Controversy as UNILAG is renamed Abiola Varsity
By Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja 7 hours 41 minutes ago
The late Abiola
Kudos, knocks as Jonathan honours June 12 hero President bans continental dishes at state functions
Even in death, the late Chief Moshood Abiola remains as controversial as ever.
Fourteen years after his death in detention, Abiola was honoured yesterday.
President Goodluck Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after the late winner of the June 12, 1993 election. The election – Nigeria's freest and fairest ever - was annulled by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime for no reasonable reason. Abiola died on July 8, 1998 in a desperate battle to reclaim his mandate. His wife Kudirat was gunned down on June 4, 1996 on a Lagos street.
The announcement, which stirred a huge debate and protest, is the highlight of the May 29 national broadcast by the President to mark the 13th anniversary of the return to democracy.
Jonathan said: “The Federal Government has decided that the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured, for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth. Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was. We need in our land, more men and women who will stand up to defend their beliefs, and whose example will further enrich our democracy. After very careful consideration, and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola's accomplishments and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos, is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. The Federal Government will also establish an Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance in the University.”
The President added: “As we celebrate this year's Democracy Day, I pay tribute to all the men and women who have made our democratic experience meaningful: the ordinary people who resisted military rule, and have remained resolute in their embrace of democracy; the army of Nigerian voters who, at every election season, troop out in large numbers to exercise their right of franchise; the change agents in civil society who have remained ever watchful and vigilant. “
The President also announced ban on continental dishes at a state functions, promised to build a national museum to document previous leaders in addition to announcing the government's plan to earn N214 billion from first cassava chips export.
Jonathan said: “I pay special tributes also to all patriots who are the pillars of our collective journey, most especially, our armed forces who have steadfastly subordinated themselves to civil authority in the past 13 years. They have continued to demonstrate a great sense of professionalism. They have discharged their duties to the nation with honour and valour. In a sub-region that has witnessed instances of political instability, authored by restless soldiers, the Nigerian Armed Forces have remained professional in their support of democracy.
“ When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people's resolve was firm and unshakeable. This is what we remember. This is what we celebrate. On this day, I recall especially the martyrdom of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, whose presumed victory in the 1993 Presidential election, and death, while in custody, proved to be the catalyst for the people's pro-democracy uprising. The greatest tribute that we can pay to him, and other departed heroes of Nigeria's democracy, is to ensure that we continue to sustain and consolidate our democratic institutions and processes, and keep hope alive.
Admitting that the country is faced with challenges, Jonathan said government was “working hard to address those challenges. And, by God's grace, we will succeed. My confidence is bolstered by the results which we have achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months.”
He also took solace in the fact that democracy is stable, stressing that “its foundation is strong and firm. Its future is bright. Last year, I had spoken about the policy of 'one man one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, one vote'. I am glad to see that the Nigerian people in all elections have continued to respect the principle of fair play. Since this administration came into office, we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission. There are still persons who believe that elections should be violent and unhealthy, but they are in the minority. They will not derail our democracy because the majority of Nigerians will not allow them to do so.
“Following the spate of violence in some parts of the country after the 2011 elections, our administration set up a committee on post-election violence to, among other things, investigate the causes and nature of electoral violence and make appropriate recommendations. We will be guided by the White Paper on that committee's report, in dealing more firmly with electoral violence and fraud. This will include the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence. We cannot afford to treat the success we have recorded with our democratic experience with levity. Electoral reform is central to our administration's transformation agenda. I urge all political parties to embrace this reform.
He has also directed that a Presidential Museum be built in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The museum, Dr. Jonathan said, will document the lives and times of presidents and heads of government since 1960, to remind us of the high points of our national history.
President has also banned the serving of non-Nigerian dishes at all national functions henceforth to encourage the consumption of Nigeria's staple food.
He announced that the government had secured markets for cassava outside Nigeria and, for the first time ever, Nigeria will export this year one million metric tons of dried cassava chips to China. “This will earn Nigeria 136 million US dollars (about N214 billion) in foreign exchange.
He said the government has revived and is now accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. It is also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of substations and has completed the design for the construction of both Mambilla and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid.
The economy, the president said, is doing well, and the economic outlook is positive.
His words: “Today, progress has been made. The country's credit rating is positive, in contrast with many nations being downgraded. In 2011, our economy grew by 7.45%. As at mid-May 2012, our foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months. We have stabilised and improved our fiscal regime. We brought the fiscal deficit down to 2. 85 per cent of GDP from 2.9 per cent in 2011. We reduced recurrent expenditures from 74 per cent to 71 per cent and reduced domestic borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billion in 2012. We cut out over N100 billion of non-essential expenditure and increased our internally generated revenue from N200 billion to N467 billion.
“For the first time in over a decade, we now have a draft Trade Policy which provides a multi-dimensional framework to boost our trade regime and facilitate the inflow of investments. We have generated over N6. 6 trillion worth of investment commitments. The total value of our trade is also much higher than the value estimated the previous year due to deliberate government policies. To facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we have a policy in place to make visa procurement easier for foreign investors, with safeguards to prevent abuse.”
He also noted that the goal of “our administration is to ensure that every Nigerian can find gainful employment. Given my dissatisfaction with the prevailing unemployment situation in the country, our administration has embarked on an ambitious strategy of creating jobs and job-creators through the launch of several initiatives mainly targeted at the youths and women.”
On foreign affairs, Dr. Jonathan said: “Our successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria's foreign policy. More than ever before, Nigeria's achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition. We have continued to build on this by further showing leadership in the sub-region and the African continent. Under my watch as Chairman of the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, and subsequently, Nigeria was in the forefront of the efforts to ensure democratic stability in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, and particularly at a critical moment in Cote d'Ivoire. Our foreign policy process has proven to be dynamic and pro-active. Nigeria's place is secure among many friends in the comity of nations. We are building on that friendship to open up opportunities for foreign investments in the Nigerian economy and to provide necessary support for the vibrant community of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
“ We will continue to work hard, to turn domestic successes into a source of motivation for greater achievements in the international arena. We are fully aware that it is only when our people are happy and confident that they would be in a good position to walk tall in relating with others.