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Sunday, 13 January 2013

MY ADDRESS AT THE 2012 DEMOCRACY DAY CELEBRATION HELD AT THE SPORTS COMPLEX IN YENAGOA


On a day like this, I like to begin by congratulating you all as we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our democracy. Today marks a renewal of our abiding faith in our country and in our democracy. Our hard-won democracy is as a result of your resilience and by the grace of God, it is now 13 years old, the longest in this country’s history.

For us in Bayelsa, the day means so much because, among other things, one of our own, a son of this state, a great leader, is the President of this country. I like to congratulate you all, I like to congratulate Bayelsans, the Ijaw Nation
and the entire people of Nigeria for this great honour you have done to us by supporting and electing our President, who we know and believe, will strive to continue to do a good job as he is presently doing.

On a day like this, I will like to call on you all to work on your resolve to serve, protect and entrench our democracy, and you can do this by offering prayers and by supporting all elected leaders at all levels of government.

Deriving from the fore-going, it is important for us as Bayelsans and Nigerians to support our resolve to build a strong, united and prosperous Federal Republic
of Nigeria. Now, more than any time before, there is need for us to emphasise on the things that bind us together as a nation, and not those things that the capacity to separate us.

It is on the basis of our unity and cohesion that our democracy and development can be assured, and thereafter the fruits of democracy will get to every one.
But beyond unity and cohesion, there is need for us in Bayelsa to have a change of values, we need to examine our attitudes. It is important to us all to eschew the vices of corruption and cultism, to embrace transparency and focus
on the positive things that will enable us to be great citizens of this country, and be proud members of the great Bayelsa and Ijaw family.

I am not campaigning for election so I don’t want to bore you with long speeches. We have said enough. The mandate you have given to me is to now act. I have studied the problems and we have devised our own strategies. In the last three months, a lot of ground work, a lot of solid foundation has been laid for your irreversible development and progress. So, from now on, it will be restoration, restoration, restoration.

I like to thank you all for your understanding, patience, solidarity, support and prayers, because without these, all our well-intended programmes will not be fruitful, will not be successful and will not be implemented.

I however like to enjoin you to even show more understanding as we now move into the critical phase of the restoration agenda, which is the beginning of actual
restoration.

We have said a lot about the restoration of values. In all my public speeches, we have tried to sell the message of zero tolerance to crime, cultism and violence. And I like to use this opportunity to thank you all, the good and wonderful people of Bayelsa, and especially our youths, for heeding our call to be law-abiding and peaceful, even when we disagree.

I like to also thank all traditional rulers, opinion and political leaders, for helping in their various ways to bring about this state of normalcy. Let me also specially thank our men and women in uniform for their hard-work, dedication and commitment in the protection of our democracy, and especially to the military men and women working in Bayelsa, for standing by the government in the enthronement of peace and security. I congratulate you all and I also congratulate all Bayelsans.

You all know that Bayelsa is the most peaceful state in Nigeria and we are working hard to keep it so. Just three months into our government, Yenagoa is the most peaceful
capital in the country, and we will like to work hard, in conjunction with the security men and women, who are doing a wonderful job, at the risk of their lives and limbs, to protect our fundamental freedom and to protect lives and
property. All of us should continue to work continuously with the security agencies, and even in our homes and communities to work for peace.

In a few days from now, we shall be launching “Operation Doo Akpo”. This is what will replace the regime of terror that we all knew about. I don’t want to talk much about that. So, very soon we shall assemble to launch the beginning of our effort to maintain, sustain, build upon and consolidate on the prevailing security, peace and stability. Without that, all the efforts we are making will come to nothing.

We have been talking to a lot of people both in the country and outside, and I want to report to you that there is a great deal of interest. A lot of people want to come into the state to partner with us and invest in the state in the areas of tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and other areas where we can build and develop skills, so we can create jobs and wealth for our people. We will not be able to achieve this lofty goal we have set for ourselves if we do not work together to maintain the peace that we presently have.

Bayelsa is being re-positioned within the country and outside, as the foremost tourism and investment destination, and we will not rest until we succeed in that. If
we do not broaden our economic base, everything we are doing will not be sustainable. So, join me in this great walk to freedom, sustainable peace and development.

On a day like this, it is important for me to highlight a few of the things you will be seeing and hearing from us. Between this week and next, the process of awarding various development contracts will begin. Already, all the major
contractors, Julius Berger, Gitto and Setraco, are back to the state, to join us in the development of the state.

We shall be broadening some roads and dualising several others, so that we can turn our state capital into the most beautiful state capital in the country.
Between this week and next, you will be hearing about the award of contracts for the construction of befitting General Hospitals in all the local government headquarters, and the process has already started. You will also be hearing
about the commencement of the construction of model secondary schools in all the local government headquarters, and these will have boarding facilities.

We hope that contractors will be part of this partnership. We will work assiduously to ensure that these projects and several other jobs are completed within scheduled time so that the restoration benefits can be seen.

When I came in, one of the first policy statements I made, apart from the issue of peace and security, is the declaration of a state of emergency in the educational sector. And I followed up by declaring free and compulsory education in this state. The greatest resource we have is the human being. And let me thank the lady, who I hear, organised the training of these young people, the Kingdom Steppers, who put up this brilliant performance. That is what human capacity development is all about. I have directed that lady be brought to me so that she can be enabled to do more in this state. Let me thank the children who performed, and indeed all the children of Bayelsa, who, in spite of the harsh weather, were prepared to serve the state and their
fatherland.

Talking about human capacity building therefore, it is our desire, and a policy, and for this purpose, we have set
aside the sum of one billion Naira for the youths of the state who desire to further their education in any higher institution of their choice in this country or abroad and this is for this year alone. All the youths of the state are
hereby encouraged to take advantage of this.

The right thing to do is to increase your capacity to compete with your peers in this country to represent us effectively in various fields of human endeavour and bring out the best in you. It is only then that you can be said to be completely free. And we will not rest until every Bayelsa child, every Bayelsa young man, young woman and every citizen of the Ijaw Nation has the capacity to be his or herself. This government will also not rest until we achieve that.

Opinion leaders, political leaders in all arms of government should begin the process of scouting for the best hands among our youths that can be supported to be the
best that they can be. In the course of the week, I will set up the Scholarship Board to begin this process. We want to send you to the best institutions in the country and outside, so that when you come back, you will be better equipped to compete for places.

As a result of our resolve to maintain and consolidate on the peace that we have, we will propose to the State House of Assembly, in no distant time, a Bill that will prohibit political violence in this state. And let me use this opportunity
to call on all politicians, political leaders and political actors to learn to play by the rules of the game at all times.

I have fought a lot of political battles without violence. We have been involved in a lot of political endeavours without raising a finger at anybody, and the peace we are currently enjoying will not be sustainable unless we stop political actors from recruiting our vulnerable youths and arming them with various devises of violence to bring about chaos, and harm to their fellow citizens. I will not sit back to watch that and to complement the anti-cultism Bill, we will send the Bill prohibiting political violence to the House of
Assembly. Those who want to exercise their political rights and freedom are free to do so but they will not, under the guise of exercising their political liberty, be allowed to endanger our collective peace.

You are also aware of the transparency regime we have instituted and which we will sustain all the way. Already, a Bill has been passed and signed into Law to entrench this transparency. This Bill is not necessarily for this government
but we passed it because we want to create an institution and enthrone a culture of transparency. I want to call on all local government chairmen to comply with the provisions of this Law by rendering regular monthly returns to the people they govern. Any chairman found wanting on this, will not have it easy with this administration. I use this opportunity to call on all councillors to ensure that the provisions of the Law are respected by all council chairmen.

Let me, at this point, call on you all to continue to pray for our nation, our President and dear brother and leader. He is trying his best but we are all aware of the challenges. God, who made all these possible will see him through.

Very soon, all the Ijaw leaders and the youths will assemble here to discuss the way forward and I will not like to pre-empt the outcome of that meeting.

On an occasion like this, I like to pay tribute to our hard-working civil servants, who are doing so very well but they are also aware of a few things that are not very right. I have directed verification on all departments and that process will continue until we get it right. With this verification and
co-operation from the civil servants, we have been able to reduce our monthly wage bill by about N400 million already. But that is not good enough, we will continue until we are able to clean the pay roll system and ensure that only
people who have been placed on that pay roll are there, so that we can create room and space for fresh recruitment instead of allowing few ghost names to siphon our commonwealth.

That process will continue but because of the inconvenience occasioned by the exercise, I have directed that with effect from June, all salaries will be paid on or before 25th. All those involved with the various nefarious activities will continue to be investigated. Once the security agencies
are able to establish a prima facea case against anybody such persons, will face prosecution. We have no apologies for that.

We are now able to pay salaries because of the savings we have been making from the verification exercise. This government will not falter on transparency. We are here to serve you and not ourselves. Learn to call your leaders, who are actually your servants, to account. If we learn to do that, then it will be the biggest dividend of democracy.

I like to thank you all for attending. God bless Bayelsa State.
God bless the Ijaw Nation. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thank you and God bless you all.

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