President Obasanjo's Inaugural address to the nation - May 29, 1999.
THE NEW DAWN
.Inaugural speech by His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo
following his swearing-in as President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria yesterday, May 29, 1999.
FELLOW Nigerians, we give praise and honour to God Almighty for this
day specially appointed by God Himself. Everything created by God has
its destiny and it is the destiny of all of us to see this day.
Twelve months ago, no one could have predicted the series of stunning
events that made it possible for democratic elections to be held at
the Local Government level, the State level, and culminating in the
National Assembly Elections. Thereafter, you the good people of
Nigeria elected me, a man who had walked through the valley of the
shadow of death, as your President, to head a democratic civilian
administration. I believe that this is what God Almighty has ordained
for me and for my beloved country Nigeria and its people. I accept
this destiny in all humility and with the full belief that with the
backing of our people we shall not fail.
I wish, at this point, to thank all you good Nigerians for the
confidence reposed in me. I wish to pay tribute to the great and
gallant Nigerians who lost their lives in the cause of the struggle
for liberty, democracy and good governance. They held the beacon of
freedom and liberty high in the face of state terrorism and tyranny.
We thank God that their sacrifice has not been in vain. We will
always remember them.
Our thanks go also to the friends of Nigeria in many lands for the
commitment and unrelenting support they gave throughout the dark,
ominous days of the struggle.
Nigerians living in foreign lands deserve special tribute for not
forgetting their fatherland and for making their voices heard
persistently in defence of freedom. And I must commend you my home-
based fellow Nigerians for the way you bore unprecedented hardship,
deprivation of every conceivable rights and privileges that were once
taken for granted.
I commend General Abdulsalami Abubakar and members of the Provisional
Ruling Council (PRC) for the leadership they gave the country in the
last eleven months and for keeping meticulously to their announced
timetable of handing over to a democratically elected government
today. As officers and gentlemen, they have kept their word.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also deserves
the thanks of all of us. In the face of doubt and skepticism and
great time constraints, the Chairman and his commissioners conducted
elections right from Local Government level to the Presidential level.
They acquitted themselves creditably and they deserve our gratitude.
Nigeria is wonderfully endowed by the Almighty with human and other
resources. It does no credit either to us or the entire black race if
w fail in managing our resources for quick improvement in the quality
of life of our people. Instead of progress and development, which we
are entitled to expect from those who governed us, we experienced in
the last decade and a half, a particularly in the last regime but one,
persistent deterioration in the quality of our governance, leading
to instability and the weakening of all public institutions. Good men
were shunned and kept away from government while those who should be
kept away were drawn near. Relations between men and women who had
been friends for many decades, and between communities that had lived
together in peace for many generations became very bitter because of
the actions or inaction of government. The citizens developed
distrust in government, and because promises made for the improvement
of the conditions of the people were not kept all statements by
government met with cynicism.
Government officials became progressively indifferent to propriety of
conduct and showed little commitment to promoting the general welfare
of the people and the public good. Government and all its agencies
became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to
bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get
attention and one government agency had to bribe another government
agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds.
The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned
Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has
distorted and retrogressed development.
Our infrastructures - NEPA, NITEL, Roads, Railways, Education,
Housing and other Social Services were allowed to decay and collapse.
Our country has thus been through one of its darkest periods.
All these have brought the nation to a situation of chaos and near
despair. This is the challenge before us. Fellow Nigerians, let us
rise as one, to face the tasks ahead and turn this daunting scene
into opportunities in a New Dawn. Let us make this the beginning of a
Fellow Nigerians, the entire Nigerian scene is very bleak indeed. So
bleak people ask me where do we begin? I know what great things you
expect of me at this New Dawn. As I have said many times in my
extensive travels in the country, I am not a miracle worker. It will
be foolish to underrate the task ahead. Alone, I can do little.
You have been asked many times in the past to make sacrifices and to
be patient. I am also going to ask you to make sacrifices, and to
exercise patience. The difference will be that in the past sacrifices
were made and patience exercised with little or no results. This time,
however, the results of your sacrifice and patience will be clear
and manifest for all to see. With God as our guide, and with 120
million Nigerians working with me, with commitment, sustained effort,
and determination, we shall not fail. On my part, I will give the
forthright, purposeful, committed, honest and transparent leadership
that the situation demands.
I am determined with your full cooperation, to make significant
changes within a year of my administration.
Together we shall take steps to halt the decline in the human
development indices as they apply to Nigeria. All the impacts of bad
governance on our people that are immediately removable will be
removed, while working for medium and long term solutions.
Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today, will be
tackled head-on at all levels. Corruption is incipient in all human
societies and in most human activities.
But it must not be condoned. This is why laws are made and enforced
to check corruption, so that society would survive and develop in an
orderly, reasonable and predictable way. No society can achieve
anything near its full potential if it allows corruption to become
the full-blown cancer it has become in Nigeria. One of the greatest
tragedies of military rule in recent times, is that corruption was
allowed to grow unchallenged, and unchecked, even when it was glaring
for everybody to see. The rules and regulations for doing official
business were deliberately ignored, set aside or by-passed to
facilitate corrupt practices. The beneficiaries of corruption in all
forms will fight back with all the foul means at their disposal. We
shall be firm with them. There will be no sacred cows. Nobody, no
matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with the breach of
the law or the perpetration of corruption and evil.
Under the administration, therefore, all the rules and regulations
designed to help honesty and transparency in dealings with government
will be restored and enforced. Specifically, I shall immediately
reintroduce "Civil Service Rules", and "Financial Instructions" and
enforce compliance. Other regulations will be introduced to ensure
The rampant corruption in the public service and the cynical contempt
for integrity that pervades every level of the bureaucracy will be
stamped out. The public officer must be encouraged to believe once
again that integrity pays. His self-respect must be restored and his
work must be fairly rewarded through better pay and benefits, both
while in service and in retirement.
Restoration of Confidence in Government
I am very aware of the widespread cynicism and total lack of
confidence in government arising from the bad faith, deceit and evil
actions of recent administrations. Where official pronouncements are
repeatedly made and not matched by action, government forfeits the
confidence of the people and their trust. One of the immediate acts
of this administration will be to implement quickly and decisively,
measures that would restore confidence in governance. These measures
will help to create the auspicious atmosphere necessary for the
reforms and the difficult decisions and the hard work required to put
the country back on the path of development and growth.
The issue of crime requires as much attention and seriousness as the
issue of corruption. Although the Police are in the forefront of
fighting crimes and ensuring our security, it is our responsibility
to help the police to be able to help us. The police will be made to
do their job. All Nigerian citizens and residents in our midst are
entitled to the protection of life and property. A determined effort
will be made to cut down significantly the incidence of violent crime.
I believe that this administration must deal with the following
issues even in these difficult times of near economic collapse:
(I) The crisis in the Oil Producing Areas
(ii) Food Supply, Food Security and Agriculture
(iii) Law and order with particular reference to Armed Robbery, and
to Cultism in our educational institutions
(iv) Exploration and Production of Petroleum
(vi) Macro-economic policies - particularly, Exchange rate management
(vii) Supply and Distribution of Petroleum Products
(viii) The Debt Issue
(ix) Corruption, Drugs, organised fraud called 419 activities, and
crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investment.
(x) Infrastructure - Water Supply, Energy, Telecommunication, Ports,
Airways, National Shipping, Nigerian Railways, etc.
(xi) Resuscitation of the Manufacturing Industries
(xii) Job creation, and creation of conducive environment for
(xiii) Poverty alleviation÷
(xiv) Housing - both
* Civilian Housing Programmes; and
* Barrack Refurbishment and New Construction for the Armed Forces and
(xvi) Health Services
(xvii) Political and Constitutional Dialogue
(xviii) Women and Youth Development
In pursuit of these priorities, I have worked out, measures which
must be implemented within the first six months. Details of the
focus and measures of this administration on these and other matters,
will be announced from time to time. I shall quickly ascertain the
true state of our finances and the economy and shall let the nation
know. In the light of resources available, I shall concentrate on
those issues that can bring urgent beneficial relief to our people.
I will need good men and women of proven integrity and record of good
performance to help me in my cabinet. I appreciate that the quality
and calibre of the members of my cabinet and top appointments will
send a positive or negative signal to Nigerians and the international
community as to the seriousness of the administration to make
salutary changes. In our difficult and abnormal situation, great care
and circumspection are called for in appointments to the cabinet and
high public positions. To be appointed a minister or to any other
public office is not a licence to loot public funds. It is a call to
national service. It is one of the best ways of rendering dedicated
service to humanity. In this administration, being a minister or
holding any other public office will not deprive you of what you have
before you come into office but you will not be allowed to have
conflict of interest, abuse of office or illicit acquisition. Service
to the satisfying must entail sacrifice.
Regular weekly meetings of Cabinet will be reinforced to enrich the
quality of decisions of government through open discussions of
memoranda in Council. Before any issues are introduced to the cabinet,
the time-tested procedure of inter-ministerial consultations would
have been made. The conclusions of Council, circulated to all
ministers and permanent secretaries will, as used to be the practice
in the past, be the authority for executive action and for incurring
expenditure of public funds. This will help the cohesion of the
government, ensure discipline, and hinder corrupt intentions, since
all major contracts must go to Council for open consideration.
A code of conduct for ministers and other public offices will be
introduced. Other measures for individual and collective self-control
and self-discipline of ministers and other public officers will be
I am determined to stretch my hand of fellowship to all Nigerians
regardless of their political affiliations. I intend to reconcile all
those who feel alienated by past political events and I will
endeavour to heal divisions, and to restore the harmony we used to
know in this country.
Crisis in the Niger Delta
A bill will be forwarded within weeks of the inception of the
administration to the National Assembly, for a law providing for 13%
derivation in Revenue Allocation to be used for ecological,
rehabilitation, infrastructural and other developments.
A competent group will be set up immediately to prepare a
comprehensive Development Plan for the Niger-Delta Area. Dialogue
will be held at all levels with the great representatives of all
sections of the oil producing communities to improve communication
and better mutual understanding. The responsibility and initiative
for resolving the crisis rests with the Government.
Nigeria has over the years played a very active role in ECOMOG for
the restoration of peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our national
interest requires the establishment and maintenance of peace and
stability in the West African sub-region. Specifically in the case of
Sierra-Leone, we shall endeavour to ensure a quick resolution of the
crisis by dialogue and diplomatic means by increasing activity on the
second track of peace and reconciliation. This will enable us reduce
our commitments in both theatres but particularly in Sierra-Leone.
Nigeria, once a well-respected country and a key role player in
international bodies, became a pariah nation. We shall pursue a
dynamic foreign policy to promote friendly relations with all nations
and will continue to play a constructive role in the United Nations
and the Organisation of African Unity, and other international bodies.
We shall continue to honour existing agreements between Nigeria and
It is our firm resolve to restore Nigeria fully to her previous
prestigious position in the comity of nations.
Let me, once again, thank our international friends who fought for
democracy alongside with us. Today, we are taking a decisive step on
the path of democracy. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure
sustenance of democracy because it is good for us. It is good for
Africa, and it is good for the world. We call on the world,
particularly the Western World to help us sustain democracy by
sharing with us the burden or debt which may be crushing and
destructive to democracy in our land.
The Nigeria Armed Forces
The incursion of the military into government has been a disaster for
our country and for the military over the last thirty years. The
esprit-de-corps amongst military personnel has been destroyed;
professionalism has been lost. Youths go into the military not to
pursue a noble career but with the sole intention of taking part in
coups and to be appointed as military administrators of states and
chairmen of task forces.
As a retired officer, my heart bleeds to see the degradation in the
proficiency of the military. A great deal of reorientation has to be
under taken and a re-definition of roles, re-training and re-
education will have to be done o ensure that the military submits to
civil authority and regains its pride, professionalism and traditions.
We shall restore military cooperation and exchanges with our
traditional friends. And we will help the military to help itself.
Harmony with the three arms of Government
It is my resolve to work harmoniously with the legislature and the
judiciary to ensure that Nigerians enjoy good and civilised
governance. I am also determined to build a broad consensus amongst
all parties to enhance national harmony and stability and thus ensure
success in the long struggle ahead.
Politicians have a duty, in whatever capacity they may find
themselves, whether as legislators or ministers, to be committed, and
be seen to be committed to the public good. Politicians must
carefully examine the budget to ensure that public funds are
judiciously spent. They must avoid damage to their own credibility
and not vote for themselves special privileges. They must join in the
campaign against corruption and help re-establish integrity in the
conduct of public affairs. I assure you all that it is the policy of
this government to ensure fair remuneration in service and in
retirement to public servants, which includes legislators, civil
servants, the police and members of the armed forces, parastatals and
public-owned educational institutions.
I call on all Nigerians but particularly on our religious leaders to
pray for moral and spiritual revival and regeneration in our nation.
I shall end this address by stressing again that we must change our
ways of governance and of doing business on this eve of the coming
millennium. This we must do to ensure progress, justice, harmony and
unity and above all, to rekindle confidence amongst our people.
Confidence that their conditions will rapidly improve and that
Nigeria will be great and will become a major world player in the
May the Almighty help us.