I must not fail, at the outset, to express my profound gratitude to the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and his Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, for making today’s event a reality.
The people of this State are grateful to the Federal Government, not only for the sustained interest in our modest efforts and encouragement shown in our bid to revamp our dwindling fortunes, but also, and more importantly, for the practical, confidence-building measures adopted to ensure lasting peace in the country, especially in our dear State.
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brigadier-General Boroh, Rtd, and the Minister of State in the Niger Delta Ministry, for making today’s programme a reality.
The ultimate success of this programme lies with all stakeholders, especially those who have chosen to embrace peace and join the rest of us in the onerous task to develop our State. I also rejoice with those who have decided to drop their weapons for availing themselves of this rare window of opportunity, magnanimously opened by the Federal Government to ensure peace in the region.
All of us agree that our country can hardly afford any major crisis in the Niger Delta at this period. We are convinced of the justness of the cause for the emancipation of the people of this part of the country who have suffered neglect for a long time. We share the anxiety of those who perceive the plundering of our lands and waters as akin to genocide.
We identify with the aspirations of peasants who have lost their peasantry due to reasons connected to oil exploration. We recognize the state of despair which defines the circumstances under which our people exist. We believe, beyond rhetoric, that sustained plans of development are required to ameliorate the parlous living conditions of our people.
In all of these, we appreciate the efforts of the current Administration, under the focused and purposeful leadership of our President, in addressing the challenges faced by the hapless people of the Niger Delta Region. Frustration leads to desperation, no doubt. But there cannot be any justification for the brazen acts of criminality which further alienate our people from all that is good and noble. The agitation for the emancipation of our people from the morass of grinding poverty can only be creative and collective. It has become exigent that all true sons and daughters of the region must come together for its development.
Granted that all indigenes of our various communities have the inalienable right to defend the rights of the people, no group of individuals must be allowed to appropriate this collective aspiration to advance parochial objectives. The resort to kidnapping, robbery, vandalism of government property and other social vices will hurt the region, ultimately.
It has not only been counter-productive. The problems of the region have been compounded by acts of brigandage. No serious investor will consider, for a moment, the possibility of engaging in any meaningful transaction with the government and the people of a place where security is not assured. An atmosphere of violence attracts hunger, insecurity and want. Constructive engagement is the answer to decades of neglect.
Consequently, no group of individuals should see this relentless tragedy as an avenue to acquire personal wealth. Any act which negates the essence of communalism is despicable. As youthful passion goads and commends quick fixes for perennial challenges of being, wisdom dictates methodic and systematic approach to achieve enduring solutions. All members of these exploited and devastated communities must join others for their development. No criminal act should be seen as restitution for the long years of neglect.
We, therefore, invite all those who may still wallow in the ignorant belief that a life of crime and uncertainty is a veritable substitute for the collective well being of the region. We appeal to them to desist from making the misery of the people a source of livelihood. Collective grievances must be presented and addressed for the overall benefit of the people. Seeking personal fortunes from the deplorable situation of our people is treasonable.
Let all those bubbling with youthful energy deploy same in the service of their land
The Government and the people of Ondo State will like to place on record our appreciation of the President and his Vice for their understanding. We are indeed grateful for the extension of the Amnesty Programme for the specific purpose of accommodating armed youths who may be willing to surrender their weapons to the government. The understanding shown by the current Administration underscores the seriousness attached to the issues of development in the region. It also speaks, eloquently, on the sincerity of the current leaders on their avowed commitment to lasting peace and development.
On our part, we appeal to the youths who feel genuinely concerned about the plight of our people to eschew violence and embrace peace. Real development is impossible in a chaotic environment. We encourage those with weapons to come forward. We promise that nobody will be punished for embracing peace. There will be a programme of rehabilitation to embrace all those who appreciate the wisdom in opting for peace. It will be all-inclusive, there will be no discrimination against any camp, group or individuals. Ladies and gentlemen, I have immeasurable joy in welcoming all armed youths who are willing to surrender their arms in the State. We are willing to assist them to integrate with the rest of the society.
I thank all those who worked behind the scene to make this feat achievable. Our people are grateful. Posterity will remember them for good.
I thank you all for your patience.