I am honoured to be here today as the Special Guest of Honour at the 2019 Children’s Day celebrations. For four years now, we have made this a yearly ritual where our worthy future leaders are celebrated and get challenged to be the best they can possibly be!
2. It was the former U.S First Lady, Hilary Clinton who once stated that “it takes a village” to raise children. What she meant essentially was that to raise upstanding children whom we would pass on the baton of leadership, all hands must be on deck to get the job done.
3. As a Government, we have endeavoured to do just that in the last four years. We have strengthened the Child Rights Act which among other provisions criminalizes truancy. Determined to ensure that our children are prepared for the opportunities of the 21st Century, we have made huge investments in our education sector by improving our free education programme, providing modern learning tools and creating the right environment for our children to study.
4. We have remodelled several schools across the three senatorial districts and continue to pay the over 600 million Naira WAEC fees so no child may be left behind on account of economic adversity their parents may encounter. The result of this has seen our school enrolments quadrupled. You may have read some politically motivated report in a section of the media by the National Bureau of Statistics on the so-called out of school kids which if I may quote former American President, President George H. Bush is nothing but “voodoo” statistics.
5. It appears some people have simply refused to understand that the period of politicking is over, and that now is the time for governance. We will not join issues with them; rather our works will continue to speak for us. We remain dedicated to raising children who will compete with their counterparts all over the world fully conscious that the best legacy any leader can leave is one where the future of our people, especially our children is guaranteed.
6. As much as we are doing all these, we also call on the parents to ensure that they lead their wards on the right path of moral rectitude and obedience to the laws of the land. Parents have a great if not greater role to play in shaping and distilling the right values into their wards. They must inculcate in them the fear of God and the acute understanding of the principles of right and wrong. They must shun cultism, and other anti-social behaviour that may stand in their way of rising to the faith of their greatness. That is why I am particularly thrilled with the theme of this year’s celebrations “Drug Abuse among Children; Addressing the Challenges”. According to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics Drug Use in Nigeria 2018 Survey Report “the past year prevalence of drug use in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 percent or 14.3 million people aged 15-64”. This statistics is alarming to say the least especially given the age range in review.
7. The result of this is the uptick in crimes of rape, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other low level and high stake criminal activities among our youths and the reason why we have maintained a zero-tolerance on these tendencies leading our State to becoming arguably the safest State in Nigeria. A situation where children sent to school to study and become productive citizens instead of immersing themselves in their academic pursuits rather elect to engage in cultism, rape and other anti-social behaviour will and cannot be tolerated. The Americans have a saying “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen; if you are not willing to do the time, then don’t do the crime.”
8. Let me use this opportunity to again sound a note of warning to our youths: don’t do the crime because you may not have the opportunity to do the time. You have been given everything to become all that you ever wanted to be, seize the moment and do your parents and our State proud. Drug abuse will not lead you to the fulfilment of your purpose in life; it will rather take you down the path of destruction.
9. As we gear up for our inauguration into the Second Term in a few days, I want to reemphasize that it is a great time to be an Akwaibomite. Your State is safe and industrializing; our educational sector is improving spectacularly; our health-care delivery is the pride of the nation; our people are rising to the faith of greatness, by internalizing a new orientation predicated on the “can -do spirit”.
10. We are the only State in the nation and indeed, the whole of Africa with a functional airline, Ibom Air. We are building infrastructures that tomorrow will free our State with the resources to use for other developmental programs. To put it in simple terms, the fundamentals of our growth and prosperity are rock-solid. I therefore urge our youths to resist peer pressure to engage in illicit behaviour and to celebrate the future that is staring glowingly at them. Akwa Ibom is Rising and together, we will rise to the faith of our greatness and fulfil our potentials.
11. I wish you a Happy Children’s Day Anniversary and God bless.