ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari last night in Abuja pledged his commitment to hand over a strong repositioned agriculture-led, diversified home-grown economy, stable democracy and revamped armed and security forces to the next Administration.
Speaking at a dinner in honor of the 2022 Committee of Business, Political, Media and Civil Society Leaders, the President said he was looking forward to completing his tenure in 2023, leaving a legacy for a united, peaceful, and prosperous Nigeria with 24 years of uninterrupted democracy.
Assuring Nigerians that his administration will finish strong in the last lap of his tenure, the President said:
”A statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and publicity quoted Buhari as saying, “I am gradually entering my final year in office. It is a period I intend to spend not only on consolidating on the achievements of the past seven years but also to leave a legacy for a united, peaceful, and prosperous Nigeria.
”I take this initiative to mean that you all intend to collaborate with this administration in that direction.
”For those among you who are politicians, you must look beyond gaining power to how you can leverage public positions in the process of societal change. To the businessmen and women among you, there is great glory in public service.
”The question that should be uppermost always is: How do we leverage our business endowment for the greater good of our country?
”I am delighted that members of the Nigerian elite have woken up to the fact that the task of changing this society is a task for all of us, whether we are in the private or public sector. Knowing that, we have enormous challenges as a nation, but they are not beyond our capacity to overcome if we embrace a new approach.
”We cannot retreat to our ethnic cocoons, nor can we continue to seek solace in our past. We must champion the idea of a Nigeria where every citizen would be proud to call their own. That is the charge before you.”
Expressing delight on the new consciousness by the Nigerian elites to work together with the political class and civil society to build a better Nigeria, President Buhari noted that building consensus around issues of the economy, national security, governance, and such other critical areas of national life is a sure path to the future we seek to build.
”As we all know, I have been very critical of the Nigerian elites, essentially because some of us have not always demonstrated that we can rise above personal gain, political partisanship as well as ethnic and religious differences when the situation demands that we all speak and or act as one in the interest of our country.
”There are also many among our elites for whom profit remains the only motivation for any and every enterprise.
”But now, I feel heartened that a more collaborative social enterprise model for resolving our common challenges is being forged.
”I must commend this initiative and its conveners. This is the kind of spirit I have always advocated because it is what we need at this time as we seek to build our society for peace, security and prosperity through dialogue while narrowing the gap between rich and poor.”
On the activities of the Committee, the President acknowledged that he was aware that attendance at their inaugural meeting on Sunday cut across a broad section of the society in the public, private sectors, civil society, and the youth.
The President lauded the group for rising above all ethnic and religious divides for the common good, describing the feat as ‘‘fantastic’’.
The President, who said he had wished the group had convened earlier, advised them to try and accommodate a few more interests in their next meeting as they take a ”deeper dive into our national challenges and proffer workable and sustainable solutions for the near, medium, and long term.”
”It is our desire to finish strong in the next 16 months and ensure all hands are on deck for the last lap. We are doubling our efforts against all forms of insecurity, equipping our armed forces and strengthening the police.
”We are determined to continue the war against corruption and fight poverty, we remain focused on building an all-inclusive economic opportunity for all citizens. ”
The President told the meeting that despite the enormous problems inherited when he assumed office almost seven years ago, he can look back with satisfaction that this administration has kept faith with the people and has done well even amid dwindling resources for reasons that are well beyond our control.
”But we probably would have fared even better if we secured the support of most of you that are here today, know that while government comes and goes, the country must remain and thrive.”
President Buhari used the occasion to wish politicians, at the dinner, interested in elective positions in the 2023 polls the best, advising that ”there is nothing better than experience in leadership.”
Responding to concerns raised by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State on the resurgence of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso in August 2020, September 2021 and January 2022, respectively, the President said he strongly believes that ‘‘Nigeria has passed through that stage for good.’’
On the political situation in some West African countries, Fayemi said:
”We believe Nigeria has a manifest destiny to protect democracy not just in Nigeria but also in our region. But in doing that we must ensure that our politicians adhere strictly to constitutional principles and I am happy that our President’s position on leaders seeking third term is well known.”
Giving further insight on the workings of the Committee, Governor Fayemi said Nigerians who have benefitted from the country in good time, serving in different capacities, have a duty to support the country.
“What the Committee has tried to do is to develop an elite consensus on security and economy, ” he said.
He said the Committee would take advantage of the President’s consistent leadership, relentless passion and patriotism to ensure a seamless transition, while ensuring that the achievements of this administration are sustained and followed through for the benefit of the country.
“Here we have PDP and APC chieftains and we hope by the time we finish this work, what we will present to the President is void of partisan colorations. It is from people who want Nigerians to succeed.”
The Convener of the Group and Chairman of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena said with Nigeria facing a ”historic transition like no other”, and with crisis across Africa and at home, the 2022 Committee emerged to ”defend the national interest.”
”The 2022 Committee was put together to defend Nigeria in a time of crisis and in a time of transition, we must defend the national interest,’’ he said, noting that membership of the group has been carefully selected from the business community, investors, governors, security sector and elder statesmen.