“Nigeria is not a poor country. Nigerians are the most travelled people. There is no country you go that you will not see Nigerians. The GDP of Nigeria is over half a trillion dollars and the economy is growing at close to 7 per cent. Aliko Dangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the World.”
These were the President Goodluck Jonathan’s perception of the country over which he presided in his May-Day message to the country’s workers.
President Jonathan insisted that the realities on ground do not portray the country as a poor nation, but a nation which abundant wealth needed to be evenly redistributed, adding that his administration is putting policies in place to ensure that Nigerians have access to financial resources to create wealth for themselves.
The President gave a narration of how he visited Kenya recently on a state visit and that the number of private jets that landed from Nigeria in Nairobi that day was a subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week.
“If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries.
“Some of you will experience that there is an amount of money you will give to a Nigerian who needs help and will not even regard it and thank you but if you travel to other countries and give such an amount, the person will celebrate.
“But the World Bank statistics shows that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries. Our problem is not poverty, our problem is redistribution of wealth.’’
The President added: “probably, wealth is concentrated in very few hands and a number of people do not have access to it and that is why my administration is committed in terms of financial inclusiveness and we are working very hard to achieve this.’’
Jonathan specifically noted that in the agriculture sector, government introduced the electronic wallet for farmers in rural areas so they could access income through bank facilities.
He said government was also moving agriculture from just a rural development programme to wealth creation and major business programme, adding that government had taken pro-active steps and policies to stabilise power “so that small and medium-scale enterprises will thrive.
“The key commitment of government is to make sure that so many Nigerians have access to finance so that they will be able to create wealth for themselves.’’
The President also read certain political undertones in the processes of ratings by international bodies and global rating agencies.
According to him, so many countries were downgraded economically in the few past months including some African countries, saying: “They looked at Nigeria and we gave explanations and they could not see any convincing reason but to downgrade our economy, they left us as BB minus.
“They said elections are coming, politicians are shouting at themselves, it may affect their economy. We will no longer give you stable outlook but give you negative outlook, which is same BB minus. When so many countries have been downgraded, they said Nigeria is one of the five poorest countries.’’
Jonathan assured that with the support of Nigerians and in particular, the organised labour, the nation would overcome its challenges and take its pride of palce in the globe.
“We must collectively move this country to where we want to go. Government is working with labour leaders and workers of this country to create wealth. We will sure move this country to where we want to go.’’
The President also reiterated that the on-going National Conference is not personal but meant to evolve a roadmap that would redefine Nigeria, stressing that he has no personal agenda for initiating the Conference, but for the common good and progress of the country.
“A number of people came to me that any President that set up this kind of conference must have a roadmap set for him. But I said to them that the roadmap is the roadmap for Nigeria.
“Jonathan has no personal roadmap for the conference. You can go and ask the over 500 people that are there whether I have sent any emissary to anybody to define anything for my own interest. I repeat, the issue is not Jonathan, I have spent three quarters of my life on earth.
“What we want is a Nigeria for our future generation. We will lead our country to where we want to go.’’
The President noted that the overall interest of the country informed the nomination of many representatives of organised labour, civil society organisations and youths to the conference, adding that this is the first time that the government is having a national conference and labour has such a number of representatives.
He said that the civil society was robustly represented at the conference and the first time that youths were well represented, saying: “there are 18 youth representatives at the conference which has never happen. We believe that as elders, we must prepare a country for the young generation and build a nation for our children and grandchildren.”
He said that the resolution of the conference would be sent to the National Assembly to be implemented for national good.
“I believe that at the end of the conference, if the resolutions are agreed by everybody, I will be able to work with my brothers, sisters and friends in the National Assembly to see that whatever they agreed on sailed through.
“All what we want is to agree on something that is common and useful for the country. ‘’
The Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, said that the theme of the 2014 Workers Day: “Building Enduring Peace and Unity’’ was impressive, apt and relevant, even as he asked labour unions to have faith in the Jonathan administration as it continued to implement policies and plans for national emancipation.
He said that the administration had ensured and would continue to ensure that the voices of labour was heard, adding that the Labour Bill drafted to improve the lots of workers pending before the National Assembly would soon be passed into law and urged the unions to be considerate in their demands.