Former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the weekend told the excited crowd of academicians, students, politicians and business leaders who gathered at the Njala University, Sierra Leone where he was conferred with the Honorary Doctorate Degree of Civil Laws (Honoris Causa), that the All Progressives Party was formed so that Nigeria could avoid social calamity.
“We formed the APC so Nigerians from all walks of life and social station might gather under one tent to develop the nation on the basis of equity and shared prosperity. What we seek is a fair social compact that we may avoid social calamity,” he said.
Tinubu said the APC is more than a political party interested only in political power. He described the party as a mission, “a calling forth of the nation to realise its better self”, insisting that it is a call for the nation to fulfill its destiny.
“We realised that if Nigeria continues as it is, it will soon collide into the barrier of its internal contradictions. A land of vast wealth yet vast penury; a people of great talent and energy but also of despair and unproductivity born out of their jobless poverty. A land that exports the raw materials that helps fuel, electrify and lubricate the global economy but one that lives more in darkness than in light.”
The APC leader said for that change to happen in Nigeria, all those who desire change must be committed to the same cause. “I have worked too hard and long for the progress of our people to countenance such a broken outcome. We must reform ourselves so that we can fully occupy the destiny our people deserve,” Tinubu said.
Njala University, the best rated higher institution in Sierra Leone, in picking Tinubu for the award, cited his contributions to the deepening of democracy Nigeria and the sub-region and the tremendous transformation of Lagos State when he was governor. The university, which marked its 50th anniversary, also contends that Tinubu towers above many people considered for the award as he remains active in public service.
Describing him as a “great son of Africa”, the university attributed the award to Tinubu’s virtues, political exploits, intellectual acumen and strategic thinking.
In his acceptance speech to the over 6,000 people, titled: “The best is yet to come”, he saluted the comeback spirit of the people of Sierra Leone.
Tinubu said: “From the ash and dust of war, you have stepped forward as a nation, a small nation engulfed by such a big war, you persevered defying the odds. No nation, no people ought to have suffered as you have, you teetered on the brink of extinction. Yet with some help from your friends, you averted a disaster that seemed inevitable and permanent.”
Tinubu said Africa needs to invest in the education of the youths, who are the limbs and hands of future development, saying for Sierra Leone the worst is over.
“You held fast to a thin ray of hope until it grew to fill the sky above the nation, where there was nothing but breakage and destruction, now is learning and the building of new buildings, new lives and new dreams. A new nation has risen from the old, the worst has passed, the best is yet to come,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma extolled the virtues of Tinubu who visited him in his office in Freetown, saying that his country was proud to be associated with persons like him.
“We should honour people like you. Before the UN came, Nigeria stood by us, with soldiers whose blood and sweat watered our tree of liberation. For somebody like you, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has demonstrated great leadership quality, we are happy to be associated with you.
“If we are making any progress here, it is because of the efforts and contributions people like you have made. Everything that happens in Nigeria affects us here. Good leadership in Nigeria affects us. We are watching events in Nigeria as it unfolds and at the end we hope democracy and the will of the people will prevail.”
Koroma said Africa only needs transformative leadership, adding that “Governor Tinubu, you have what it takes for such leadership. Some of us are fortunate to be associated with you,” he said.
He added that Sierra Leone would deepen its relationship with Nigeria, adding that the country was on the rebound.
“Oil exploration is growing, mining is growing, iron ore potentials are there and agriculture is good. 60 per cent of Sierra Leoneans are engaged in agriculture. We are commercialising agriculture. There is a lot we can share from Nigeria’s experience. We will try to implement our agenda for posterity.
“We have come a long way. There is still a long way to emancipate our people. We are rebuilding our country and the lives of our people. Efforts to stabilise our country and people are on. We are opening up Sierra Leone. Soon, Sierra Leone will become very attractive for investment. Sierra Leone just needs time. We put in place proper structures to get the country working again,” he said.
Tinubu said if Africa must be attractive for Foreign Direct Investment, it must look inwards for renaissance and build institutions that will support good governance and democracy.
“Priority must be given to education, help the common man, fight poverty, give affordable healthcare. Sierra Leone has come a long way. Mr. President you are a major actor. Your two elections reflect commitment to democracy.
“I congratulate you for providing the kind of leadership Africa requires. We will support all efforts to strengthen economy, good governance and bring about 21st century. We can be our brother’s keepers and promoters of good governance and prosperity. Nigeria will stand by you. If a person of African descent (Obama) can lead the greatest country in the world, then we can go a long way. I appreciate your friendship.”