Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has renamed the Abuja National Stadium after MKO Abiola, winner of the 1993 presidential elections.
He made the announcement at the Eagles Square, during the maiden edition of the Democracy Day celebration.
“As we all know, correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity. As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with national honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential elections of that year.
“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had on May 29, 2012 renamed the University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University of Lagos.
He had said renaming the University was in appreciation and honour of the contribution of the late Abiola.
But students of the university had spontaneously rejected the name change followed by a protest, forcing the Jonathan administration of the day to revert to the original name.
At the ceremony, Buhari pledged that he would continue to work hard to improve the quality of life of all citizens irrespective of their socio-political affiliations.
“Nation building takes time. But we must take solace in the knowledge that this country, our country, has everything we require to make Nigeria prosper.
“In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports.
“We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want Change, but change has come, we now must move to the Next Level.
“By the Grace of God, I intend to keep the oath I have made today and to serve as President for all Nigerians.’’
He assured that greater investments would be made by his administration in rural communities to uplift the standard of living of rural dwellers.
He vowed that in the next 10 years, 100 million Nigerians would be lifted out of poverty
He added that in the next four years, he will improve the lives of the people by consolidating on the gains of the last four years especially the Social Investment Programme (SIP).
“In face of these challenges, our government elected by the people in 2015 and re-elected in March (2019) has been mapping out policies, measures and laws to maintain our unity and at the same time lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and onto the road to prosperity.
“This task is by no means unattainable. China has done it. India has done it. Indonesia has done it. Nigeria can do it. These are all countries characterized by huge burdens of population.
“China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it.
“With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
He promised to assemble a strong team to implement his administration’s transformative plans and proposals.
“We will see significant focus, resource and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age.
“We will accelerate investments in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare programs, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best trained people.
“On food security, our farmers have made great strides in local production of rice, maize, cassava, poultry, fertilizer, fisheries and sesame. We remain resolute in supporting private sector in emphasizing backward integration and export expansion plans.
“Felling of trees to provide energy for domestic use is taking its toll on our rain forests, our ecology and our climate. Accordingly, we are taking steps to harness cleaner and more sustainable sources of electricity. We export over 2 million tons of cooking gas, yet we consume less than half a million tons.
“We will work to address this issue and support rural communities with challenges of safely switching from firewood to cooking gas.
“Dedicated agro-industrial processing zones will be developed on a PPP basis to increase farming yields, agricultural productivity and industrial output.”
He said over 2,000 kilometres of ongoing federal road and bridge projects across the country will be completed to reduce journey times and the cost of doing business.
“Critical feeder roads will be built to facilitate easier transportation for people and goods from rural areas to major roads.
“We are at advanced stages of securing investments to modernize and expand our transmission and distribution infrastructure, ensuring that electricity is available and affordable for all Nigerians.
“Several rail, seaport and airport projects are at various stages of completion. We will open the arteries of transportation nationwide.”
He noted that nation building takes time, saying, “but we must take solace in the knowledge that this country, our country, has everything we require to make Nigeria prosper.”
Buhari also spoke about the achievements of the first four years of his administration.
He said following the 60 percent drop in oil prices between 2015 and 2016, “through monetary and fiscal measures, we stimulated economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up our external reserves.”