In the spirit of patriotism for my party, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Nigeria my country, I am adding my voice to those of other compatriots to celebrate “June 12” and more importantly the 21st year of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria, a system of government adjudged to be popular and acceptable by the citizenry.
This special and auspicious day reminds us of the valor, vision and dream of passionate Nigerians from all parts of the country, who came together in unity of purpose to ensure a well deserved democratic rule after a long and tough military rule.
In retrospect, the last 21 years have been filled with many challenges, the nation has been faced with tough times, yet our history shows these are not insurmountable, we only need to draw the perseverance of those before us and ensure that our dark days as a nation are over and the bright days are here to stay permanently.
On this note, on behalf of my great and unique party, ZLP, I celebrate every Nigerian at home and in diaspora, human right activists, all Labour Leaders (especially NUPENG and PENGASSAN), our service men and women, religious leaders, military men and even lawmakers witch haunted for standing for the truth among others, who played pivotal roles at the expense of their careers and lives in attaining and maintaining our democratic system.
Remembering these heroes go beyond a holiday in our homes but ensuring that the will of Nigerians of all social status, tribes, ages and religions to embrace the true spirit of a statesman, understand our differences, join hands in unity beyond words and shoulder the responsibility of re-building Nigeria knowing that no one can build this nation except we do come into reality soon.
Unfortunately, the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic triggered a fresh public health crisis in Nigeria since first quarter of 2020, an unprecedented phenomenon that was quickly followed by economic instability and drastic drop in oil price, Nigeria’s major source of foreign exchange complicating the situation. Worst still, the outbreak is compounding Nigeria’s numerous pre-existing crises. Our country was already grappling with a Lassa fever outbreak that has claimed more than one hundred lives in 2020, the aftermath of recession, and conflict and insecurity within its borders among other challenges.
Notwithstanding Nigeria could still be better placed than many to respond to the arrival of the coronavirus disease. In 2014, it successfully contained a deadly Ebola virus outbreak and the country’s current score on the Epidemic Preparedness Index (38.9 per cent) is higher than the African and global averages.
In the light of the above and as a key stakeholder in national politics I am using this platform to appeal to the government of Nigeria not to renege in its resolve to diversify the ailing economy forthwith. Nigeria needs to tap into the agricultural sector where the country can put millions of the unemployed to work and reduce social tension and crime. Investment in infrastructure will also put many young people to work and reduce double-digit inflation.
Similarly government can implement policies that can promote the optimal level of interconnectedness and self-sufficiency in a global economy, balancing global competitiveness with supply chain stability. For example, policies that stimulate domestic manufacturing in priority sectors coupled with tariff incentives in sectors where localization is not yet practical (eg. manufacturing of specialized healthcare equipment, manufacturing of automobiles, etc) in the midst of an enabling environment where social infrastructures are provided and security of lives and properties are guaranteed.
I further urge the government to secure the interests of Nigerian workers by putting in place stiffer measures that can put employers of Labour to check so that workers would not continue to be impoverished or subjected to anti labour practices, precarious work conditions and other retrogressive and inhuman state whilst they use Covid-19 and global economic crises as buffers or excuses for wicked and vicious exploitations.
Meanwhile as government continue to give its precision approach in the gradual unlocking of the socio-economic activities as a result of Covid-19, people should continue with the sacrifice of maintaining social distancing as well as personal and respiratory hygiene, washing of hands regularly, use of face masks among other protocols and guidelines in order to curtail the spread of the deadly pathogen.
It is my firm belief that the World Health Organization and other concerned stakeholders including Nigerian health officials will succeed in wining this war against Covid-19 so that the world can regain its lost freedom and fortunes.
Finally, I salute the courage, optimism and resilience of the national Leadership of ZLP in sustaining the goals and aspirations of our Party, neither will I undermine the sacrifices and commitments of our members especially those in Ondo State. Your unalloyed support and love for the party and Nigeria will never go unrewarded both by God and man and rest assured we shall overcome and fulfill our purpose as a party built on the foundation of dignity, forthrightness and integrity.
Once again I wish Nigerians in the world over, Happy Democracy Day.
Hon Joseph Iranola Akinlaja, Chairman of Zenith Labour Party, Ondo State.