President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday addressed leaders of the South East zone and citizens who gathered at the Abakaliki Township Stadium to welcome him to the state.
The President assured the zone that government is addressing the various issues raised by agitators but urged the people to reject any ‘senseless propaganda of secession.’
“My presence here today is a demonstration of our strong belief in the unity of Nigeria. As the most populous country in Africa, with over 300 ethnic groups, our diversity is almost unique among nations.
“The people of the South-East are known for their ingenuity, industrial and commercial talent. There is no part of Nigeria where you will not find Igbo entrepreneurs, both men and women, contributing to the development of their adopted communities.
“So, I am asking you all not to buy into the senseless propaganda on secession. Igbo is Nigeria and Nigeria is Igbo. Both are inseparable. We must therefore continue to commit ourselves to the development of Nigeria; a Nigeria where we will sustain our national unity without compromising on our cultural identities; a Nigeria where the aspirations of its people are guaranteed without prejudice to tribe or religion and a Nigeria, where we can sleep at night knowing that tomorrow will be better than today.”
He recalled that the nation’s founding fathers from all parts of the country worked together to actualise the creation of one Nigeria.
After independence, according to the President, the same founding fathers worked together to maintain one Nigeria.
“Yes, they had differences and varied opinions at times. After all, they were only human. And yes, they had moments of weaknesses and doubt. But again, no one is perfect. However, one thing they all protected until the end of their lives was having one Nigeria for all Nigerians.
“Today, Nigeria is 57 years old. Nigeria has gone through many pains. But it has also achieved significant successes. Its citizens are leaders in all aspects of human development. But we rarely celebrate these successes more.
“Some misguided Nigerians would rather channel their energies to propagating negative stories and senseless rumours.
“Over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population is under 25 years old. They have little knowledge of Nigeria’s journey. They were not born during the dark days of the civil war and the nation rebuilding that happened afterwards.
“The task of nation-building is a continuous one. It relies on the successful transition of factual knowledge from one generation to another. This means it is our collective responsibility to ensure we do not betray our founding fathers as we transfer the Nigeria project from one generation to the next,” the President added.
“We are building roads, hospitals and schools. We are expanding our power transmission infrastructure while supporting the generation and distribution companies to ensure more power is delivered to our homes. We are developing agricultural programmes that will create more jobs while making Nigeria food secure.
“For example, we recently mobilised the contractor of the Second Niger Bridge back to site. We have also made provisions in the 2018 budget proposal to ensure this project is completed as early as possible.
“We are also upgrading the Federal Medical Centre in Umuahia by constructing a Modern Medical Diagnostic Centre. This will further bring quality and affordable health care to the geopolitical zone.
“In the agricultural sector, the states in this region have participated in all Federal Government agricultural initiatives. For instance, Ebonyi was among the first few state governments to sign up to the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative. The programme has already created thousands of direct and indirect jobs in this fertile part of the our country.”
“For the South-East, I am pleased to inform you that our 2018 budget proposal has allocated up to N10bn for the development of the Enyimba Industrial Park and Nnewi Auto Park. Both projects will be implemented in collaboration with the respective state governments and the private sector. Again, these are classic examples of the partnerships between the federal and state governments in the region to improve the livelihoods of Nigerians – politics aside.
“In October 2017, we commenced the payment of pensions to police officers who were granted presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the 30-month civil war. These officers, and their next of kin, have waited for their pensions for 17 years since the presidential pardon.
“I want to assure the Ndigbo that the welfare and well-being of every Nigerian is important to us. We stand for inclusivity and will not leave any section or citizen behind,” he added.
“When I met with leaders from the South-East last month in Abuja, they raised several issues of concern, including the state of the roads and infrastructure in the region. I want to assure you that we will deliver on our promises.
“Our 2018 Budget includes many strategic projects for the region in the roads, power, agriculture and other sectors.”