Gov. Yahaya Bello's Independence Day Speech

'CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME!'

BEING TEXT OF AN INDEPENDENCE DAY ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE MADE TO THE PEOPLE OF KOGI STATE ON THE 1ST DAY OF OCTOBER, 2016

PROTOCOLS

Great People of Kogi State. I am delighted to address you today as we mark the 2016 Independence Day Anniversary of our blessed nation, Nigeria. These past 56 years have been very challenging, no doubt, but they have also been years in which the Nigerian spirit has proved just how indomitable and resilient she is. We give all thanks to God Almighty for sustaining our union.

We are a sovereign nation because our first generation leaders fought the good fight. The names of Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa will forever remain indelible in the annals of Nigeria. Today, we honor their memories, and those of their contemporaries in the struggle for Independence.

Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Herbert Macaulay and his granddaughter Dr. Stella Adadevoh, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Dr. J.S Tarka, Chief MKO Abiola and his wife Kudirat Abiola, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed and President Muhammadu Buhari are some of the great Nigerian patriots who at different times made sacrifices for this nation.

We are eternally grateful to these heroes and heroines - both those who fought to emancipate us from colonial rule and those who rose at some dark historical hour to guide the nation into the light again. They stood up to be counted even in the face of danger. Some paid with their lives, and others with their liberty as they were sent to jail, but their sacrifice gave the rest of us a chance to join the race for nationhood and freedom.

Sadly, those who came after them, with a few exceptions, either quit the race totally or dropped the baton countless times. The result is that in the 21st Century, Nigeria has become a nation left far behind by most of her contemporaries in the global village. In the light of these painful realities, it is fitting that today be for sober reflections. The mood of a nation in recession, and of citizens in distress, dictate that we be sensitive.

Nigerians greeted the dawn of Independence on 1st October, 1960 with great expectations, but today our disposition is very different. The world had great hopes for the young nation in 1960, today they pray she survives her internal dislocations. Today, the 1st of October, 2016 Nigerians generally admit that their country is so much less than it could have been. The intervening years did not justify much of the earlier optimism.

I believe we all know why.

The missing link, and the one factor most responsible for Nigeria's arrested development, is leadership. 'Everything rises or falls on Leadership…' says John Maxwell, the foremost global authority on leadership. That saying is probably truer in the context of Nigeria than in any other. Poor and insipid leaders have been endemic in our history and they have robbed the whole nation of any meaningful progress.

The facts speak for themselves. Our country has sufficient resources to be successful by any standard. Instead she is struggling to provide basic amenities to citizens. Our population is second to none in Africa, and full of vibrancy from the combined diversity of over 250 tribes. We have the human capital to do great deeds. Instead, we have done little.

Though blessed beyond measure, and full of infinite potential for greatness, Nigeria remains a struggling, underachieving, member of the comity of nations, a direct fallout of poor leadership over the years.

Kogi and the other States that make up our Federation are not insulated from the malaise of bad leadership which has truncated the aspirations of millions of Nigerians. It is the same story everywhere, replicated on different scales. Some have it bad, some have it worse, but every state has had its share of dream-killers masquerading as leaders.

The sad state of the Nigerian nation is a dilemma which presents both a threat and an opportunity. It is a threat if we allow things to continue the same way. On the other hand, it presents us with an incredible opportunity if we take the diagnosis of poor leadership and cure ourselves of it. To do that we need to embrace new and better ways of doing things. Put simply, we need to change.

Fellow Kogites, it is far better to admit the harsh realities on ground so we can get creative about changing them than to live in denial and continue to wallow in squalor. Somewhere along our journey to greatness we were derailed, not by a mechanical fault but through deliberate acts of sabotage by those we hired to drive us to our desired future. The missed opportunities in Kogi State, and all over Nigeria for that matter, are traceable to poor and uninspiring leadership of the past.

Now that we have identified the problem, it is time to look ahead. The easiest thing in life is to blame even as we keep making the same mistakes ourselves. The more excellent way is to hold those who have done us wrong accountable for what they did in the past while taking responsibility for our own actions, making sure that all we do in the present lead to positive change in the future.

Here in Kogi State,and as part of our accountability project, we are empanelling a Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by a retired jurist of impeccable integrity to look into the management of our finances by previous stewards. Their Terms of Reference will date back to 2003 upwards to ensure sufficient scope. The Panel is not just to find what went wrong and recover what is missing or stolen but to assist us in fashioning institutionalised means of preventing recurrence. We want to inculcate a tradition of preventing theft, not chasing thieves.

When President Muhammadu Buhari launched the National Re-Orientation Campaign on September 8, 2016 he chose the theme, 'Change Begins With Me'. He explained the rationale in his speech at the occasion:

'There is no doubt that our value system has been badly eroded over the years. The long-cherished and time honoured, time-tested virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work, punctuality, good neighbourliness, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism, have given way in the main to dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity.'

Of course, the President is not saying the All Progressives Congress will not fulfill her campaign promises to Nigerians. APC will deliver, and she is gradually delivering on those. Rather Mr. President is saying that real change cannot be cosmetic, aimed only at 'leaders', while citizens continue to revel in social vices. After all, before anyone is a ‘leader’, he or she was first a ‘citizen’.

I strongly agree with the President that 'Our citizens must realize…the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not theoretic exercise(s)'. Whether we like it or not, change begins with each of us. In other words, at some point in its evolution, change will require us to make adjustments to our individual lifestyles. Some of the adjustments demanded of us will be difficult, even painful.

I, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, am a change agent. I decided on change when I joined the campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari despite the danger. I decided on change when I ran for Governor of Kogi State despite the odds. I have decided on change in the way and manner my Administration will run the affairs of Kogi State. Today, with every sincerity and commitment I declare: CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME!

King Whitney Jr. Said something profound about Change that we all need to meditate on deeply:

‘Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.'

That quote aptly captures the essence of Change and why it is so critical to human innovation. I urge every Kogite to join the camp of those who confidently accept the challenge to make things better. For the avoidance of doubt, this Administration accepted that challenge from the moment I was sworn-in and we have been tirelessly on that mission since then.

The geographical spread of our appointments has drawn the anger of many who expected the old and discredited tribalistic ways to prevail again. We disappointed them with our preference for inclusiveness and merit. They have gone to great extents to exact their pound of flesh, especially in the Press. The truth is that no matter what they do, competence and equity will remain the chief criteria for who serves where in this Administration.

The Staff Screening and Verification Exercise has been particularly hard on all of us. Uncharitable folks imply it has not affected me in any way. They do not understand that a leader's favorite meal is the approval of his people. My decision to forge ahead with the sanitization of the Kogi State Wage Bill made me very unpopular at a time I needed to appear well-liked by you.

Some thought I should let it wait till after the cases in court are disposed of. I refused because that would be cowardly and insincere. We must do what we believe is right irrespective of the consequences. I stayed the course because I decided on change long ago. All the same I will be very glad when that Exercise is concluded and forgotten.

I am aware the Appeals Committee has set a date for completion of their assignment. They must not make the mistake of trying to extend it by one more second. They should work round the clock if they have to. To be more precise, I expect this Exercise to be concluded by the end of this October. For further emphasis, I repeat my standing directives in relation to the Screening Exercise to members of the Appeals Committee: 
• Whatever they do, they must not permit one genuine worker to be adversely affected. 
• Whatever they do, they must not permit any ghost-worker or unintended beneficiary to remain in the system.

Independence came a bit early for us this year in Kogi State. On Monday the 20th of September, 2016 the Supreme Court of Nigeria decisively ended the election petitions which had trailed my Administration even before I was sworn-in. The verdicts mark the defeat of colonizing forces which had designs on Kogi State. They symbolize the independence of Kogi Politics from the grip of external influences. Na God Win o!

We thank God because it is all over. Of course, I am happy at the Supreme Court judgments, not only because the verdicts were all in my favor but also because our people will no longer have to troop to Abuja every few weeks to attend court hearings. The possibility of road and other mishaps was always there. In fact, I used to be very concerned about the safety of our people as they poured into Abuja from all over Kogi State whenever any of the cases came up.

We cannot thank God enough for giving us the Victory. Once more we laud the courage of the Kogi State Elections Petitions Tribunal, the erudition of the Court of Appeal and the wisdom of the Supreme Court. Once more, the Judiciary has proven itself the ultimate bastion of Justice in the land.

I have made many calls since the day of that final verdict urging everyone who may have any grievance against my mandate to lay their agitations to rest. It is time for us to leave the past behind and lay hold on the future together. I invite all Kogites to close ranks with me so we can take our State to the heights I know she can attain. We are better together.

The Administration continues to make security of lives and properties of citizen a priority. Multiple patrols by our security agencies and vigilante services empowered with our new security vans and gadgets are now visible all over Kogi State. Their job is to forestall violent crimes and keep the peace. Residents and travelers now move without the pervasive fear of kidnap, armed robbery and communal clashes which we inherited.

Forecasting natural disasters and emergency preparedness is an aspect of security that we also take seriously. We have paid serious attention to weather forecasts, Seasonal Rainfall Predictions (SRPs) and Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and other environmental management agencies. These have guided us to be on high alert against flooding and significant erosion activities. Though the rains this year have not been unseasonably heavy, the threat of flooding remains real due to saturation of the soil by water even before the peak rainfall periods of August to October.

The Kogi State Ministry of Environment and the State Emergency Management Agency worked tirelessly to see that community awareness and sensitization programs, Flood Early Warning Systems (FEWS) and different flood preparedness mechanisms were instituted early in all Local Government Areas of Kogi State. Special attention was given to vulnerable communities, especially those hardest hit by the floods of 2012.

As a direct result of our quick responses, particularly the evacuation of many low-lying settlements, we have not recorded significant damage or destruction from flooding in Kogi State even though the water levels in our rivers have risen as usual and some have even overflowed their banks. Camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have also been designated in strategic locations all over Kogi State.

We assure Kogites that we will remain vigilant until the rains are completely over and the danger of flooding or other environmental disaster has abated. I thank those residents who have assisted us with information which helped in our crime and environmental management activities in their communities. Every citizen is requested to remain watchful and immediately reach us with information on suspected criminal or environmental threats. Security is a job for everyone.

This Administration is focused on delivering as many Projects as available funds will allow, without jeopardizing our salary obligations to Civil Servants. We have initiated a number of Projects in line with our New Direction Agenda and Blueprint. We also recognize that Government is a continuum and are continuing as many projects inherited from previous Administrations as make actual and contractual sense.
Some projects that are actively ongoing as of this moment include:
• Lokoja Township Roads - Above 65%
• Idah-Anyigba Road - Above 75%.
• Agassa Road, Okene - Above 50%.
• Kogi State Diagnostic Imaging Centre, Lokoja - Above 65%
• Ganaja - Otokiti Bye-pass - Above 70%
• Remodelling of Kogi Hotels - Above 70%
• Beach Embankment and Shoreline Protection Works, Lokoja 
• Sundry Electricity Supply and Installation Works all over Kogi State.
• Water and Sanitation Projects - all over the state.
• Renovation of Infrastructure, supply of books and other learning aids in Educational Institutions.
• Government House, Judiciary and House of Assembly Complex renovations and roads - Above 80%. 
• Food Security and Agricultural Renaissance Projects with key foreign and domestic PPP components.
• Etc.

A clearer picture of our New Direction Agenda for the whole of Kogi State will begin to emerge in the months ahead as these and numerous other projects begin to take shape or reach completion. I promise you that we have cause to be optimistic. I am committed to make all of Kogi resources work for all of Kogi People. My political will to deliver on my campaign promises is second to none. We pray the the Almighty to help us.

Today is our Independence Day Anniversay. I invite all Nigerians to avail the government of the day their confidence as the President and his team navigate us through these turbulent sections of the journey. I am confident that things will get better soon.

Your Change Must Start With You. Government is working hard to lift as many as one million Kogites out of poverty. The question is, Are YOU ready? Remember, no matter what Government does or does not do, it will involve your own efforts to navigate yourself out of this current recession.

You need a container to draw water from a well. What is your container or are you just leaning on an indefinable hope that government will do something about your case? I can tell you right away that won’t work.

As our efforts to improve the socioeconomic indices and widen the space for opportunities begin to pay off, they will be of no use to you at all if you have nothing to engage with.

When we make calls for various empowerment initiatives, if you do not act to meet us halfway, if you do not appear with the basic minimum qualifications for any of the categories, you will be left behind.

When we start inviting Graduate Farmers to join our farm communes, if you prefer shirt-and-tie work, you may remain unemployed still while your wiser contemporaries are making progress on their journey to a life of dignity.

If you fail, refuse, or neglect to join any of our vocational empowerment schemes as a person without formal education, how can we help you?

Take it form me, you must get involved. It will require your joint efforts with Government to march yourself to the prosperous future your dreams. So, tell yourself today:

'CHANGE STARTS WITH ME!'

Thank you.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

God bless Kogi State!

God bless each and every one of us!

 

GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO
EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR
KOGI STATE.
1st October, 2016