By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari was overwhelmingly surprised by the massive support and solidarity accorded him and members of his entourage by South East stakeholders as well as thousands of residents of the zone during his Thursday’s official visit to Imo.
The president believed that Gov. Hope Uzodinma of Imo had made it a remarkable and joyful week for him following the successful visit.
The Nigerian leader said he least expected the calibre of personalities that came to welcome and interact with him during the townhall meeting with the stakeholders on the fateful day.
While acknowledging the resourcefulness and enterprising spirit of Igbo people, the president declared that:
‘‘The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbos being in-charge of either infrastructure or pharmaceutical industry.
‘‘Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria.
‘‘The evidence is there for everyone to see that Igbos are in charge of Nigeria’s economy.’’
He promised that the Federal Government would complete ongoing development key projects in the South East, including the 2nd Niger Bridge as well as the railway lines and routes linking the region with other parts of the country.
Buhari had earlier inaugurated four projects executed by Uzodinma, including the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze link road, the Balloon Driven/Flood Control drainage at Dick Tiger Road, the Egbeada Bypass road and the New Exco-Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
‘‘I am very pleased with what I have seen and I assure you that I will support Imo State within the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’’ he said.
In his remarks at the townhall meeting, Uzodinma said Ndigbo believed in a united Nigeria predicated on ‘‘justice, equity and fairness’’.
He thanked the president for addressing the interests of Ndi Igbo through deliberate policy initiatives designed to give the people a true sense of belonging, including the ongoing construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge, among others.
The governor also commended the president for strongly supporting the appointment of two prominent Igbos into two key international organisations – Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu as Assistant Director-General of Health Emergency Intelligence, World Health Organisation (WHO).
In his remarks, the President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, assured Buhari of the continuous support of Ndigbo.
‘‘Ndigbo are committed to Nigerian unity and there is news for those trying to push us out of Nigeria.”
A cross section of indigenes of the South East zone, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Buhari’s official visit to Imo on Sept. 9, thanked the Nigerian leader for his passion and love for the people of the South East region of the country.
The Executive Secretary of National Land Development Authority (NALDA), Mr Paul Ikonne, said:
”This visit is very significant and shows the love of the president and it shows he is the president of Nigeria and he has jurisdiction in all the states.
”It also shows his passion, and that he always loved and still loves the Southeast. His first outing to contest, he used an Igbo man as his Vice-President.
”In his second outing he did the same too. In 2015, the president gave Igbo people four solid ministries, with substantive ministers, and the chain of other ministries.
”Now look at the Aba-Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway that has been abandoned for years, today the road is not only motorable but standard that you can travel from Aba to Enugu without potholes.
”Look at the second Niger Bridge which was also abandoned for years, today that project is nearing completion. This is just to mention but a few.
”The President’s coming shows that he loves the Igbo and he will keep doing more for the Igbo.”
The president had on Sept. 6 virtually declared open the 47th African Insurance Organisation (AIO) Conference and Annual General Assembly where he urged insurance firms in Nigeria to take advantage of ongoing efforts by the Federal Government to grow the non-oil sector of the economy through innovation.
He commended the role of insurance firms in encouraging medical practitioners to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
According to him, the insurance sector will play a vital role in the diversification of the economy by bringing necessary stability, economic sustainability, revenue generation, job creation and financial inclusivity.
“There is a great future for the insurance industry in Africa. We only need to put the right mechanisms in place for it to thrive. I assure you that this administration has and will continue to support insurance growth in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Also on Sept. 6, the president hosted Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governor, who spoke to State House correspondents at the end of the closed door meeting with the president, revealed that Buhari would soon inaugurate 20 projects successfully executed by the State Government to uplift the quality of life of the people.
Umahi, who prayed to God to give Nigeria next president (in 2023) with good heart like Buhari, commended the president for the execution of mega projects in the South Eastern part of the country.
He maintained that such projects, when completed, would have great impact on the people of the region.
Also on Sept. 6, Buhari hosted Rotary International President, Mr Shekhar Mehta, and some officials, at the State House, Abuja.
He thanked the Rotary Club for its various interventions in the health sector, particularly putting in 268 million dollars in the fight against Polio.
According to the Nigerian leader, the Federal Government will continue drawing from the expertise, partnership and consistency learnt from the eradication of Polio in the country to strengthen the health sector.
“Nigeria has benefitted from your kind support, most particularly in the fight against Polio, with a total sum of 268 million dollars provided by Rotary International. For this, I say thank you.
Similarly, the president on Sept. 6, approved the setting up of a Health Sector Reform Committee, to be chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, for development and implementation of a Health Sector Reform programme for Nigeria.
The committee would also work in collaboration with State Governments and the FCT administration.
Other members of the committee are: Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta; Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health; Mr Alex Okoh, Director General, BPE; Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University College London and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health.
Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council; Sen. Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe; Dr Adedamola Dada; Dr Sani Aliyu and Dr Mairo Mandara would also serve in the committee.
Others are: Dr Haliru Yahaya, Emir of Shonga; Prof. Uche Amazigbo; Director Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health; Dr Faisal Shuaib; Prof. Nasiru Sambo; Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa, and Dr Gambo Aliyu.
Other members of the committee are Dr Betta Edu (Chairman, Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum, representing National Council on Health); President, Nigeria Medial Association; and President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria.
The President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives; President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria; Mrs Temi Marcella Awogboro; Dr Muhammad Sadiq; Dr Azubike Tagbo, and World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Nigeria are also members of the committee.
Vesta Healthcare Partners and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would serve as resources persons, with observer roles in the committee.
Buhari had also approved the appointment of Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa, who is also a member of the committee, as the new Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The president, on Sept. 7, received the Saudi Arabian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal Al-Saud, where he maintained that the oil rich kingdom has been quite kind to Nigeria.
Buhari observed that with Nigeria’s large population and infrastructure deficit, the country needed all the revenue she could get from oil, a mainstay of the economy, “and Saudi Arabia has been very kind to us, making sacrifice by reducing production to accommodate us a number of times”.
Buhari also presided over the routine meeting of the National Security Council on Sept. 7, where he reiterated the commitment of his administration to safeguard the lives and property of all citizens irrespective of their socio-economic status in the society.
On Sept. 8, the president chaired the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), during which the council approved the policy on deployment of Fifth Generation network, popularly known as 5-G
NAN also reports that the council also approved a National Policy on Food and Nutrition as part of deliberate efforts to ensure healthy workforce in the country.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, confirmed this when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the council meeting.
According to him, following the approval of the new policy, there will be budgetary provisions for food and nutrition in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government and possibly in all tiers of government.
He also revealed that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was given the go ahead with the process for ratification of Nigeria’s occupational safety and health convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which was passed in 2006.
According to the presidential aide, the resolution seeks to enhance safety and healthcare in work places across the country.
Shehu also disclosed that the council approved N1.2 billion for emergency repairs of water supply facilities in Nasarawa State.
According to him, the approval follows the need to fix water pipelines destroyed by floods in the state.
The Minister of Power, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, who also addressed the correspondents on the outcome of the FEC meeting, disclosed that the council approved N470.8 billion for the purchase of maintenance equipment for the nation’s power sector.
Also during the week under review, the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari, called on well-meaning citizens to come to the aid of victims of insurgency and banditry, particularly on the education of children from the States affected by security challenges.
She made the appeal during an inspection tour of a school built by the Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF) in Maiduguri, Borno, on Sept. 7.
NAN reports that the school, which has been completed and named Future Assured College, has attracted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Victims Support Fund (VSF).
In an address read by the Board Secretary of the Aisha Buhari Foundation, Mrs Halima Buhari-Sheriff, the First Lady expressed optimism that the school would provide an opportunity for the children of the less privileged to get quality education and grow into future generational leaders.
Also Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo represented President Buhari at a virtual Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS member-states on the political developments in the Republics of Guinea and Mali on Sept. 8
Osinbajo said: ”The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must take proactive steps to prevent coups d’etat in the sub-region, and even on the continent, because the unconstitutional seizure of power in any shape or form is simply unacceptable and has no place in the 21st century.”
NAN reports that the meeting, attended by 10 of the ECOWAS leaders, alongside others, including representatives from the United Nations, came after Guinean President Alpha Conde was ousted by a coup d’etat in the West African country on Sept. 5.
This culminated in his arrest and detention by the country’s military junta, the dissolution of the Guinean Government, suspension of the Constitution, and a military takeover.
While stating Nigeria’s position on the unfortunate development in Guinea, Osinbajo said: “I join all well-meaning global leaders to express in the strongest terms the condemnation of the Government of Nigeria of this unconstitutional change of Government; a development that could seriously destabilise the Republic of Guinea.”
The vice-president also on Sept. 9, attended the funeral service of Pa Abiodun, father of Gov. Dapo Abiodun of Ogun.
Osinbajo noted that the late Pa Abiodun was “a rare breed, a man who served his family, his community, his nation, and his God; and he served them well.”
Buhari concluded the week with an appeal to striking health workers to return to their duty posts, urging others contemplating strikes to opt for settlement of issues by negotiation, no matter how long it takes.
The president made the appeal when he hosted members of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) at the State House, Abuja, on Sept. 10.
According to the president, the lives of citizens that can be lost or damaged when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences.
Buhari assured that all outstanding benefits owed medical doctors would be cleared after verifications, noting that embarking on industrial action at a critical health period for the country and citizens is not a good option.
“Protecting our citizens is not to be left to government alone, but taken as a collective responsibility, in which especially medical professionals play a critical role,” he stressed.