Buhari’s Independence Day Speech: What’s New and What’s Not

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, October 1, 2018, delivered the tradition presidential independence speech to commemorate Nigeria’s 58th independence anniversary.

As usual, the President used the opportunity to highlight the progress and successes so far recorded by his administration, as well as the hiccups and challenges facing it.

We’re winning Boko Haram

This is a constant feature in every speech or address by President Buhari, but what would cheer the hearts of many Nigerians in Monday’s independence day speech is the President’s acknowledgment that the welfare of soldiers remains an issue, and his promise to address it.

“I am looking into all reported cases of inadequacies in relation to their (soldiers’) entitlements, their welfare and those of their families,” Buhari said. “I assure these our gallant men and women that I will continue to empower them by deepening their professionalism and providing all the necessary force multipliers and enablers required for them to prevail on the field.”

President Buhari also spared a thought for “the victims of the Boko Haram’s atrocities and their families”, but he mentioned none of them by name, not even Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi schoolgirl that remains in Boko Haram captivity, nor did he make any concrete statement about his administration’s commitment to secure their release.

We’re cleaning up the Niger Delta

“Efforts are on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youths in the region and re-establish livelihoods, and strengthen their capacity to guarantee for themselves and for our country a brighter future,” Buhari stated.

However, as far as events on the ground are concerned, this is a mere rhetoric by the president. Asides the official flag-off of the Ogoni cleanup exercise in Rivers State, no other concrete action has been taken towards cleaning up polluted areas in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Besides, Ogoni is just one out of the many oil-spill sites in the Niger Delta, polluted by crude methods of oil exploration, and rendering both land and water bodies in the region useless. No action has been taken by the federal government to compel the international oil companies responsible for the pollutions to clean up the areas.

We’re tackling farmers/herders crisis

This is yet another rhetoric by the federal government. 2018 has been one of the deadliest years in Nigeria in terms of deaths caused by herdsmen attacks. Hundreds of people have lost their lives in several states across the country as a result of these attacks, notably in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and other parts of Northern, and smetimes, Southern Nigeria.

President Buhari, in his speech, said the issue was “being addressed decisively”. “We will sustain and continue to support the commendable efforts by all including civil society organisations, local and states governments and our traditional and religious leaders in finding durable solution to this problem,” he said.

Others…

On the issue of climate change, President Buhari said Nigeria is a signatory “to almost all conventions and agreements aimed at slowing down the effect of climate change and mitigating its now evident consequences”, adding that “we will continue to mobilise international support for our efforts in this regard”.

But that as far as it goes. There is no concrete effort by the federal government at addressing the menace of climate change.

On corruption, Buhari said: “We are making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets despite vicious and stiff resistance. The shameful past practice, of the brazen theft of billions of Naira is no more.” Not many would agree with him on this, at least not when former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal, is still waling free. Lawal was found guilty by a panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of wrongdoing in the award of contracts for some projects in the north east. He is yet to be prosecuted.

On the rise of technology and its attendant challenges, Buhari urged citizens, when they read anything on the social media, to “to question and question until we are satisfied we have the facts… otherwise, all the progress we have made as a democracy since 1999 is at stake”.

On the 2019 general election, Buhari said: “I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly INDEPENDENT and properly staffed and resourced. The ballot box is how we make our choice for the governments that rule in our name.”

“I want to assure you that as President, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve what really matters: a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria, where all, irrespective of background, can aspire to succeed,” he concluded.

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