New dawn, as Nigeria renews Jonathan’s contract

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Leon Usigbe witnessed the swearing-in of President Goodluck Jonathan last Sunday at the Eagle Square, Abuja, for a fresh four-year tenure. He reports on the promise of a new dawn by the president.

Eventually, the people settled for Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who completed the dotted lines on his contract papers on Sunday.

Expectations are high that after near misses in front of goals by past leaders, the country may, at last, have acquired the services of the right marksman to deliver on their dreams for greater glory. He has promised that the time of “oohs” and “aahs” are gone and this is, indeed, the time to be jubilant because his shots on target would be unstoppable.

It is this renewed hope that got the nation and the rest of the world to standstill for hours on Sunday as he took the oath of office for a new tenure as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Days before the inauguration, the outlook of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) changed, as measures to ensure a smooth ceremony were being implemented. Of these, the most basic was the heightening of security, which led to the blockage of certain routes to the Three Arms Zones where the Eagle Square, the venue of the ceremony, is located. This came with some obvious discomfort to commuters, but in the end, it could be said to be mainly responsible for the smooth and peaceful nature of the exercise that has further enhanced the growing positive reputation of Nigeria as an emergent regional power.

As an indication of the world’s approval of the outcome of the presidential election, nearly 40 foreign presidents, heads of government, vice-presidents and prime ministers from all continents of the world graced the occasion apart from other friends of Nigeria, former leaders, political bigwigs and people from all walks of life.

They included the Presidents of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouleflika; Benin Republic, Yayi Boni; Burkina Faso, Blaise Compraore; Central African Republic, Francois Bozize; Chad, Idris Derby; Republic of Congo, Sassau-Nguesso; Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila; Cote D’Ivoire, Allasane Quattara; Equitorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Ghana, John Evans Atta-Mills.

Also present were the Presidents of Guinea, Alpha Conde; Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha; Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson; Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure; Niger, Salou Djibou; Rwanda, Paul Kagame; Sao Tome and Principe, Fradique De Menzes; Senegal, Abdoulaiye Wade; Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma; South Africa, Jacob Zuma; Togo, Faure Gnassingbe; Uganda, Yoweri Museveni; Zambia, Rupiah Banda, and Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

Others countries represented by their Prime Ministers or Vice-Presidents included Swaziland, Switzerland, Burundi, Korea, Kenya, Gambia, Tanzania, Georgia and Ethiopia. Among prominent Nigerians present were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former Presidents  Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Shehu Shagari; Ernest Shonekan and Abdulsami Abubakar.

It was a day of pride for Nigeria, Africa and black people everywhere in the universe. Jonathan can be assured that he not only has the goodwill of the people but that their presence was also a determination on their part to ensure that he does not fail in his promise to transform the country from the present poor state of things to a country that will bring pride and joy to all.

He is not oblivious of this. Once the oath of office was administered on him by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu, he thanked Nigerians for the trust and confidence they reposed in him, pledging to do his utmost not to let them down and thereafter set forth his agenda for the country for the next four years; measures his administration would initiate to lead to the creation of country of the dream of citizens.

The president pointed out that Nigeria was not just a land of promise, but must become a nation where positive change would continue to take place, for the good of the people.  So, “the time for lamentation is over. This is the era of transformation.  This is the time for action,” he said.

Nigeria, he said, could only be transformed, if everyone played his/her parts with commitment and sincerity because cynicism and scepticism would not help the nation’s journey to greatness. He wanted belief in the country; he wanted all to sign on to a new partnership to build a great country that all would be proud of because the time has come. He desired the cooperation of all stakeholders, as he sought, over the next four years, to focus attention on rebuilding infrastructure, quality education, greater healthcare delivery and agricultural sector to enable it to play its rightful role in the country.

“We will push programmes and policies that will benefit both local and foreign businesses, but we must emphasise mutual benefits and win-win relationships. The overall ongoing reforms in the banking and financial sectors are therefore designed to support the real sector of the economy. To drive our overall economic vision, the power sector reform is at the heart of our industrialisation strategy. I call on all stakeholders, to cooperate with my administration, to ensure the success of the reforms,” he said.

Jonathan also wanted elected officials to show that they are men and women with the patriotism and passion to match the hopes and aspirations of the people in the days ahead. To him, they must demonstrate the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice to transform the nation.

His argument was that the leadership he would give would be decidedly transformative and the transformation would be achieved in all the critical sectors, by harnessing the creative energies of our people.

Specifically, he promised that his administration must grow the economy, create jobs, and generate enduring happiness for our people and this would be achieved through the proven disposition of Nigerians to transform this country.

“The urgent task of my administration is to provide a suitable environment, for productive activities to flourish. I, therefore, call on the good people of Nigeria, to enlist as agents of this great transformation,” he said, even as he reminded the people of the country that being a Nigerian was a blessing, saying “It is also a great responsibility. We must make a vow that, together, we will make the Nigerian enterprise thrive.”

Similarly, he observed that the leadership and the followers must strive to convert the nation’s vast human and natural resources into the force that would lead to a greater Nigeria, saying “the Nigeria of our dreams must be built on hard work and not on short cuts.”

He therefore saluted the Nigerian workers who, he noted, built Nigeria’s communities, cities and country and that “they deserve fair rewards, and so do the women that raise our children, and the rural dwellers that grow our food.”
Furthermore, he declared that “the moment is right. The signs are heart-warming. We are ready to take off on the path of sustained growth and economic development.  In our economic strategy, there will be appropriate policy support to the real sector of the economy, so that small and medium enterprises may thrive.  Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural wealth, and my administration will continue to encourage locally owned enterprises to take advantage of our resources in growing the domestic economy.  A robust private sector is vital to providing jobs for our rapidly expanding population.  But this must be a collaborative effort.”

Providing further insight into the plans of his new administration, he revealed that it would form technical and financial partnerships with global businesses and organisations because “we live in an age where no country can survive on its own. Countries depend on each other for economic well-being. Nigeria is no different. Returns on investment in Nigeria remain among the highest in the world. We will continue to welcome sustainable investment in our economy.”

Jonathan did not forget to address the issue of the new Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, which, he pointed out, would immensely contribute to strengthening the country’s fiscal framework, by institutionalising the savings of commodity-related revenues, saying that “with this mechanism in place, we will avoid the boom and bust cycles and mitigate our exposure to oil price volatility.”

He drew inferences from the lessons of the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis and its crucial effect on the health of the nation’s economy and, therefore, pledged to pursue the region’s development in the interest of justice, equity and national unity, which are conditions for development.

As for the just-concluded general election, Jonathan acknowledged the sacrifice Nigerians went through to make sure they voted for their preferred leaders in the elections. He said it was a demonstration of resilience of Nigerians in the face of all odds and their determination to forge ahead as a nation.

He spoke against divisive tendencies, as he declared “today, our unity is firm, and our purpose is strong, our determination unshakable. Together, we will unite our nation and improve on the living standards of all our peoples whether in the North or in the South; in the East or in the West.  The day of transformation begins today. We will not allow anyone exploit differences in creed or tongue to set us one against another.”

While congratulating the elected governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives and those of the state Houses of Assembly on their victories at the polls, he wanted all presidential candidates who contested the election with him to join him in the building of a new Nigeria.

Jonathan also used the occasion to pay tribute to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua with whom he contested the presidential election as running mate four years ago and also the slained members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who he described as heroes of “our democracy”. He regretted that despite the free, fair and transparent manner the last general election was conducted, “a senseless wave of violence in some parts of the country led to the death of 10 members of the NYSC and others.  These brave men and women paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our fatherland. They are heroes of our democracy. We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences in respect of all those who lost their lives.”

Corruption got a special mention in Jonathan’s inaugural address as the bane of national development and he vowed that it would be met by “the overwhelming force of our collective determination, to rid our nation of this scourge,” saying “the fight against corruption is a war in which we must all enlist, so that the limited resources of this nation will be used for the growth of our commonwealth.”

He assured that Nigerians had every reason to look forward to the future with optimism and declared pointedly: “Fellow Compatriots! Lift your gaze towards the horizon. Look ahead and you will see a great future that we can secure with unity, hard work and collective sacrifice. Join me now as we begin the journey of transforming Nigeria.’’

With the swearing in, the stage is now set for action as he promised. He has no time to waste. Nigerians have shown that they trust the president and cannot wait to see his electoral promises come into fruition.

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