whose integrity is called to question.
22. This in a nutshell is what I expect from you and if for any reason whatsoever, you do not remember everything I have said to you today, then please remember this-I promised Nigerians that with God's help, I will never, never let them down. Because that was my promise, it also becomes your promise. So go forth to your various stations and fulfill that promise and may God go with you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
23. Thank you.