by Dora Akunyili
I warmly congratulate His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for having the courage to convene this National Conference. Nigerians have for long clamored for an opportunity such as this to discuss our problems and come up with solutions that will strengthen the bonds of our nationhood. I regard this National Conference as President Jonathan’s best Centenary gift to Nigerians and a proof that he is a listening president.
Mr. President’s speech, oozes humility, modesty, patriotism and a deep concern for the present and future of our dear country, Nigeria. Mr. President in that speech admitted that sovereignty belongs to the people, that those in positions of authority are only holding power in trust for the people, and of course do not have a monopoly of wisdom, hence the decision to convene this Conference.
One thing that stands out from Mr. President’s speech is that there is no trace of negativism. For instance, Mr. President made it clear that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable and that our duty at this Conference is to discuss ways to build a stronger and better Nigeria. I wholeheartedly agree with him.
I am convinced that Nigeria should remain as one nation after 100 years despite our challenges, because our common values overwhelm our differences. Apart from our long history of togetherness, we have enjoyed many decades of intermarriages and mutual co-existence.
We have to make sure that this conference delivers on the true spirit of Mr. President’s speech. While we discuss the value of unity, as written in his speech, we must realize that millions of Nigerians are being discriminated against in various parts of our dear country Nigeria – where they are born, where their forefathers lived, based on their so called state of origin.
The founding fathers of Nigeria had a dream of building a united, prosperous and developed nation state, where social justice reigns supreme. Even though that dream is yet to be realized, we must not despair but must continue to dream.
In conclusion, I am convinced that Nigeria will work and fulfill its destiny. I look forward to collaborating with other delegates to chart the way for a better Nigeria. We all want to see a positively transformed Nigeria. I therefore urge all of us to work individually and collectively, so as to set the right agenda for the Nigeria of our dreams.
I leave you with the words of this Greek proverb: “A society grows great, when old men plant trees, whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.
Professor Dora Akunyili is former Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and former Minister of Information (2009). She delivered this speech on April 1, 2014 at the National Conference where she is a delegate representing Anambra State.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.