Today, we are gathered to celebrate this great national event, the 57th independence anniversary of our dear country. It is the day we got freedom from British colonial rule. The freedom did not come on a platter. It was a product of sustained struggle by the founding fathers of this great country.
2. Let us once again, salute those people who fought for the independence of our country by rededicating ourselves to the service of this great nation. In the last 57 years, our country has made reasonable strides in all fields: technology, education, sports, finance and various other fields, which were almost impossible before our sovereign freedom.
3. This day also reminds us not only of our freedom from colonial rule but it affords us opportunity to make a critical analysis of our progress so far and to reinvigorate us to tackle new and unfolding challenges by drawing lessons from both our strengths and weaknesses including recognizing opportunities and threats. I therefore join other Nigerians to rejoice with the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, on this 57th anniversary of our dear nation’s independence.
4. The pride of belonging to an independent country where sovereign power of deciding our destiny rests with us, imposes a huge responsibility on us. We, particularly the elites in this society, indeed have extra responsibility to dedicate our services and lives to the progress of the nation for we shall be failing in our responsibilities as citizens and leaders of an independent nation, if we do not devote ourselves to the service of this country, with our immense talents.
5. As we celebrate, there is no doubt that we are weighed down by the economic challenges in our dear country. The recent announcement by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, of positive GDP growth in the second quarter of this year, is a silver lining in the sky, signaling the end of the longest recession in our nation’s history. I know how difficult things are and how tough life has become and it will take a while for the impact of the end of the recession to be felt in our households but I remain optimistic. I am also conscious of the fact that our people are making necessary sacrifices to cope with present challenges. By the special grace of God, such sacrifices will not be in vain.
6. Let me also assure all Deltans that I feel your pains and I am doing everything under the current challenging circumstances, to bring succour to you, my dear people. I remain committed to ensuring prosperity for all and we have reformed governance processes to ensure greater transparency and prudence in the application of our resources. As a State, we remain undeterred by the present circumstances as we are working hard to build solid structures on which our people will stand to cultivate and harvest good fortunes for their benefits and those of the State.
7. The focus of this administration has been on job creation and youth empowerment. That is why we embarked on the reconstruction of the State-owned technical colleges in Agbor, Ofagbe and Sapele. This was in furtherance of government’s desire to promote technical and vocational education, which is at the core of our educational policy and the enhancement of human capital.
8. This was followed by our empowerment programmes of youths training under the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) with provisions to support them to start their own businesses. Another group of youths was trained under the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP). We also introduced Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP), designed to cater for unemployed graduates. In the last two years, 42, 000 new jobs have been tracked as directly created from our government’s programmes and projects. This, of course, excludes private sector jobs created through investments arising from the conducive environment that we have created. However, we will not rest on oars as we intensify efforts to expand opportunities.
9. As part of the faithful implementation of our SMART agenda, this government has completed the construction/rehabilitation of fifty-five critical inter and intra-city road projects, including concrete-lined drains, while others are at various levels of completion. In the health sector, this government is focused on development of hospitals and primary healthcare centres, including the procurement of drugs and cutting edge medical equipment in major healthcare facilities in the three senatorial districts. The robust foundation for our comprehensive healthcare delivery is hinged on the State’s health insurance programme, which is aimed at providing universal healthcare coverage for our people. Government is also paying attention to the Teaching Hospital at Oghara while the Central Hospital here at Asaba, is near completion.
10. This administration is working tenaciously to end the perennial flooding of the State capital and other key towns and cities across the State. While work is on-going to ensure storm water control in Asaba, a comprehensive drainage master plan for the territory is nearing completion. We are indeed determined to reduce the impact of flooding in our cities.
11. Let me use this opportunity to once again commend our gallant men of the Armed Forces and Police for their commitment to bringing peace and security including maintaining unity and territorial integrity of the country, especially in the north eastern parts of the country. We should also spare thoughts for our men and women on the frontlines, including their dependants and those of the officers and men who paid the supreme price in the service of our dear country.
12. I also commend the noble role of religious organizations, traditional rulers, the media, civil society groups and a cross section of well-meaning citizens for the immense contributions they have continued to make to jealously guard democratic institutions in our country. Their incisive criticisms and counsel have helped to stabilise the polity and stay the hands of those who would have either abused or exploited the unfettered freedom that democracy affords citizens of every country that subscribes to it.
13. I must specially salute and commend all Deltans for their patience, steadfastness and perseverance under the present economic difficulties. I urge you to remain resilient. We should not be consumed by our petty differences; rather, we should be united by our common humanity, because we are stronger together. No part of the State is more special than the other. Together, we can make progress with our collective effort and work towards the Delta State where we should all be proud to belong.
Thank you and May God bless our dear State and country.