President Olusegun Obasanjo independence speech

My dear fellow Nigerians, I address you today as we celebrate our
45th independence anniversary with gratitude to God and full
appreciation of the resilience, patriotism, and commitment of the
Nigerian people. Over the years, our country has been through a lot
of contradictions, challenges, conflicts, and temptations. We have
seen trust betrayed and opportunities mortgaged. We have seen hopes
dashed and steady steps to progress compromised.

What has been good and appreciated by all persons of goodwill is that
we have emerged from all these tribulations stronger, more united,
more focused, and more committed to repositioning our country for
peace, stability, security, growth, sustainable development and
democracy. More importantly, in spite of the various challenges that
we have faced, the sanctity of the Nigerian state has remained intact
and strong. We have steadily and collectively rededicated ourselves
to the unity and progress of Nigeria. The burning desire to build a
nation where no one is oppressed and where opportunities abound for
our people to reach the highest points of their creative and
productive abilities has remained as strong as ever.

We have collectively committed to reform to make our today better
than our yesterday and our tomorrow even more comfortable for our
children and ourselves. We have challenged opportunistic tendencies,
corruption, mismanagement, and bad leadership. We have also taken
available opportunities to discuss the problems and options for
progress in our country just as we have resolved to overcome
conflicts and divisions within and between our communities. What
these and more have done for us is that we are collectively building
a better and stronger country.

It is true that the reform process has precipitated pains in some
constituencies. No one ever said that reform for the better was
going to be pain-free. But it does not help matters for us to spend
valuable time complaining and perhaps finding ways to undermine the
reform process even when positive results have started to show. The
reforms are meant to strengthen the foundations of our economy and
society, create jobs, wealth, enhance productivity, efficient
management of resources and socio-economic progress. They are not
designed to punish any individual or group.

As a Government, we are determined to see them through. Those who
had become used to cheap money with little or no work, the sort of
attitude that piled up billions of dollars in local and foreign debt
that almost prostrated the country, would find it worthwhile to
adjust their styles and methods of operations. The simple reason is
that we have opted for the efficient management of resources and
promotion of socio-economic and political progress.

Today, we have zero tolerance for waste, corruption, indolence and
social rascality. This is the only way to lay the foundation for a
new Nigeria as a country with a new image, new focus, new
determination, new values and new purpose.

Let me also state very clearly that we are not oblivious to some of
the genuine complaints among some Nigerians. In each case, we have
responded fairly and rapidly. Of course, we must always appreciate
the fact that the process of change and democratic consolidation
requires that at the levels of the individual, family, community and
nation, we must find time to pause, take a look at the past, our
present and the future that we have mapped out and take critical
decisions on how we plan to reach our destination.

Nigeria is not yet where she should be in terms of development but
what we are sure of is that the road map is there and it is clear.
Let me enjoin all Nigerians to look at the positive side, to learn to
think positive and long-term, to eschew bitterness and negative
thinking, and to join hands to move away from those attitudes that
got us nowhere, compromised our collective dignity and integrity, and
subverted our march towards growth, development and democracy in the

God has placed before us another chance to come together, plan
together, work together and make progress together. Let us not fail
to take advantage of this God-given opportunity by holding on tight
to old ideas, old habits, old and negative attitudes, old bitterness
and prejudices, and unprogressive ways.

We must give gratitude to God that the sacrifices we have made to
move our country forward are yielding results. In the areas of
reform, from privatisation and commercialization of inefficient
enterprises through the reform of the administration of justice and
institutional reforms to the war on corruption and promotion of
sectoral reorganization for increased productivity, we are seeing
unprecedented progress.

Yes, we must admit that the reform is yet to sink deep into other
levels of governance though there is an increasing awareness of how
important this is to the larger picture. The recent debt relief
granted to Nigeria by the Paris Club was clear evidence of support
and appreciation of our efforts in Nigeria.

We must remain on that path. The renewed and robust interest of
investors and tourists in Nigeria is also evidence of appreciation
that we are doing the right thing and that our country is a much
better place today even as we continue to strive to do much better.
Once again, with our improved image, Nigeria has become a preferred
investor destination.

Let us take advantage of this favourable situation to become more
productive for domestic and export markets thereby diversifying our
economy, enhancing our revenue earning sources and strengthening our
security and stability. The time has come to focus on
diversification, new technology, new production techniques, intensive
export drive, and increased presence in foreign markets for our home-
made products. The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) is being
re-engineered and repositioned to provide all necessary support in
this regard.

We must commend ourselves and thank God that our democracy is getting
more consolidated. We have broken the jinx of instability and regime

We owe it to history and to the nation to defend and protect our
democratic process. The quality of political debates all over the
country is fully reflective of growing commitment to democratic
practice, belief in dialogue and accommodation instead of violence,
and the expansion of democratic spaces for political practice.
Indeed, from communities, local governments and the states to the
national level, there is evidence of growing maturity in our
political consciousness and democratic practice.

Democracy admits of dissent, protest, marches, rallies and
demonstrations. However, true democracy ensures that these are done
responsibly and peacefully without violence, destruction or even
unduly disturbing any citizen and with the guidance and control of
law enforcement agencies. This, for instance, is what Labour and
Civil Society organizations that have participated in the recent
marches have done.

Peaceful rallies are replacing strikes and violent demonstrations of
the past. This is a welcome development and it is an indication that
our democracy is maturing. I commend the leaders of those rallies
and the police while once again expressing my condolence to the
families of those who tragically died in the process and to their
respective organizations, the Vanguard Newspapers and the Civil
Liberties Organisation.

It is relevant and important to note that there is still a
substantial level of subsidy in the petroleum products supplied to
the domestic market today in spite of the recent price adjustments.
However, what is important at this point in time is to ensure that
continued rising price in the international market of crude oil does
not continue to translate to further price increases of products at
the pump. For this reason Government has directed PPPRA, NNPC and
other stakeholders to work out the Modulator Mechanism that will
maintain and sustain current pump price level until the end of 2006
no matter what happens in the international oil market.

However in the event that market factors bring a drop to crude oil
prices such that domestic product prices could be maintained at
levels lower than the Modulator band, such downward adjustment should
be reflected.

Through on-going discussions with Labour, Government will work out
some adjustments in allowances to cushion the effect of increased
fuel price.

In spite of the loud noises made by a minority in certain quarters,
this is a listening and caring government. But we cannot be misled,
intimidated, tele-guided, compromised or pressured to take immature
or populist decisions with no lasting effects. That will be
tantamount to postponing the evil day or cutting our nose to spite
our face. We have no plans of abandoning the path of reform or
succumbing to the opportunistic pronouncements of a few at the
expense of the Nigerian people and nation. We remain open to
positive suggestions, dialogue and rational discourses on the nature
and future of our society. We will not be derailed nor diverted by
the unscrupulous ones.

At the international level, Nigeria has made excellent progress.
Aside from chairing the Commonwealth and the African Union, the NEPAD
Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee and the
African Peer Review Mechanism, we have built and maintained excellent
relations with donors, our development partners and multilateral
organisations. We have reinvigorated our bilateral relations with
nations of the world and we remain important at the United Nations.

We have continued to show good leadership in ECOWAS. We remain
committed to providing required assistance in areas of conflict
resolution and peacekeeping, and support for democratic initiatives.
We have opened new paths to cooperation, trade and cultural exchanges
with the Caribbean while strengthening our relations with South
America. These developments are bound to improve bilateral
relations, increase trade, and expand people-to-people contacts. The
overall result for us will include goodwill towards Nigeria and
Nigerians, increased tourism, foreign exchange earnings, wealth and
job creation through new investments. I urge all Nigerians,
especially the private sector to take advantage of the solid spade
work done by the Federal Government on the foreign relations front.

Let me touch on the pensions in the public service. With the
Contributory Pension Scheme fairly in place and the current year's
pensions being substantially paid as and when due, we are turning
attention to arrears of pensions as at 31 December 2004. Within the
next few weeks, Government will announce its plan for dealing with
all the arrears of pensions. From now on, we will ensure that no
arrears accumulate again. For the fruits of our labour and sacrifices
to satisfy our collective quest for peace, harmony, tolerance,
growth, development and democracy, we must all re-dedicate ourselves
to the cause of Nigeria.

Nigerians must be united not only by a common purpose, but also by
common values- duty, integrity, honour, love, hope, morality,
progress, courage, patriotism, nationalism, industry, service,
prudence, fear of God and responsibility. Nigeria needs to be served
and to be saved not only by words but also nurtured by firm,
patriotic, courageous and committed action devoid of self and selfish
interests. It is only in this way that we can give ourselves and the
world a new image of Nigeria and Africa that is sorely needed. We
must all be mindful, as we move along the curve of history into the
twilight of our lives, what the future would say and write about us
in truth. We must aim to be regarded as part of a "service and
builder generation" that made significant contribution to a new and
great Nigeria.

This is a good point to talk about security. While I commend the
police and other law enforcement agencies for the wonderful work that
they have been doing, let me re-emphasise the fact that the full
support of all

Nigerians and various communities are required to eliminate all forms
of crime from our society. It has to be a collective commitment and
struggle because the criminals live and operate within the

Like corruption, we must all identify crime as an obstacle to peace,
progress and development that must be totally removed from our midst.

I know that we all want a stable, united, peaceful and prosperous
democratic nation. But how do we build and nurture such a nation?
Firstly, we must be ready to accept our mistakes and decide to move
away from the errors and failings of the past.

Some of us are still in denial and some even say openly that previous
repressive dictatorships were good for Nigeria. Such unfortunate
perspectives hardly help the cause of nation-building and
democratisation. Secondly, we must commit fully to reform. There
can be no room for half-hearted commitment to change and reform for
the better.

Unfortunately, there are some that still believe that the reform
agenda would be temporary and they are waiting for when they can
return to "business as usual."

Nigerians must resist such negative dispositions, begin to own the
reform process and collectively defend their today and tomorrow.
Thirdly, we must isolate and expose those obstacles to peace,
development, democracy and progress as we have done through the
National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). Then
we must do away with those attitudes, language, perception,
behaviours, dispositions, and modes of political and social action
that have become outdated, ineffective, and time-wasting. We all
need to join hands to truly generate and maintain a new momentum that
will support and guide the process of reform and change. A lot of
the perceptions that the world has about us as a country are provided
by Nigerians, at times, in their unguarded statements, tendency to
exaggerate issues, dissemination of half-truths and untruths,
denigration of our time-honoured values, and refusal to stand and
speak for the country.

Take a look at the great nations of the world, dissent is
accommodated, protest is allowed but you will not find their media,
scholars, activists, and prominent citizens relishing in running down
their nations.

Fellow Nigerians, if we do not decide to build and nurture a new
image, build and sustain a new Nigeria, and create for ourselves an
image that is different from the past in word and action, no one will
do it for us. At 45, we are no longer a young nation by African
standards and we cannot continue to allow our resources, hopes,
aspirations, faith, and achievements to be mortgaged or squandered by
just a few Nigerians.

The struggle is, however, that of the people and their collective
resolve to terminate indiscipline, inefficiency, waste, corruption,
irresponsibility, rascality and the celebration of mediocrity and

This Administration is totally committed to providing all Nigerians
with the support to engage in this focused, purposeful, progressive
and patriotic struggle to build a new Nigeria.

I urge you all to support Government initiatives, private efforts,
and to see this as "our struggle and commitment" and not just that of
the Government.

At this point, I must once again thank all Nigerians who have shown
steadfastness, support and belief in Nigeria. God loves our country
and loves us. We must not do anything to depreciate the love of
God. But we must do everything to appreciate our achievements and to
sustain a culture of inclusion, tolerance, accommodation, and
democratic engagements. Our country has been blessed in several ways
but we have under-utilised the blessings of God. It is time for us
to work harder and work together to reposition our country for the
greatness she rightly deserves.

Finally, let me restate our commitment to moving Nigeria forward. I
assure you all that we will spare no effort to improve the lot of
Nigerians. We are moving away from the past, building new
structures, and consolidating new ways of doing things. We will
continue to encourage dialogue and debate within communities and
support democratic reforms.

We will continue to encourage our people to be more productive and
industrious and we shall continue to create the appropriate enabling
environment for the fulfilment of their aspirations. But such
dispositions to ensure the nurturing of development and the
sustenance of democracy must and should not be confused with, or
taken for weakness. Our resolve to fight corruption, waste,
inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and unpatriotic attitudes remain
undiluted. Let no one test our resolve to defend the territorial
integrity, security, credibility and unity of Nigeria.

No price is too great to be paid for peace and national unity. We
shall continue to work hard to contain the enemies of democracy,
agents of instability, and associates of undemocratic conducts.

Nigeria is growing and moving forward. We shall, together, repair
the image of Nigeria and make our dear country great again. I wish
us all very happy independence celebrations.

May God continue to bless Nigeria, Thank you.