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Month: October, 2015

Fulltext: Nigeria’s 55th Independence Speech by President Buhari ON  THURSDAY 1st OCTOBER 2015

October 1st is a day for joy and celebrations for us Nigerians whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in because it is the day, 55 years ago; we liberated ourselves from the shackles of colonialism and began our long march to nationhood and to greatness.

No temporary problems or passing challenges should stop us from honoring this day. Let us remind ourselves of the gifts God has given us. Our Creator has bequeathed to us Numbers – Nigeria is the ninth most populated country on the planet. We have in addition:

• Arable land

• Water

• Forests

• Oil and gas

• Coastline

• Solid minerals

We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.

Countries far less endowed have made greater economic progress by greater coherence and unity of purpose.

Nonetheless, that we have remained together is an achievement we should all appreciate and try to consolidate. We have witnessed this year a sea change in our democratic development. The fact that an opposition party replaced an entrenched government in a free and fair election is indicative of the deeper roots of our democratic system. Whatever one’s views are, Nigerians must thank former President Jonathan for not digging-in in the face of defeat and thereby saving the country untold consequences.

As I said in my inaugural speech, I bear no ill will against anyone on past events. Nobody should fear anything from me. We are not after anyone. People should only fear the consequences of their actions. I hereby invite everyone, whatever his or her political view to join me in working for the nation.

My countrymen and women, every new government inherits problems. Ours was no different. But what Nigerians want are solutions, quick solutions not a recitation of problems inherited. Accordingly, after consultations with the Vice President, senior party leaders and other senior stakeholders, I quickly got down to work on the immediate, medium-term and long-term problems which we must solve if we are to maintain the confidence which Nigerians so generously bestowed on us in the March elections and since then.

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

As you know, I toured the neighboring countries, marshal a coalition of armed forces of the five nations to confront and defeat Boko Haram. I met also the G7 leaders and other friendly presidents in an effort to build an international coalition against Boko Haram. Our gallant armed forces under new leadership have taken the battle to the insurgents, and severely weakened their logistical and infrastructural capabilities. Boko Haram are being scattered and are on the run. That they are resorting to shameless attacks on soft targets such as I.D.P. camps is indicative of their cowardice and desperation. I have instructed security and local authorities to tighten vigilance in vulnerable places.

On power, government officials have held a series of long sessions over several weeks about the best way to improve the nation’s power supply in the safest and most cost effective way. In the meantime, improvement in the power supply is moderately encouraging. By the same token, supply of petrol and kerosene to the public has improved throughout the country. All the early signs are that within months the whole country would begin to feel a change for the better.

Preliminary steps have been taken to sanitize NNPC and improve its operations so that the inefficiency and corruption could be reduced to a minimum. Those of our refineries which can be serviced and brought back into partial production would be enabled to resume operations so that the whole sordid business of exporting crude and importing finished products in dubious transactions could be stopped.

In addition to NNPC, I have ordered for a complete audit of our other revenue generating agencies mainly CBN, FIRS, Customs, NCC, for better service delivery to the nation. Prudent housekeeping is needed now more than ever in view of the sharp decline in world market oil prices. It is a challenge we have to face squarely. But what counts is not so much what accrues but how we manage our resources that is important.

We have seen in the last few years how huge resources were mismanaged, squandered and wasted. The new APC government is embarking on a clean up, introducing prudence and probity in public financing.

At an early stage, the federal government addressed the issue of salary arrears in many states, a situation capable of degenerating into social unrest. The APC government stepped in to provide short-term support to the owing states and enabled them to pay off the backlog and restore the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.

Fellow Nigerians, there have been a lot of anxiety and impatience over the apparent delay in announcement of ministers. There is no cause to be anxious. Our government set out to do things methodically and properly. We received the handing over notes from the outgoing government only four days before taking over. Consequently, the Joda Transition Committee submitted its Report on the reorganization of Federal Government structure after studying the hand over notes. It would have been haphazard to announce ministers when the government had not finalized the number of ministries to optimally carry the burden of governance.

Anyway, the wait is over. The first set of names for ministerial nominees for confirmation has been sent to the senate. Subsequent lists will be forwarded in due course. Impatience is not a virtue. Order is more vital than speed. Careful and deliberate decisions after consultations get far better results. And better results for our country is what the APC government for CHANGE is all about.

I would like to end my address this morning on our agenda for CHANGE. Change does not just happen. You and I and all of us must appreciate that we all have our part to play if we want to bring CHANGE about. We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust. We must change our unruly behavior in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.

Happy Independence Celebrations. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. God Bless

Hajj 2015: Thoughts and Recommendations by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Isiaq 'Deji Hammed. An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. He is a giant social media cum political commentator on matters of the Middle East and Africa, of particular interest is Nigeria. He shares his time between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. ahjotnaija is proud to have him guestblog for us.

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed.
An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. He is a giant social media cum political commentator on matters of the Middle East and Africa, of particular interest is Nigeria. He shares his time between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. ahjotnaija is proud to have him guestblog for us.

The airlifting of pilgrims back to their home countries started in earnest as Hajj 2015 is practically over since 27th September. All seemed to flow perfectly well until the morning of that fateful Thursday when Muslims all over the world were preparing for Eid-el-Kabir, and pilgrims who had spent the previous day on Mount Arafat moved from Muzdalifa to the Jamaraat area for the symbolic pelting of Satan with pebbles. Barely two weeks after the unfortunate crane-crash in Makah which claimed the lives of over 100 people with several  hundred injured, little did anybody know that a worse tragedy was about to happen. The stampede at the intersection of Roads 204 and 223 resulted in over 700 dead and many sufferers of varying degrees of injury.

Before any comprehensive investigation was conducted to unravel the causes of the incident by the Saudi authorities, trading of blames and voices of condemnation were already at the highest decibel in the Muslim world and among concerned members of the international community. The first salvo coming from the Iranians: “The Saudi government should take full responsibility of the tragedy.” Some blame the incident on the indiscipline and failure of pilgrims to follow official directions on movements. As if that was not enough, the Head of Central Hajj Committee, Prince Khaled al Faisal blamed the disaster on “some pilgrims with African nationalities”. This irked a number of Africans who considered such utterance as racist. Yet some went as far as weaving a conspiracy round the incident. They insisted on the invisible hands of Teheran being responsible, with the sole aim of embarrassing the Saudi government and portraying same as incapable of assuring the safety and well-being of the guests of Allah.

As we await the conclusion of the investigation into the incident as ordered by His Royal Majesty, King Salman, the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques,  whatever might be the immediate and remote causes of the stampede, we owe it to justice and fairness to set the record straight. This is so because a lot of barefaced lies, half-truths and hate-filled allegations are flying all over the news and social media.

First, it will be incorrect to blame the incident on the ill-preparedness of the Saudi government.  Hajj, a gathering of millions of people (this year over 3 million), poses a serious and inestimable challenge of crowd control and safety. Millions of people perform the same acts and rites almost at the same time, within specific locations requiring movements and displacements covering several kilometres back and forth within a definite number of days. Any slight panic and loss of serenity could result in fatality and catastrophe of horrendous proportion. That this sort of awful disaster happened last 25 years ago is enough testimony to the serious planning efforts that the Kingdom deploys to ensure yearly safe and successful Hajj.

This year, a team of 100,000 security personnel consisting of an elite counterterrorism unit, traffic police and civil defense was deployed. At Mina air-conditioned and fire-proofed tents with heat-sensitive water sprinklers were provided. This is in reaction to the 1997 fatal fire incident. There was free medical care with toll-free number in many international languages in case of emergencies. I wanted to work as volunteer with the French section in Riyadh. I could not realize this wish because I was an intending pilgrim.

Jamaraat is no doubt the most tragedy-prone of the holy sites; little surprise the stampede occurred close to it, just like in 1994 and more recently 2006. The five-storey stele was constructed to facilitate and ease the bottlenecks at stone-throwing. Multiple access roads, water vapour spraying from metal pipes to cool the crowds, over 7000 cameras to monitor the crowd influx with police and paramilitary cordons stationed at strategic locations, including metro lines from Arafat to Mina through Muzdalifa.

Second, there isn’t any modicum of truth in the insinuation or attempt to insinuate that the Saudi government is racist or racially motivated in its dealings with Muslim faithfuls coming for Hajj from all over the globe. A cursory look at the reception arrangements made for pilgrims at the famous tent-city of Mina lay to bare this fact. The city was carefully divided into 8 zones and marked with different colours and numbers on the map guide for easy identification by the pilgrims.  The zoning includes pilgrims from  1. Saudi Arabia  2. Arab Gulf countries 3.  Iran 4. Non-Arab Africans 5. Arab countries 6. Turkey with America, Australia and Europe 7. South East Asia and last but not the least 8. South Asia. Aside where they were each mostly concentrated, small numbers of these pilgrims dotted every other parts of the Mina landscape and intermingled with different races.

In my case, being an internal pilgrim, I shared the same tent and male compartment with dozens of other internal pilgrims of different nationalities: Saudis, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians, Sudanese, Yemenis and Indians. We all used the same facilities and helped ourselves to the same sumptuous buffets throughout our stay in Mina. This same reality held for other colleagues and compatriots in their tents.

Third, rather than blame trading and shifting, Muslims and Muslim communities should take a fair share of responsibility. There should be concerted efforts and planning from us all to avoid a repeat of such “relatively avoidable” massive  loss of precious lives.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj should adhere more strictly to quota system and restrict massive influx of pilgrims. The five-year recommended lapse for renewal of Hajj permit to intending internal pilgrims can be replicated for foreigners, and extended if need be to ten years. National Pilgrims Board should dissuade regular Hajjis. We should not see this measure as antithetical to free choice/worship but as a necessary step to safety and comfort to our fellow brothers and sisters, while simultaneously ensuring that a large percentage of Muslims from across the world can embark on this spiritual journey at least once in a lifetime. We may consider such restraint as a personal sadaqqah and a social responsibility for the well-being of other Muslims.

It was noticed that many Saudi security personnel speak only the Arabic language. This made communication and adherence to guides and instructions difficult as the majority of the pilgrims do not speak Arabic. There may therefore be the need to teach Hajj-designated security officers and other allied officials English, French and relevant international languages. An array of Hajj Volunteers Corps drawn from nationals of participating countries may be specially trained to collaborate and work with the Saudi officials for the duration of Hajj to limit cultural or linguistic barrier. Citizens of  different countries studying in Saudi universities may come in here handy.

At this point, it needs repeating that Hajj is not a compulsory aspect of the Islamic religion. This is also in line with clear cut injunction that Allah has not placed any burden on His servants than they can bear. Sending aged, weak and sick family members to Hajj should stop forthwith. The Hajj rites I witnessed is not stress-free. Perhaps this explains Allah’s precondition of “ability” to embarking on Hajj. There is therefore the need to tamper the urge for Hajj with a degree of reasonableness. We must not forget this: there are other acts of Ibadah commensurate with Hajj in rewards that Allah’s Apostle magnanimously  recommended.

It will not be out of place to advise those who intend to do Hajj to prioritize it, so this goal is accomplished while they are relatively young, healthy and full of energy.

On a final note, I enjoin the families, people and governments of affected pilgrims to take solace in Allah and in the reassuring words of the  Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir: “The Kingdom has had a long history of spending tremendous resources to care for the pilgrimage to ensure that the pilgrims who come there have a successful pilgrimage. And we will reveal the facts when they emerge. And we will not hold anything back. If mistakes were made, who made them will be held accountable. And we will make sure that we will learn from this and we will make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I want to repeat again this is not a situation with which to play politics.”

Personally, I commiserate with families of the victims of the stampede, crane-crash and all those who lost their lives to other sundry causes in Hajj 2015. May Allah accept them as martyrs and grant them the best part of Al-Jannah in the company of pious predecessors. (Amin)

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