Our Greatness Requires Collective Efforts In A Peaceful Atmosphere —Babatunde Fashola

Opinion

Today, we congregate to commemorate the reckoning of another year in the life of our country on this occasion of her 51st Anniversary as an independent nation.

In the course of my address on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary last year, there were many challenges that stood at the gateway of our advance towards progress and prosperity.

There was an election that we had to deal with and about which the overwhelming majority of us were united in our desire to ensure that it was free and fair.

There was a stuttering economy that we had to revive to make it more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the greatest number of our people.

In the course of that 50th Anniversary address, I had cause to assert that “…Nigeria’s good days are ahead of us and not behind us”.

Today, in spite of the challenges that we face, my belief is unshaken; that our better days lie ahead us, but it is important to also say that we must earn it by working hard, probably harder than we have ever done before.

We must earn it by promoting our common humanity and embracing peace, probably more than we have ever done before.

We must aspire to those better days which lie ahead of us by exercising the greatest restraint that we can muster when things are not going the way we expect.

I should not be misunderstood to suggest that we must remain docile in the face of want, hunger, poverty and insecurity; on the contrary, what I commend is that we must consider options and choices to redress those wrongs without aggravating our already difficult situation.

For example, we cannot solve the problem of poverty, unemployment and hunger by continuous resort to strikes or the pursuit of violence.

The reasons are simple. Poverty, unemployment and hunger are consequences partly of under production in the economy and other inadequacies.

Strikes stop the production cycle totally or at least impede it further, while violence creates insecurity which takes away the peaceful environment that is required for productive activity and economic growth to take place.

While poverty, unemployment and hunger are intolerable in a country that is so richly endowed, the truth is that we have had one strike too many for there to be a consistent period of expected productive change.

I do not have the answers to all our problems, but in Lagos State, we continue to aggressively pursue policies that will lighten the burden of our people’s daily existence.

We have passed laws to protect the physically challenged, to protect women, and also to regulate landlord and tenants relationships.

We have started implementing our housing programme.

Indeed,one of the promises I made on October 1st 2010 was the Lagos Ignite Enterprise and Employability Project, which has produced employment for graduates in the teaching and agricultural sectors of our economy and some more are in training as we finalize the plans to expand these opportunities in the health sector through the training of nurses.

Once again, let me restate, that it will require our common efforts, deployed in a peaceful atmosphere, to build the Nigeria that we desire. Nobody will do it except ourselves.

We can of course continue to agonise without organising, and in that sense betray the responsibility of our generation.

Conversely, we can resolve from today to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

I will continue to tread that latter course, because I am convinced that this road appeals to many Nigerians, and it is captured vividly in the email I received on the 25th September 2011, from a citizen, Mrs. Mosunmola Oki-Adeniji, when she said:

“I write as concerned Lagosian who believes in the mantra ‘Ekoonibaje o!’…Even though we are not there yet, our beliefs, hopes and faith in the possible, which I know drive you as much as us; give us the courage that pushes us forward like a freight train. We know that there will be obstacles but we are no longer afraid of them. In fact those obstacles should be afraid of us because this freight is not stopping until we get to the finish line…”

Dear Lagosians, distinguished Nigerians, this is the true Nigerian spirit which I urge on all of us.

Let us pursue this path of courage and hardwork, and make all our obstacles afraid of us.

•The commemorative speech of the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (san) on the occasion of the 51st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria on Saturday, 1 October, 2011 at the Police Parade Ground, Police College, Ikeja, Lagos.