US am­bas­sador ad­vises Nige­ri­ans on 2019 elec­tions

The Punch - - NEWS - Olufemi Atoyebi, Ibadan

The United States Am­bas­sador to Nige­ria, Mr. Stuart Syming­ton, has called on Nige­ri­ans to take away their fo­cus from what will hap­pen in 2019 and rather con­cen­trate on how to make the coun­try bet­ter be­fore the next gen­eral elec­tions.

The US en­voy, who spoke at an event or­gan­ised to mark the 2018 World Earth Day in Ibadan on Mon­day, called on Nige­ri­ans, whom he de­scribed as the ship, to find so­lu­tions to their prob­lems from within, say­ing that the peo­ple should place them­selves above their lead­ers, who were only at the helm of af­fairs for a while.

he said, “Many Nige­ri­ans will spend much of this year think­ing about what will hap­pen in 2019. My mind says that it is ex­tra­or­di­nary im­por­tant for ev­ery Nige­rian to spend this year think­ing about what to do to make Nige­ria more se­cure, peace­ful, pros­per­ous and united.

“I don’t think Nige­ria can lose a day or a year in its his­tory by sit­ting down to find so­lu­tions to its prob­lems and em­ploy­ment to that per­son look­ing for a job. We have a group called the Young African Lead­ers Ini­tia­tive. Mem­bers of this move­ment ex­change ideas about ques­tions on de­vel­op­ment. The most im­por­tant thing of all is each Nige­rian.

“In the first year of my stay in Nige­ria, I trav­elled to all the 36 states of the coun­try. Ev­ery­where I reached, peo­ple said they have lead­er­ship chal­lenge at the lo­cal, state and na­tional lev­els. My first re­ac­tion to push back the ques­tion is that the na­tion is in a democ­racy, the peo­ple are the lead­ers, they are the gov­ern­ment. You did it in 2015.

“Two weeks ago, I was in Kaduna and I sud­denly re­alised that there is a chal­lenge be­cause there are two sides to lead­er­ship; the leader and the ship. In a democ­racy, the peo­ple are the ship, the pilot is only there for a time but the ship re­mains. The most im­por­tant thing is not what Nige­ri­ans will do in 2019 but what they will do now be­cause they are the ship.

“At the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture, there is a project to com­bine en­trepreneur­ship and agri­cul­ture with some of the for­est prod­ucts; 2018 is the year that the ship of Nige­ria must move it­self for­ward. It is not about pol­i­tics alone but about the peo­ple.

“I have been to the Wikki Warm Spring in Yankari Re­serves. I have trav­elled through the la­goon from La­gos to Bada­gry. I have been to the for­est of Obudu and the spot where the River Niger and River Benue meet. They are amazing. This coun­try is beau­ti­ful, amazing but a lot of Nige­ri­ans do not know it.”

Syming­ton also called on the peo­ple to re­view their in­ter­ac­tion with the en­vi­ron­ment in the face of the di­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems threat­en­ing the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of hu­man­ity, say­ing that prac­tices that had the po­ten­tial to wipe out the for­est, in­clud­ing an­i­mal smug­gling, must be dis­cour­aged.

“I want you to think of the for­est not as a for­est but as a fu­ture. You must learn to use the ex­is­tence of the for­est to make money and life. Dis­cour­age those who sell bush meats by not buy­ing, and use so­cial me­dia to ex­pose those who smug­gle an­i­mals that are en­dan­gered species,” he said.

— CJN

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