Before this speech at the ongoing National Conference, Prof. Dora Akunyili, was asked to sit due to her health condition, but she refused to sit and delivered her speech standing.
Nigerians have for long clamoured for an opportunity such as this to discuss our problems and come up with solutions that will strengthen the bond of our nationhood. I regard this national conference as President Jonathan’s best centenary gift to Nigerians, and a proof that he is a listening president.
Mr. President’s speech oozes humility, modesty, patriotism and a deep concern for the present and future of this beautiful country, Nigeria. Mr. President in that speech admitted that sovereignty belongs to the people. And those in authority are only holding power on trust for the people and of course that nobody has monopoly of knowledge. Hence, the decision for convening this conference. One thing that stands out from Mr. President’s speech is that there is no trace of negativism.
For instance, he made it clear that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable and our duty at this conference is to discuss ways to build a stronger and better Nigeria and I totally agree with him.
I am convinced that Nigeria should remain as one nation after 100 years despite her challenges because our common values overwhelm our differences.
Apart from our long history of togetherness, we’ve also enjoyed many decades of inter-marriages and mutual co-existence. We have to make sure that this conference delivers on the true spirit of Mr. President’s speech.
While we discuss the value of unity as written in his speech, we must realise that millions of Nigerians are being discriminated against in various parts of this country where they are born; where their forefathers lived; based on the so-called state of origin.
The founding fathers of Nigeria had a dream of building a united, prosperous, and developed nation state where social justice reigns. We also have to continue to dream because once we stopped dreaming then life is gone.
In conclusion, I am convinced that Nigeria will work and fulfil its destiny.
I therefore look forward to collaborating with other delegates to chart the way for a better a new Nigeria. We all want to see a positive transform Nigeria and I therefore urge all of us to work individually and collectively so as to set the right agenda for the Nigeria of our dream.
Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates, I leave you with the words of these Greek proverb “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
- Professor Akunyili died on Saturday, June 7, 2014 in a specialist hospital in India after a two-year battle with cancer.