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PRESIDENT UNFOLDS VISION OF NEW NIGERIA

By NBF News
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PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday called on Nigerians to pledge to work with him in making a new Nigeria, saying the citizens should focus on the next 50 years as ones of 'unlimited possibilities' instead of dwelling on the nation's imperfections.

He also pledged visionary and committed leadership, transparency in governance, a fight against corruption, and credible electoral system, noting that with the coming elections, 'the future of Nigeria and generations yet unborn is at stake. We must start the journey to the next 50 years with credible elections, with a clean break from

the past.
'We must show the whole world that we can do things the right and the equitable way. This is my pledge and I will never deviate from it.'

In a national broadcast made before an audience of youths at the foyer of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Jonathan said that Nigeria's ability to recover from the scars of the Western Region Crisis, the Civil War, and the June 12, 1993 election annulment had convinced him, 'more than anything else', that Nigeria was destined for greatness.

He said: 'Our founding fathers sought a government of character, that seeks justice to her citizens as our national anthem so eloquently describes: One Nation Bound in Freedom, Peace and Unity.

'However, today, the opinion of many Nigerians is that these dreams and expectations have not been fulfilled. Not only have people despaired about the slow pace of progress, some have in fact given up on the country. Some believe that if the colonial masters had stayed longer, Nigeria may have been the better for it.

'All these postulations, we must admit, are born out of a somewhat justifiable sense of frustration. Our troubles and failures are well catalogued. For a country that was, in terms of development, on a similar, if not better level with many countries at independence, it is discomforting that we are lagging behind as the economic indicators among nations now show.

'In the midst of these challenges, it is easy to forget our unusual circumstances. We have actually been moving from one political instability to the other such that we have barely been able to plan long-term and implement policies on a fairly consistent basis. This instability has also impacted negatively on institutional development, which is necessary for advancement. The structures of governance had barely been developed when we ran into a series of political obstacles shortly after Independence.

'While we were at it, the military took over power and this fuelled a different kind of political instability which ultimately led to the unfortunate 30-month Civil War. This was certainly not the dream of our founding fathers who sacrificed so much to give us Nigeria. They did not dream of a country where brothers would be killing brothers and sisters killing sisters. They did not dream of a country where neighbours and friends would exchange bullets in place of handshakes.

'Military rule and the Civil War were major setbacks for our nationhood. They produced a polluted national landscape. This did not offer the best atmosphere for national development. It impacted negatively on Nigeria socially, politically and economically, a situation, which further undermined our aspiration as a stable nation.

Without political stability, it has been very difficult to plan and build our institutions like other countries that were our peers.

'Dear compatriots, despite the serious challenges that we have been living with, we cannot ignore the fact that we have cause to celebrate our nationhood and even a greater cause to look forward to a brighter future. This is a historic occasion when we need to pause and appreciate who we are, what we have, and to reflect on the encouraging possibilities ahead. There is certainly much to celebrate:  our freedom, our strength, our unity and our resilience.

'This is also a time for stock-taking, to consider our past so that it will inform our future.  This is a time to look forward to the great opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for Nigeria. In 50 years, we have in several respects, attained heights that we should be very proud of as a nation. Today, we need to celebrate the remarkable resilience of the Nigerian spirit. We need to appreciate, that even though the road has been bumpy, we have trudged on, in hope.

'We may not have overcome our challenges, but neither have our challenges overcome us. Whenever we are completely written off, we always bounce back from the edge to renew our national bond for the benefit of our progress. That is the Nigerian spirit. This is what has kept us together as a country even when other countries with far less challenges have fallen apart. Our recovery from the scars of the Western Region Crisis, the Civil War, and the June 12, 1993 election annulment has convinced me more than anything else that Nigeria is destined for greatness.

'It has proved that in our differences, tough circumstances and diversity, what binds us together is far stronger more than what divides us.  We have a glorious future awaiting us. I am convinced that North or South, East or West, Moslem, Christian or other faiths, majority or minority, we are all bound by our common humanity and mutual aspirations. We are not sworn enemies. We are not irreconcilable foes.  We are neighbours who sometimes offend each other but can always sit down to talk over our differences.  We are one people and one family.'

Jonathan added: 'In the midst of these challenges, it is easy to forget our unusual circumstances. We have actually been moving from one political instability to the other such that we have barely been able to plan long-term and implement policies on a fairly consistent basis. This instability has also impacted negatively on institutional development, which is necessary for advancement. The structures of governance had barely been developed when we ran into a series of political obstacles shortly after Independence.'

'One of the greatest achievements of our union these past 50 years is our togetherness,' said the president who declared that 'a new Nigeria is in the making.  The worst is over.  Our latest democratic dispensation has defied all the odds. Since Independence, we have never had 11 years of unbroken civilian rule as we have today. This is a new experience for us. With this comes stability.  With this comes the building of strong institutions.  With this comes the ability to plan and pursue our plans.'

Jonathan also made a special appeal to Nigerian youths to join in the remaking of a new Nigeria by doing things that would make the country great because 'despite the serious challenges that we have been living with; we cannot ignore the fact that we have cause to celebrate our nationhood and even a greater cause to look forward to a brighter future. This is a historic occasion when we need to pause and appreciate who we are, what we have, and to reflect on the encouraging possibilities ahead. There is certainly much to celebrate:  our freedom, our strength, our unity and our resilience.'

The president also highlighted the achievements of several Nigerians in the field of science, medicine, arts and sports which have gained global Recognition the recent cases of Nigerians like the team led by Dauda Oladepo of the International institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) who discovered a device for testing people loiving with HIV/AIDS, and Dr. Louis Nelson whose research to find  a permanent cure for diabetes is at an advanced stage.

Others are Prof. Wole Soyinka, the first Black African to win Nobel Prize in Literature; Prof. Chinua Achebe, the writer of the most successful African novel; Ben Okri, the Booker prize winner, Sefi Attah and Chimamanda Adichie. 'Nigerians have distinguished themselves in spite of enormous hurdles they encounter everyday. If we could achieve so much under tough conditions, we are capable of achieving even much more in our journey to the Promised Land,' he said.