The late Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari who died Friday night, December 28, 2018, at the National Hospital, Abuja, was inaugurated as the first executive president of Nigeria on October 1, 1979.
Shagari, who served seven times in a ministerial or cabinet post as a federal minister and federal commissioner from 1958–1975, became the president after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo's military government.
Below, Legit.ng brings to you the speech the late Shagari delivered at his inaugural ceremony on October 1, 1979.
Read full speech: "Fellow Nigerians, we have witnessed today the birth of the Second Republic of Nigeria. With the swearing-in-ceremony this morning, I have formally assumed office as your first executive president. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your patience, and support throughout the period of transition. The Second Republic has come after almost 14 years of military rule in the course of which we went through a civil war. Today, our new constitution comes into effect; a constitution carefully drawn up by ourselves for ourselves. We are assuming office as a result of a free, democratic and peaceful election. We must be proud of this, and we must be grateful to God and to all those who have worked so hard to make it possible. This is an occasion which calls for sober reflection on the problems of the First Republic in order to appreciate the magnitude of the tasks ahead. The problems of creating a national government, a viable economic base and the integration of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria in fairness and without acrimony, overwhelmed the First Republic. These problems are still with us. And, it is our determination to do our utmost to contribute to their solution. This Second Republic is a great challenge and a new opportunity for all of us.
This administration is determined that the slogan of “One Nation, One Destiny” shall be translated into reality. We are not so naive as to think that nationalism is a natural phenomenon, which comes about automatically, as we grow. It has not been so in any part of the world. National integration requires hard work. There is need for a dedicated leadership and citizenry imbued with faith to cultivate a wide-spread national feeling for “One Nigeria.”
I am convinced that these goals are attainable because we are at this time operating in more auspicious circumstances. Surely, we have learnt great lessons from the past and we have no need to permit divisive factors to continue to undermine our national well-being. I urge all Nigerians to join me in working with resolution for the attainment of these goals. The first thing is for all those who have participated in the recent elections to work together, whether they won or lost. Now that the elections are over, we must act as good sportsmen, set aside differences and harness our energies to the task of nation-building. I would like to enjoin all our state governors to bear in mind that regardless of their party affiliations, the interest of the nation is supreme. The state which each of them governs is simply a part of Nigeria and a part cannot indeed be greater than a whole.I congratulate them in their new position and sincerely urge them as well as every other citizen of this great country to join hands with me in facing the great task ahead. For my part, I assure you all that the Federal Government will give equal treatment to each state of the Federation regardless of the party in power in that state.
Fellow citizens, great challenges and opportunities are before us. While noticeable achievements have been made, the problems of our economy have become even more complicated. There has been a steep rise in the rate of inflation in Nigeria as is the case all over the world. Nevertheless, we are dedicated to building a viable economy by fostering broad mass participation and the utilization of local resources. This way, we shall enhance our economic independence. Our key domestic programmes are in the sectors of Agriculture, Housing, Education, Health, Industry and the new Federal Capital. Our first great challenge is agriculture. Throughout the election campaigns, our party, the National Party of Nigeria, made strong commitments to the people of this country to rapidly develop and improve agriculture. For centuries, generations of Nigerian farmers have struggled with technologies invented by our ancestors to meet the demands of a long gone age and to wrest a living from a weary and exhausted soil. I personally spoke many times on our policy for a Green Revolution. There is need to provide adequate food for every family. There is need to stop the current drain of foreign exchange on the importation of foodstuff. We are determined to transform Nigeria’s agriculture to the point where Nigeria will be self-sufficient in food production and ensure that the money is more effectively utilized. We shall devote more manpower and technological resources to increase our agricultural productivity and expand our agro-based industries. We shall immediately map out strategies to encourage Nigerians to engage in fruitful agricultural activities. In addition, we shall encourage joint ventures with foreign partners to establish farming as commercial and profitable enterprises to produce food as well as raw materials.
New emphasis will be placed on modern methods of food storage, distribution and processing. Because of the importance we attach to housing, we shall establish a Ministry of Housing and Environment. Good shelter is recognised by our government as the right of every Nigerian. There is no doubt that to meet acceptable human standards, Nigeria will require millions of additional housing units in the urban, as well as in the rural areas. Our current resources and industrial base cannot immediately produce enough housing units to meet our current demand. However, we will vigorously attack the problem of housing.
In the urban areas, we will immediately create new layouts to be serviced by adequate drainage systems, roads and other infrastructure.Through an improved financing system, urban dwellers will have more credit to build their own houses. In rural areas and small towns, the establishment of Rural Housing Co-operatives will be encouraged.Financial institutions will be encouraged to make loans available to needy low-income families who wish to build or rebuild their own houses. A primary objective is to create the right atmosphere for a rapid increase in home ownership. We strongly believe that home ownership will lead to family pride and healthy surroundings in every Nigerian community. Since the cost of building a house is directly related to the cost of building materials, our government will encourage the local production of building materials. Continuous research will be undertaken and factories will be established for the local manufacture of durable and low-cost building materials. Education is our next priority programme.
Fellow citizens, know that the elections are over and October 1 is here, the realities of the problem of education stare us boldly in the face. This government accepts the responsibility for free education at all levels as has been provided for in the Constitution. The main problem, however, is how to make education accessible to all even the current financial constraints and inadequacy of teachers and educational facilities. We need more schools, more teachers, more laboratories, more books more desks more playing fields and numerous other supplies and equipment all of which are involved with the increase in enrolment. These cannot be found overnight. My administration is irrevocably committed to making education a priority. We shall immediately expand education infrastructure in order to cope with the demand at all levels of our educational system. We also plan to make education more qualitative and functional with a sound moral content. To this end, we shall improve the quality of teachers and conditions of service in order to attract them in the right number and quality. We shall encourage individuals and Voluntary Agencies to open schools as long as they meet government guidelines. The need for technical manpower and the rapid development of technology, demand that we maximise the use of all technical and vocational institutions in the country and establish many more. In this connection, we shall establish a Ministry of Science and Technology, which shall develop policies to be reflected throughout our educational system. I like to emphasize that our overall policy seeks to provide education that will equip all recipients with the necessary attitude, knowledge and skill to contribute to national development.
Directly related to these priority programmes both at home and abroad, is the need to create a more suitable economic environment. There is need to transform our under-developed country into a modern industrialized society. To achieve this objective requires the energy of all of us. Our government is determined to release the creative energies of enterprising Nigerians and encourage them to help develop the economy for the good of all. I particularly call on the Labour Movement to rise up to the challenges of our time. I am aware of the constraints under whichNigerian workers have had to live in the immediate past. The wage freeze in an era of biting inflation has had to be maintained in view of the resource constraints of our developing economy; but there are certainly limits beyond which no democratic government will wish to demand sacrifices from workers. The wage freeze issue, the question of car loans, the question of labour independence and the restoration of the free collective bargaining rank as priorities in the labour policy of my government. Arrangements are on hand for a dialogue between government and the leaders of organised labour: issues will be reviewed. Thereafter, I will take necessary action to effect remedies in the interests of the nation, and of the nation’s workers. This administration stands committed to ameliorate the conditions of Nigerian workers through appropriate measures including consultation and legislation. However, we must all be determined to see that higher wages and better conditions of service are matched by higher productivity in the interest of national development. As we develop our economy, we shall be in a better position to provide the needed services and amenities for all our citizens. We shall then be better equipped to improve our health and other social services programmes for the nation.
In the area of foreign policy, as your president, I will continue to advance and defend the cause of our great country before the world comity of nations. It is our national will that Africa shall remain the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Also it is our national will that Africa shall be free, free of racial bigotry, free of oppression, and free from the vestiges of colonialism. My government is determined to see the cause of justice and human decency prevail in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We shall continue to support all forces of progress and oppose all forces of oppression in Africa and elsewhere.I hereby re-affirm our faith and support for the charter of the United Nations and the universal declaration of human rights, the charter of the Organisation of African Unity, the Economic Community of West African States, and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Our watchword shall always be the advancement of mankind and the enhancement of the cause of peace, prosperity and progress through mutual respect and co-operation between nations.
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I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to members of our Armed Forces and to our immediate predecessors in office. They have successfully guided the destiny of our nation through trying conditions. Their discipline, devotion to duty and loyalty to the country have been tested and proved beyond doubt. I trust they will keep it up. You all remember when the Government of General Murtala Mohammed and General Obasanjo came to power, it gave a pledge to return this nation to civil rule on October 1, 1979. They have kept their word as true men of honour and today, the country has been duly handed over to a democratically elected government. History will indelibly record this nation’s gratitude to their exemplary leadership, dedication, statesmanship and courage.
I want to conclude this address by greeting all Nigerians of all walks of life on this historic day. I salute our law enforcement agencies including the Police and all those working in the public and private sectors. I salute all our traditional rulers, fathers of our communities and custodians of our cultural heritage. I also salute our religious leaders, custodians of faith and morals. My fellow citizens, the task ahead is enormous and it is a task for all of us. Our government is committed to building a united, stable and prosperous nation, I need your contribution, co-operation and support. Nigeria can and must become a great and modern nation. Let us with true conscience and determination join hands and re-dedicate ourselves to the service of this great country so that it will be a place we can and shall all be proud of. We cannot afford to fail in this task and by the grace of God, we shall succeed.
May God bless our country and may God bless you all."
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