AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, ALHAJI YAHAYA BELLO, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE TO COMMEMORATE THE 57TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY OF NIGERIA ON OCTOBER 1, 2017 AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE, KOGI STATE.
My dear people of Kogi State,
I give all the praise to the Almighty God for another Independence Anniversary – the 57th for our dear Nation Nigeria. Everyone who has access to international news media knows of nations which have been confronted with the selfsame challenges that we face here and have descended into war and crises. Today is thus another perfect opportunity for gratitude, if not for the good we have achieved, at least, for the evils which God has kept from befalling us.
Poor leadership, corruption, terrorism, militancy, separatist agitations, even a Civil War which ended 47 years ago constitute some of the self-inflicted troubles which we contend with in the Nigerian Federation. Unlike other nations which have proved incapable of working through their differences and have gone up in flames, we Nigerians have had the good fortune, if not the good sense, to keep talking.
We may not always speak in polite tones, and our passion may sometimes be irrational, but we have maintained communication, and therefore avoided conflict. This is a wonderful blessing, and we must be grateful to God for it.
In Kogi State, I continue striving to exemplify inclusive leadership. I am glad that none of my traducers have accused me of ethnicism or tribalism yet (although now that I have reminded them, they may start tomorrow). If anything, some persons are angry at me for not stuffing Cabinet and other organs of governments with my own kith and kin. I do not owe anyone an apology on this score.
From the inception of my Administration, I have ensured that proportional representation of constituencies across the 3 Senatorial Districts as well as the personal merits of individual appointees have determined who serves where in Government. This posture is founded on my belief that one does not effect change by doing the same old things the same old ways.
In order to force a paradigm and generational shift in politics, I realize that I must keep justice, equity and merit as the moral compass for Government. The only way politics in Nigeria can change to accommodate more young people in high positions of leadership is for youths already in leadership to demonstrate competence and capacity to lead. I shall not speak for others but I repeat a solemn guarantee to succeed well as Governor of Kogi State.
I know that today is not a day to start reeling out a roll call of Projects executed by my Administration in the last 20 months, but I assure Kogites that tremendous progress is being made. In another 4 months, we will mark our 2 years in Office and I promise that the second volume of a Compendium which will contain all ongoing and completed projects will be released to commemorate it. The first volume has been out since January this year and continues to showcase our verifiable achievements. Till then, suffice it to say that we are racing to achieve as much as time and funds will permit.
We are careful to ensure even distribution of projects across all of our constituencies based on needs assessment. All of the 5 thematic areas in our New Direction Blueprint are receiving simultaneous attention. Education, Health, Infrastructure & Utilities, Job Creation & Youth Empowerment and Public Service & Pension Reforms remain vehicles from which to unload our Change Agenda.
While Education and Healthcare remain atop our list of priorities, communities across Kogi State are also being provided with electricity, water supply, roads, etc.
In Education, we have focused on providing quality learning environment and materials in order to unleash the genius of our students. So much has been done in the sector. For instance, I personally flagged off construction of 240 blocks of 2 classrooms each in 80 Primary Schools across the 21 Local Government Areas of Kogi State recently. Upon completion, each of them will be equipped with modern learning facilities and round-the-clock solar electricity to power the ICT components.
I was happy to hear from our Commissioner for Health a couple of months ago that we have met our 4-year target of 100% immunization against childhood killer diseases already. Our statistics on Maternal and NewBorn Health initiatives also show-marked improvement from what we met on ground. Most pregnant women in Kogi State today have access to free maternity kits and care today.
Primary and Secondary Health Care Centres across the 21 Local Government Areas have either been renovated or built from scratch and equipped with drugs and equipment. We also recruited scores of medical personnel to help improve access to medicare for our people. 12 state-of-the-art ambulances were bought and distributed across Kogi State to facilitate speedy evacuation of critically ill patients to larger medical facilities in urban and semi-urban areas.
Empowerment and welfare programs for our youth and other population groups have been held to one level or the other in all of the 21 Local Government Areas. We have also been lauded as one of the most responsive state to the Social Investment Programs of the Government. Like I said in my New Year message earlier this year, 2017 is going to be a hallmark year for projects.
The Administration will continue to apply dialogue where it can make a difference in any industrial dispute. However, at this stage in our Public Service and Pension Reforms, we have a duty to pay more attention to the law, including the Public Service Rules as well as the sustainability of the reforms we are putting in place. The whims and caprices of vested interests cannot therefore be admitted to determine our responses in any way.
We do not understand what could possibly be wrong with putting into the hands of individual workers the tools to determine their own rating (and therefore progress) on the job, even after we have left office. Our aim with the clock-in, clock-out devices which Labour Leaders are rejecting is to empower each worker to leave a digital footprint which authenticates his or her participation during the typical work day. If this aim is defeated, all of the aspirations of genuine and conscientious workers to be assessed based on actual performance will remain a mirage, like in the past.
Prompt payment of salaries is still a vexed issue, but we will do our best to keep our workers happy given the competing demands on the income of the state per time. However, it is inevitable that from time to time we must ask workers to stand with us in sacrifice. We hope they will oblige in the overall interest of the state.
In similar vein, prompt payment of Gratuities and Pensions is only possible within the ambits of a Contributory Pension Scheme. Like the automation of the workforce, a Contributory Pension Scheme for the Kogi State workforce is inevitable reform. We commend workers who come around to work to the overall interest of the State. We cannot allow ourselves to become deterred from implementing much-needed reforms. We also urge all workers not to be misled as Government is doing everything possible to address the various challenges confronting the workforce. We are a responsible Government and we shall live up to our responsibilities.
The Administrations was gratified to be invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to send a Team to the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York City as one of only four states in Nigeria considered success stories for their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our Team enjoyed a successful outing at the United Nations Headquarters, made a presentation at the Nigeria side event and signed a Memorandum of Understanding for deeper collaboration with the UN and her agencies. This is good for Kogi State and her people.
Let me remind us that the rains are still here and there is still need to remain vigilant against flooding and other associated natural disasters. The most potent tool against flooding is to keep existing drainage systems free of garbage and other rubbish. The next is to be wise and evacuate to higher ground if flooding appears imminent and you live in a low-lying area.
On our part as Government, we have designated camps for Internally Displaced People in each Local Government Area deemed at risk, and should it become necessary to deploy a Camp in any locality, Kogites can expect their Government to act with despatch in sending fast responders and launching emergency protocols.
As I conclude this address this 1st October morning, in the year 2017, I find myself in bitter-sweet mood. The sweet feelings flow from the GREAT POTENTIALS which Nigeria possessed long before Independence, and which remain unabated despite 57 years of checkered history. The pain comes from bitter emotions evoked when I consider the COUNTLESS MISSED OPPORTUNITIES we have had from October 1, 1960 to October 1, 2017 to transform our great potentials into great progress.
The British may have had their own ulterior motives when they amalgamated the old Northern and Southern Protectorates into one Nigeria in 1914, but I believe they also provided us an opportunity which hitherto did not exist, i.e. the opportunity to be much more greater than we would have become as individual tribes or territories.
In my opinion, and I think most Nigerians will agree with me, that even though we have not harnessed our gains after amalgamation, the present Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR is making efforts to optimize our potentials as a Nation. This is evident in a more secured Nigeria after years of terrorism threat, we are consciously diversifying our economy to Agriculture and Mining, the very vulnerable are now being focused on using various current programmes and policies – e.g Condition Cash Transfer at National level, N-power and Market Money, Home Grown School Feeding Programme etc. as a State, the GYB Food Security Project, Youth and Artisan Empowerment Project and the upcoming GYB water for life Grassroot Project and finally, GYB Model Primary and Unity School to foster cohesion amongst the upcoming young ones and quality education.
I reiterate our commitment in Kogi State and Nigeria where there is room for all citizens and constituencies to achieve their maximum potentials.
In the spirit of our 57th Anniversary as a Country, I wish all Kogites, Nigerians and our motherland, Nigeria, Happy Independence!
May the Almighty God bless us all.
EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR, KOGI STATE