Fellow Nigerians, I am happy to address you all today on my return from medical treatment in the United Kingdom. It is by the grace of Almighty Allah that I am here with you.
I want to begin by thanking every Nigerian who prayed for my quick recovery. I also wish to thank those who lost patience with me. I understand your feeling. We have so much work to do in this country that every minute lost is a disservice to our people.
My special thanks goes to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. He held the fort in my absence. I’m very pleased with his performance despite the difficulties our political structure imposed on him. He did the job of leading this nation so well that I have a renewed confidence in our leaders of tomorrow.
I also thank the National Assembly, my ministers, the members of the judiciary, our security forces and civil servants across this nation who go to work everyday and look up at the picture of their leader who had been absent for long and still dedicate themselves to the task of the day.
Being sick is a human condition. While we pray that sickness does not befall even our worst enemies, it is one of those life experiences that ‘will come when it will come’. For those concerned about the financial burden my illness must have exerted on our nation, I want to dispel your fears.
Though as your president I am entitled to receive medical treatment anywhere that my doctors deemed best, I’m waiving that right. My family and friends will take care of my medical bills.
As leaders, we must lead by example. I promised to end medical tourism if elected president of Nigeria. Two years after, it has not happened. You do not have to go far to know that it has not happened. My absence from Nigeria for 103 days makes it evident. It is my personal failure. I own up to it, the same way I own up to all that we promised but have not accomplished.
As part of my renewed commitment to this country, in my remaining days as your president, I will make sure that no president of Nigeria will again have the need to travel abroad to receive medical treatment. We have done greater things in the past. We can do this.
In the last two years, we have opened the window of opportunities for tens of thousands of our young people through the N-Power entrepreneur scheme. We have school children in 13 states of Nigeria receiving free lunch at school as part of our Homegrown School Feeding Programme. In 9 states, over 26,000 are receiving N5,000 stipend a month from Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. We have stabilized the Naira and the economy. No matter how raw and uneven it may have been, we have taken a stab at the fight against corruption. Though it is still with us, its wings of impunity have been clipped. And instead of unrelenting on this fight, we are reloading and refocusing.
We have made strides here and there, but for many, the change that we promised has not materialized. In some cases, the change has taken many of our people two or three steps backwards. To them, it is hard to preach that stepping back is part of the process needed for a forward push. They may have seen the rams do it, but that does not mean that they will understand it and embrace it when it means doing with less meat in their pot of soup.
For me, this period of ailment has been an opportunity for great reflection. If I had an illusion that I would always be with you, that illusion is gone now. I will not always be with you. But I know that Nigeria will always be with you. I, therefore, come back with a renewed commitment to leave a better nation for you all. In the little time that I have left in this role as your president, I want to see a more united Nigeria for all.
Our unity can only come if we create an equitable and just nation.
I have had time to look at Nigeria from outside. I have watched with great interest how the wheels of the nation work from afar. They are not working well. All that we were afraid of are happening now.
We shall confront them. But more importantly, we shall confront the nursery where the anomalies are bred.
In re-committing myself to the Nigerian project, I am determined to listen to, and understand, the people at the fringe of our society. More often than not, we fail to give them our ears and assume that what they have to offer has little or nothing to do with our lofty dream for the nation. That, I have come to understand, is a false premise. All voices are needed in the negotiation for the advancement of the Nigerian project.
Moving forward, balancing the Nigerian project to give it a solid sense of equity and justice is paramount to me. I want all those who are committed to come to us. I want those at the forefront of the fight for restructuring Nigeria to bring to me proposals and blueprints on how to make things better.
I want to balance the seats in the House of Representative to make it fair to all. I want the number of states in each geo-political zones balanced. I want to see the resources of this nation shared in such a way that those from the areas where these resources come from do not feel cheated by the rest. I want to devolve power from the center. I want to free the regions to stand on their own. I want the geopolitical zones enshrined in our constitution. I want the presidency to rotate amongst the zones. The number of local government in each zone should be fair so that local government allocations to each zone would not be lopsided.
We need to sit down and articulate the blue print of how to make Nigeria great. I want a master plan of what should be done on my desk in six months. We need them in specific terms.
We have to radically transform this country if we want it to survive. I’m looking for a holistic treatment of all that ails us.
With the remaining time that we have, we want to set things right to make it easy for those coming behind us. We cannot wait. All along, the military has been the one putting in place constitutions and structures. Our democracy is mature enough that we can do them ourselves in tune with the desires and goals of our peoples. If we can accomplish that, the rest of the task of governing this beautiful country should be a lot easier, not just for this generation but for generations to come.
You won’t always have Buhari with you, but my job is to make sure that you will always have a Nigeria, an equitable and just country for all.
Political defeat of one section of the country only leads to progressive defeat of the whole nation.
I am ready to defend this vision of a new Nigeria with the last breath in me.
It is very unfortunate that we have been programmed to believe that in a family, injustice to one does not impact the cohesion and commitment of the other to the family. But it does. It is the reason for all the rumblings we hear in our dear country today.
To ensure my commitment to this, in a few weeks, we will convene a meeting in Aso Rock with all the young people who are so dissatisfied with the Nigerian project that they have decided to opt out of it. We want to listen to them and forge a way to regain their trust. The youths of this nation are the most important resource that we have. That should not be just a mantra to be given mere lip service. It is a statement of fact that we need to hold sacrosanct.
My generation has played its part. We must have the courage to begin a systematic disengagement so that the next generation can take the lead. I have seen them in technology hubs across Nigeria, on the streets hustling, in schools and in markets. I am confident that they can take this nation to glorious places.
If this our present malaise is a spell, it has run its course. Our mumu don do.
Thank you for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Okonkwo is a satirical writer and producer of Dr Damages on Sahara TV