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General Babangida Independence Day Speech October 1, 1985


FELLOW Nigerians, I salute you in this important occasion of our 25th independence anniversary. We are most grateful to Almighty God for making it possible for us to rejoice and celebrate the great day. I extend greetings and good wishes to you and all our compatriots through out the world who are not able to join us in our celebration at home.

As we celebrate 25 years of the fruits of the endeavour, we acknowledge and salute the courage, foresight, heroism and sacrifice of our nationalist leaders.

Those of them that are happily alive and who continue to make contributions to the further consolidation of our national gains can today justly be proud of their achievements.

I hardly need say that the history of our nation in its independent essence has been a chequered one. We have had our share of social upheavals, political instability, religious intolerance and economic hardship.

During these years, we have also undergone the most painful national trauma of an invidious civil war whose emotional scars will continue to haunt us for years to come.

I believe that while we must never forget the scores of the sad lessons of our history, we should not show ourselves to be discouraged or overwhelmed by those unfortunate experiences.

Rather, we should draw inspiration from the brighter chapters of our history and in a determined spirit engage the reservoir of our resourcefulness, creativity, sense of sacrifice and national commitment which we as a people have accumulated over this eventful period.

It should now be abundantly clear to all that this administration, while being mindful of the lessons of our history, is determined to look forward to the future unencumbered by the burdens of the past.

It is our determination that we break the vicious cycle of hope and despair, affluence and poverty, stability and chaos which had characterised the past quarter century of our national life. The political history of the nation is partly one of disillusionment with politics and with politicians.

Successive governments have left us with a legacy of economic mismanagement a chain of political instability. We are convinced that the apparently more immediate problem of salvaging the economy and creating a disciplined social order are the result of the lack of a convenient national order based on
shared class and issues.

In the meantime this administration is aware of the need to find urgent solutions to the problems facing the country today. In view of the magnitude of our economic problems from today, I declare a state of economic emergency for the next 15 months. This emergency period will require strong belt tightening not unlike what we experienced during the civil war. However, we shall ensure that the burden of these emergency measures is distributed as equitably as possible throughout the society. During this period we are to visibly turn around the economy and lay a solid foundation for a healthier long-term development.

The fundamental objectives of this administration are ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SELF-RELIANCE. We intend to shift the attention of the nation from the buying and selling syndrome and parasitic services to the most enduring domain of increased total real production,
rising labour productivity and general efficiency of investment.

Furthermore, we shall lay greater emphases on international competitiveness and export promotion of non-oil commodities and services.

For too long, we have perpetuated the neglect of our rural population. We are now resolved to give prominence to rural development through agriculture-led industrialisation complemented by the population of domestic non-agricultural resources.

In particular, we shall pursue a good policy and programmes such that the present urban base is reversed and the nation achieves a sustained level of internal self-sufficiency in food in the shortest possible time.

In respect of food and agriculture, government will shift policy from large scale to small-scale farmers from large irrigation process to a network of small earth farms and medium sized farms and for import dependence to internal self-sufficiency.

In this connection, government has decided to end importation of rice and maize forthwith.

Programme of expanded production will be pursued in the context of specific commodities like rice, maize, sorghum, cassava, fish, vegetable oil and animal products.

In the civil engineering sector, government will lay emphasis on strong negotiated cost reduction for the utilisation of excess capacities for the generation of employment, for rural road expansion for urban road
rehabilitation and for a sustained system of road maintenance.

In correcting the many distortions and reducing the capacity utilisation ratio of the manufacturing sector it is important to emphasise that not all industries or plants deserve equal attention for support, and some may indeed have to swim on their own.

There must necessarily be differential allocation of complementary inputs and scarce resources to both existing and proposed plants. It is in this way that we can facilitate a national profile of viable investments in the industrial sector as a whole.

In this connection the steel industry and vehicle assembly plants must be revamped to fulfill their mission as springboards for the nation's technological development.

While primary education and basic health scheme are principally the responsibility of state and local governments, the federal government will intervene creatively in supporting programmes of infrastructural
rehabilitation, equipment provision, curricula development, staff training and maintenance system. Furthermore, four University Teaching Hospitals will be designated as centres of specialist excellence. The development and provision of potable water is a field especially calling for federal initiative in both urban and rural areas. In this regard imperative programmes will be explored for training, storing and utilising rainwater on an extensive scale.

We shall not accept liability for debts which are not so incontrovertibly established. Furthermore government will clamp down on new debts, which are being uncritically committed, or in the pipeline and order a broad review of all on-going loan-assisted schemes whether public or private.

In order to generate foreign exchange and attract greater investment, government will immediately proceed with the domiciliary account scheme both by Nigerian residents and those abroad.

As a matter of urgency government intends to overhaul the present system of import licence in such a manner as to reduce bottlenecks and ensure the importation of clearly essential, not simply scarce commodities.

Licences not normally valid for foreign exchange allocation will cover such critical areas as books, school equipment, drugs, medication, hospital equipment, agricultural machinery and equipment for road construction and land preparation.

Government will seek to expand and quicken the programme of issuing promissory notes under alternative schemes of re-financing by major financial institutions in Nigeria and abroad.

We shall also explore the possibility of mopping up a significant portion of the existing high liquidity in the Nigerian financial system by diverting its equity holdings in several potentially viable parastatals and
state-owned companies as well as by large placements of debenture stocks. First on the list will be such investments as in hotels, breweries and distilleries.

In addition, parastatals will be generally encouraged to subject themselves to the discipline of the capital market. The states and the large municipalities will similarly be encouraged to float bonds for key areas of their development financing.

New and creative Financial Institutions, with particular reference to merchant banking venture capital, unit trusts and second-tier capital will be assisted and encouraged to extend their operations to the ECOWAS region and beyond.

To achieve our goals, we must involve and carry along everyone. We are aware of the self-defeating apathy and alienation, which an insensitive government can induce in a people.

We have assumed the reins of government to serve, not to be masters of our own people.

WE are determined to leave behind us the legacy of bitterness, the atmosphere of repression, the negotiation of our sense of justice and due processes of the law and the great national divide along ethnic, regional, religious and socio-economic lines.

Fellow countrymen and women, at this juncture, I consider it appropriate to clarify the issue of the release of political detainees which has generated some controversy.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that our action was inspired only by the ideals of justice and fair play.

It must not be construed as an attempt on our part to excuse, cover up or condone corruption in public life.

I re-affirm this government's conviction that the present battered state of the economy was brought about by the gross mismanagement and indiscipline of the last civilian administration.

A high powered judicial tribunal will therefore soon be established to review all cases relating to the following categories of people.

i.  Released detainees

ii. Those that have been convicted by military tribunals.

iii. Those still in detention awaiting final determination of their cases.

I would also like to reaffirm government's determination to vigorously pursue the War Against Indiscipline. In this connection, the Federal Ministry of Information has been directed to devise an even more effective campaign for internalising the values of discipline, honesty, hard work and self-reliance.

Fellow Nigerians, I should not end this address without mentioning that our friends and well wishers all over the world have extended us felicitations and good wishes on this occasion. We acknowledge and thank them all for their solidarity.

This administration recognises that in this inter-dependent world, no nation can be an island unit itself. We are, therefore, determined to build upon the solid foundation of friendship and cooperation we enjoy with all friendly nations.

We should not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the difficulties and tribulations we are currently passing through. We should not lose sight of the fact that whatever the difficulties we have always managed to overcome them.

We should acknowledge that our faltering steps notwithstanding we still have much to be proud of: Ours is a great country.

We must rededicate ourselves to make it an even greater one. In this endeavour, there should be no illusion about any easy path.

I assure you that this administration is determined to face the challenges squarely. The time for action is NOW. We count on your understanding, cooperation and support.

Let us all work together for brighter future under the banner of ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SELF-RELIANCE.