Mr. Chief Justice, Former Presidents, Vice President Sambo, Senator David Mark, Speaker Bankole, fellow citizens and friends:
It has been four years since the world last watched us perform this all important sacrament of democracy- the swearing in of a freely elected government. This celebration today is a testament to the victory of our inner strength over numerous trials and tribulations we encountered in the last four years. Those of you who were witness to a similar ceremony in 1979, 1999 and 2007 would notice a slight change today. This is the first time that a member of the minority ethnic group has been sworn in as an elected president of Nigeria. I receive this power on behalf of the overburdened masses of our country. This day is not a victory for one man; not a victory for one party; but a victory for our resilient country, Nigeria. Though it may not yet look apparent to everyone, deep down, we are now very far from where we started and very close to where we are going.
Let us therefore start this journey towards the new Nigeria of our dream with a prayer. Let us invite God in our midst as we gather today to chart the course of our country's revival. Lets ask Him to keep watch over us and strengthen our will as we embark on the job at hand. Let Him grant us the wisdom to extract from our hearts the symbols that set us back. Lets ask him to flourish the goodness in our souls and intensify our passion for success. But most of all, may He grant us His most loving care.
Let me hear an Amen.
As I watched the sun rise today, I looked it in the eyes and found out I could confidently announce to all Nigerians that our darkest hours are behind us. For all of you here and millions of you watching at home and around the world, I urge you to look at the sky, you too will see that our new awakening has begun. Never again in this wonderful country shall we allow the light of democracy to be dimmed, to even fade, or ever be quenched. Let this be the last time Nigeria's democratic construction shall be forced to return to its very foundation. Let us from this point on add stone after stone until we build a mansion that befits the giant of a nation we truly are. The possibilities out there for Nigeria are unlimited, for ours is a blessed land. Yesterday may have been bad, but tomorrow will be glorious.
I ask all Nigerians today to join me in a new partnership -a partnership for the Nigerian renaissance. Lets make Nigeria work again. Lets return Nigeria to that country we all used to be proud of. Let us reinvent the Nigerian dream and clear the way for every responsible and hard working Nigerian to be able to share in the blessings of our country. Let us raise our aspirations as a nation. Let us unleash our abundant energy and direct it towards achieving goodness. Let us bring back morning in Nigeria. Let us bring to life the promise of health, wealth, and happiness our fathers made while fighting for our independence.
This democracy we celebrate today was squeezed off the hands of elements determined to destroy it. Many citizens of our country lost their lives in that struggle. As we rejoice today, we also remember them and the sacrifices they made for us to be free. Let us remember Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Shehu Musa Yaradua, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dele Giwa, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane and lots of faceless students and demonstrators gunned down because they stood up for what was right. Most importantly, let us remember the ten members of the National Youth Service Corp who lost their lives in the election that brought us here today. Lets not shy away from defending and safe-guarding this democracy. It would be the greatest tribute we can pay to them. For as long as our democracy stays, their death would not have been in vain.
Today, it’s freedom day for the Nigerian mind. Freedom is not a privilege, rather, it is a right. I want all Nigerians to live it to the fullest. Let the Nigerian revolution be born.
This nation can no longer justify the infringement of human rights of her law abiding citizens by any constituted authority. Today we resurrect liberty. We return Nigeria to a respectable, responsible and entirely accessible governance. With the support of every Nigerian, we are going to show the world that we have the courage and the ability to govern ourselves democratically.
I hereby ask all Nigerians to find the magnanimity in their hearts to forgive our politicians. Let the mistakes of the past be our lessons for the future. Let us discard all our pains and prejudices of the days gone. Lets start a new chapter in our history with a pledge to one another to embrace what we know in our heart to be right. We ask the civil servants of this nation to return to the basic ethics of public service- honesty, integrity and hard work. To the political class, we ask them to transcend selfishness. More than any other group, the tone our country takes in the days to come is for you to decide.
Just as a wedding do not make a marriage, this ceremony we are witnessing today does not make a democracy. We all must continue to be vigilant in the preservation of freedom. This is our chance to prove once and for all that the ideals of Nigeria cannot and must not perish. Our God in heaven is watching us. He is going to keep record of what we did with this opportunity we are given. This is not just another fleeting romance with destiny. This is a divine task. The call going out is for us to wake up and pray; and to step out there and work. We can no longer let the fear of failure stop us from partaking in the sweetness of victory.
Today marks a new beginning for Nigeria. I bring with me a promise of a competent government that will serve you. Today, with your help, we are creating a new story. What the story becomes depends on the next thing we say; the next move we make; and the next idea we conceive. Let us create opportunities that will make us masters of our fate. Let us make a splendid effort to build up a fountain of life with our talents for generations yet unborn. Let us invoke the miracle that occurs when kindred spirits come together for the good of all.
We have a common interest. Our task is to find a productive direction. We have a common purpose. Our task is to find an effective action. We have a common dream. Our task is to find a fulfilling destiny. With the riches of our spirit, the sweat of our minds, we shall help each other capture forever our individual home, our individual heritage and our individual history, all as part of our collective entity. What I have today for you is a big task. I want us to decide today to go too far in maximizing our potentials. I want us to stand up today and cast a giant shadow on our planet. I want us to think big, walk tall, and pick up the zeal that will guarantee us excellence.
I am not promising an over-night success. Our progress will come, day by day, starting from today. But I promise you, there is no other way for our country to go but up. It is up there that our nation belongs. I trust the ingenuity and steadfastness of Nigerians. If not so, I wouldn't have any desire to be your President. For without those strengths in us, no President can make any significant change. Let us once more believe in ourselves. Let us believe in Nigeria and the great deeds we shall accomplish together. Throughout my life, never have I encountered something more intriguing to be as being a Nigerian. Not even being a sailor. We shall make Nigeria a name, as well as a home, all people of the world would like to associated with.
Amongst all the upheavals we face today at home, I am particularly concerned about our people in the Delta area. They represent the goose that lays the golden egg. It is sad how we have treated them over the years. We have to make amends starting from today. We have to listen to them, hear their needs and their concerns. We have to give them what is due to them as fellow citizens of our country. We should be ashamed of visiting them just for what we can get from them without enriching their lives, even as their land enriches us. It is wrong. We can never find the peace and justice we are looking for until we grant them the peace and justice they deserve.
Which brings me to another crucial issue: I would plead for understanding from Nigerians as we tackle the fragrant embezzlement of Nigeria's resources over the last five decades by our leaders. Every naira and kobo of this country fraudulently pocketed by any individual is an insult to all decent and hard working Nigerians everywhere in the world. Such action is an affront to the laws of this country and all perpetrators, no matter how highly placed, would be brought to justice. I know the anger in the hearts of many suffering Nigerians. Your anger is well justified.
Like I said during my campaign, there had been many revolutions we did not execute, many movements we aborted, and many celebrations we smashed. For us to reach the state of prosperity and an ordered life, we have to revisit the wrecks of the past, find the fingerprints of the suspects, discover their motives, render judgment as desired, and put the lesson in our memory bank.
Towards that goal, I urge the Senate and the House of Representative to start their job tomorrow by approving my appointment of Reverend Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos as the Chairman of a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal. The Tribunal would have a sweeping power to investigate any individual or group, confiscate any property, prosecute in any court of law, and no punishment would be too severe for it to recommend or for the country to execute. All those who become rich by making others poor must account for their deeds. No administration shall be exempted, including the administration I headed in the last one year. No man, living or dead shall escape this long arm of the law.
I did not come here today with sheer words of mouth and empty promised. I am also here to inform you that the oil boom is officially over. The oil is running out. It is time for us to return to our traditional means of sustenance. Lets advance it, if need be, but lets not abandon our roots ever again. It is time for the Cocoa farmers of Ekiti to return to their plantations. It is time for the Abakaliki people to go back to their rice fields. Let the Kano pyramids re-emerge and once again grace the skies of the North. Let there be new Benin bronze that would dwarf the ones held hostage in museums round the world. The national cake you all must have heard is finished. Our Father Christmas of a federal government is out of work.
To supplement revenue from oil, Nigerians will have to pay real tax for the first time ever. It is one price we have to pay for wasting our resources. But the good thing about paying tax is that your government would be in possession of your money and that way you would be compelled to demand absolute accountability. I want to see the concept of a national cake baked in Ogoni land replaced by the concept of tax payers’ money. We have lots of rebuilding to do, and Nigeria needs all the money she can get.
We have to find a realistic economic way to redistribute wealth in this nation. There are a lot of us left behind by very few who are far ahead. For our lives to be secured and order mentioned, we need to lift up those left out. The anguish of our youths, the despair of the old, must be close to our hearts. I do not think my generation or indeed any generation can bear the yoke of treating unfairly the symbols of their future and their past. We have to provide our children with first class education suitable for the technological advancement of the 21st century. That way, when we are old, they will be able to provide for us. We have to rebuild millions of lives. And the job starts today and continues until we remove misery and restore dignity to the lives of every man and woman in this country of ours.
An Indian statesman, Mahatma Gandhi once listed things that will destroy us humans as- "politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice." If Gandhi had been asked to mention one thing that would save us, he would have mentioned thinkers- men and women who dared to think. All over the world, Nigerian professionals abound who are using their minds to develop other societies while their homeland ruts.
My fellow citizens, Nigeria needs you. Even if it is the last thing I do, I am committed to creating a conducive environment for you all to come back home and use your intellect to help our own people. We cannot reach our promised land without you.
We have to get Nigeria back on her feet at home. When we have done that, we shall step out to retake our God giving place in the family of nations. But while we are at it, let no one out there mess with a Nigerian. From now onwards, Nigeria shall take care of her own wherever in the world they are. Let all nations on earth know that our people are our jewel, tinkering with our people can no longer be tolerated.
As for our friends around the world, we pledge to be by your side in good times and in times of need. Of course, Nigeria will honor her commitments to the International Community just as we ask the International community to respect the sovereignty of Nigeria. Even in our personal struggle as a nation, we shall not give up helping our African brothers and sisters in their effort to shape themselves into viable democracies of their dreams.
To International business communities, I am here to rekindle confidence in our business practices. The cob webs that clouded our business environment will start giving way this morning. We are determined to benefit from the beauty of a modern economy that is part of the global economic trade. We are eager to sign on to a version of the market economy that is loyal to our country and interested in uplifting the welfare of our people. We need your help to set up a huge industrial machine that will get Nigerians back to work. You must have obviously heard that Nigerians are intelligent and industrious people. We are also hospitable.
Four years from today, when I will be handing over power to another freely elected President of Nigeria, I want the ceremony to take place in a Nigeria where a President who broke the law of this nation can be arrested by an ordinary police sergeant. I want it to be a Nigeria where any citizen can aspire to any post in the country irrespective of his place of birth or religion - a Nigeria where every school kid in any part of the country can attend any school of his or her choice purely on merit - a Nigeria that has put into practice the age long promise that we are a family - a Nigeria that can provide work for all those who want to work anywhere in our country - a Nigeria where people fear not the man or woman with gun or bags of money, but law and order.
Nigeria has no time to waste. We are far behind our mates. To simply catch up, we have to move faster than our competitors. The task ahead is more than one man; and more than one government. But together we can conquer it. I know there is in Nigeria every tool we need to get the job done.
So my fellow Nigerians, lets go to work. Let us astonish the world. We are strong enough to move any obstacle on our way. And God, our maker, will be there to see us through. Lets not forget, ever in our search for greatness that ours is a young nation. Our character as well as our fate is in our hands to make or mar. Lets make it what we want it to be. Join me today all you Nigerians of every creed, every religion, every party and every ethnicity. I know we can do it. May the work begin.
Thank you. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
N/B: Both President Obasanjo and President Yar’Adua rejected a version of this inaugural address.