1. I thank everyone for taking part in this important symposium. The importance of this event is not that it comes on my birthday. It is due to the topic explored and the richness of the contributions made in this regard. I am simply honored that you would use my birthday as a platform for this vital national discourse.
2. I tender a deep APPRECIATION to Vice President Osinbajo and all others who organized this colloquium. Yours has been a job excellently done. Above all, I thank President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for giving of his precious time to be here today.In so doing, you have provided a most wonderful birthday present. Thank you.
3. You also have given to the people of Nigeria something even more important. Mr. President, in your Easter message, you asked the people to be steadfast and of strong hope because you would not let them down. That you would fulfill your promise to bring positive change to our beloved land.
4. Today, on my birthday, I ask that you allow me to support what you said to the people. I believe in our President and his administration. He is a leader dedicated to the betterment of Nigeria. He needs our support to make this a reality.
5. During the 7th Colloquium which held last year (2015) in Lagos, I recall I made a request. I said the best birthday gift I wanted was for people go out and vote massively to secure election victory. To the glory of God, our party, the APC won a remarkable victory.
6. That historic victory has placed on us a heavy responsibility to right the wrongs of the past years. Our path may be tough at present. But I do not entertain fear because I know our people are more resilient than the challenges we face.
Thus, I also ask the people to be of firm conviction and strong hope that we are working for and moving toward a better day.
7. I believe in destiny. Yes, the times that have come upon us are rough. Yet, I cannot help but believe that we have been put here at this appointed place and appointed time for a reason more profound than mere coincidence.
8. The workings of harsh economic reality have revealed the fragility of the economic position we have too long occupied. With the downturn in oil prices, this nation can no longer function as it did. The lack of government performance that has for years been a source of pain is no longer tolerable. This government is committed to reversing the trend towards a positive and progressive outcome.
9. We have reached the point where we can no longer look the other way because there is longer another way. If we are to experience a new growth and development, we must do it ourselves. Nigerians must become Nigeria’s lifeline.
10. Those who came before us believed in weak governance but strong corruption. They were the authors of the malfeasance and ruthless indifference that enchained this nation and its remarkable people. They acted as if their pilferage would never end. But it was ended by the people of this great country.
11. However, destiny does not believe in failure. It would never ask people like that to correct the wrongs they themselves had instituted. We can’t expect the author to burn his own book. That group could no more be the rebuilders of a new Nigeria than wind can turn to rock or mud into gold.
12. That correction has begun. This is why I am gratified to have President Buhari among us today. Upon his shoulders rest the fate of 170 million people. However, he does not carry that burden alone. Permit to speak for the vast majority of Nigerians who dream of the same change of which you speak Mr.President: We are with you. We are determined. We have resolved to re-build this country together.
13. Here, I beg your indulgence to allow me a few words about the subject matter at hand: Agriculture.
We have heard many excellent ideas and suggestions. I foresee much of what we heard will soon be implemented policy. The nation will soon enjoy a rebirth of this vital economic sector.
14. Through it all, we need remember that what we have discussed cannot be reduced to a gaggle of aggregate economic figures. It is not about this or that rate of GDP growth. Those are numbers intended to help us read the story but we should never see them as the true story itself.
15. Our real quest is to strive to provide the people with sufficient food at affordable prices. The real story is that our farmers and their land must become more productive but they also must be secured with better pay for their increased output. The real story is that our produce must not go to waste but much more of it must be turned into processed goods for domestic consumption.
16. In the end, we strive to make this a land where no child goes to bed in want and hunger. A land where no loving mother or father is brought to tears because they have not a grain of rice or slice of bread to feed their family. A country where no farmer is made poorer the more he works.
17. Let us move from where we now are into becoming that nation that feeds not only its people but has a surplus to bolster its neighbors and beyond.
Let us arrive at the place where our country side can feed our cities and our cities can produce the manufactured goods needed in both the city and countyside.
Nigeria’s detractors want to label us a wobbly basket case. Well, let us show them that we can become a vibrant breadbasket for this region and the continent.
I know this is the Nigeria that this administration wants. I know this is the Nigeria the people want. I know this is the Nigeria that is to come. As such, I thank you all for this wonderful birthday present you have given me.
May God bless you and may He forever bless the FRN.