President Muhammadu Buhari has accused ethnic, political and religious leaders of sponsoring and inciting inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence in the country.
The president, in his Democracy Day address in Abuja, said the leaders were hoping to benefit by “exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country.’’
He vowed to crack down on those instigating violence and social unrest in the country
He also warned those with corrupt tendencies to have a change of heart or be dealt with according to the provisions of the law.
“This government will not tolerate actions by any individual or groups of individuals who seek to attack our way of life or those who seek to corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. We will crack down on those who incite ordinary innocent people to violence and unrest.
“We will ensure that such actions are met with the strong arm of the law.’’
He noted that in spite of activities of the saboteurs, his government had remained focused in fulfilling the campaign promises in the areas of security, economy and fighting corruption.
“When I took the oath of office on May 29, 2015, insecurity reigned.
“Apart from occupying 18 local government areas (LGAs) in the North-east, Boko Haram can at will attack any city including the Federal Capital Territory; can threaten any institution including bombing the United Nations building and Police Headquarters in Abuja.
“Admittedly, some of the challenges still remain in kidnappings and banditry in some rural areas.
“The great difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting these challenges with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence.
“We are meeting these challenges with superior strategy, firepower and resolve,’’ he said.
The president reiterated the greatness of Nigeria in the comity of nations and the need for every citizen to work towards reclaiming the glory.
“Our country Nigeria is a great country. According to United Nations estimates, our population will rise to 411 million by 2050, making us the third most populous nation on earth behind only China and India.
“We have water, arable land, forests, oil and gas and vast quantities of solid minerals. We are blessed with an equable climate.
“However, the bulk of our real wealth lies in agriculture, livestock, forestry and mining. We possess all the ingredients of a major economic power on the world stage.
“What we require is the will to get our acts together. And our strength is in our people – our youth, our culture, our resilience, our ability to succeed despite the odds.
“A huge responsibility, therefore, rests on this and succeeding administrations to develop, harness and fulfil our enormous potentials into a force to be reckoned with globally.”
On the nation’s military strength, he said Nigeria had contributed to UN peace-keeping responsibilities all over the world.
He said that Nigeria helped to stabilise Liberia, Sierran Leone, Ivory Coast and recently prevented the Gambia from degenerating into anarchy.
“Without Nigerian influence and resources, the liberation of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and ultimately South Africa would have come at greater cost.
“This fact has been attested to by none other than the late Nelson Mandela himself.
“Elsewhere, Nigeria is the Big Brother to our neighbours. We are the shock-absorber of the West African sub-region, the bulwark of ECOWAS and Lake Chad Basin Commission.
“We can therefore be proud to be Nigerians. We must continue to be good neighbours and good global citizens,’’ he said.
Since return of democracy in 1999, May 29 had been observed as democracy day.
Although Buhari took his oath of office for his second term on May 29, major events of the programme were moved till June 12.
While Yakubu Gowon, former head of state, attended the May 29 event, he was absent at yesterday’s event.
Aside Gowon, Abdulsalami Abubakar, also a former head of state, ex-presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Ernest Shonekan, former interim president, were all absent.
World leaders at the event included President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; President George Weah of Liberia; President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Macky Sall of Senegal; President Adama Barrow of Gambia; President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic; President José Mário Gómes Vaz of Guinea-Bissau and President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic.
Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, attended the event.