Let me start by saying how truly honoured and privileged I am to have just been decorated as the Grand Patron of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State branch. But it is a bigger honour to have been asked to felicitate you at another yearly thanksgiving of our Interdenominational Divine Service, which is called IDDS 2021, with the theme ‘A new beginning, a new dawn and a new glory’.
A year ago when we were at the Baptist Shepherd Hill Church where our CAN President, Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, admonished us and challenged us, the first index case of COVID-19 had not happened in Nigeria. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the unprecedented security challenges facing our dear country. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the huge destruction that came out of the peaceful EndSARS protests that we witnessed in Lagos. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the recession that has culminated in the economic crises in our country and the world. And so, everyone of us here today has every reason to thank the Almighty God that has kept us because it has been a difficult year.
The last one year has been a difficult year for us as a government. In the last one year, Nigeria has had to test over one million for COVID-19. Nigeria has been hit by over 150,000 infected patients. Your Lagos, our Lagos, has remained the epicenter of the virus, with over 40 per cent of all of the national statistics. Globally, the virus has taken over 2.5million people; it has infected over 10million.
Lagos also witnessed an unprecedented protest that started peacefully. Our youths, the leaders of today, voiced their grievances to all of us in government and this led to the destruction that we have never seen before in this part of the world. We were asking ourselves, “how did we get here?” We have also seen that within that one year, Nigeria’s economy had been hit by recession. We have seen high numbers of unemployment. We have seen huge security challenges that have shaken the foundation of our country. We have seen all of the economic challenges that have not only hit Nigeria but have hit the bigger parts of the entire world. But we thank God that we are standing and we are seated today with the grace that the Most High has given to each and every one of us.
And so, if we reflect back and also listen to the gospel this morning; I will read part of it. “And he says, why do you eat and drink with the collectors and the sinners?” Who are the collectors and the sinners? Probably politicians, including me, standing in front of you; government officials standing in front of you. Why? But our Lord Jesus answered and said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” I think if that passage did not hit all of you, it hit me because it is time for sober reflection. It is a time that the topic we have taken here today, ‘A new beginning, a new dawn and a new glory’, cannot be better imagined and cannot be better put forward. Is it the security situation in our country? It calls for prayers now more than ever before. It calls for our intercession. It calls for all of us to come together, stronger, bigger and better. Our father, the CAN President, spoke last year; it was as if he predicted it. He was crying at the top of his voice then that the security situation of the country was going down. We all did not take it seriously.
We have all witnessed the challenges of our country. We don’t have any other place that we can call home. We need to be very careful not to turn the security issues in our land into an ethnic, religious or tribal war. We need to be careful to ensure that we bring out and we isolate criminally-minded people in our community. Let’s avoid tribalising it, giving it an ethnic coloration or turning it into a religious issue. We are the largest country in Africa; where will we go to? Who will take us? Where can we get on to? We have no other land than here and that is why I said that, indeed, Nigeria needs a new beginning. Nigeria needs a new dawn. Nigeria needs a new glory.
We are fighting not only health and medical wars because, like I told us, COVID is still around; all of us are masked up; we cannot even identify ourselves. We can’t hug ourselves. We can’t greet ourselves and we can’t even shake ourselves. So, we have a health issue that is bothering all of us. We have an economic issue that is challenging us. The country is just coming out of a recession – let us hope that it really comes out of it- when people find it difficult to earn a living, when people find it difficult to eat three decent meals a day. We are confronted with security challenges. We cannot afford to add political instability to it.
Are we saying that God Almighty is not aware? Are we? Certainly not. God Almighty is aware and He doesn’t shake from where He is. So, the challenge is for all of us as leaders in our various spheres of endeavor; be it religious leaders, be it political leaders, economic leaders, health or medical leaders, office leaders, church leaders to take up the responsibility and ask ourselves, “what can I do differently to make sure that we all have a better tomorrow?” “How will I leave this place better for our children and grandchildren than we have met it?”
I am not going to attempt to preach a sermon because my father in the Lord is most competent to do that. I am just here to challenge us, to encourage us and to say to us because we are sons and daughters of the Most High, that our tomorrow, working together and collaboratively, will be better than our today. And so, I want to first congratulate the immediate past chairman of Lagos CAN, a very good senior friend and father of mine, Apostle (Prof) Alex Bamgbola, who had held that leadership for six years, so graciously. Baba, thank you very much. But the baton has changed; it is about the new leadership that has been sworn in today. We know that he is capable, but he needs each and everyone of us for his tenure to be bigger, greater and mightier than his predecessor’s.
Today, more than ever before, we need to come together as a nation. We need to come together as the body of Christ. Our leadership in the Christian faith needs to come stronger together, irrespective of your individual differences, and let us hold the beacon and the light of the nation together and pray to the Almighty that during our time, greater and better things will happen. Not under your watch, will we see a crumbling nation or crumbling state. It will never happen and it will never happen in your time.
For my government and me, we will continue with all our strength to serve you and serve you well. We will continue to use every breath that God has given to us. Transparently and truthfully, we will continue to push all the economic pillars that we have set for ourselves. For Traffic Management and Transportation, I will come here some day and say to you that our railways have started working. I will come here some day and I will declare to you that we have opened up 16 brand new jetty terminals that you can use for water transportation. I will come here one day and I will tell you new bridges have been built, like the one we opened yesterday to connect various parts of the city. On Health and Environment, I will come here one day and I will declare to you that we have built the biggest children hospital in West Africa. I will come here one day and I will tell you that we have built an Infectious Disease Research Centre, the biggest in Africa, so that when another pandemic comes, we can begin to produce vaccines in Nigeria, in Lagos. We do not need to wait for anybody in America or India for them to produce vaccines for us. Under Education and Technology, I will come here one day and I will say to you that almost every house will have an internet connectivity that will be second to none. The one we are deploying is to ensure that all of our youths and young people have internet connectivity that would be available at a cheaper rate. I will come to you one day and say that, indeed, we have added 1,500 new classrooms to our public schools. I will come to you one day and say that we have recruited additional 5,000 teachers; that indeed we have renovated over 500 schools that are all in the public space. Under Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, I will come here one day and I will say to you that even as difficult as power is, we have been able to galvanise and ensure that power is accessible, affordable and it is in all the nooks and crannies of the state. And that power will not just be for two-three minutes, you can have power for a minimum of 20 hours a day to run your businesses.
These are the commitments that we are putting together. I will come here one day and I will say though we may not be able to build houses for everybody, but we can add another 10,000 housing stock to the housing needs of the state and these houses would be available on a long term basis so that you don’t need to pay with a single cheque to be a house or home owner. Because of the strong youth population that we have, I will come here one day to say that our entertainment and tourism industry is second to none in the whole of Africa. Because, indeed, we would have galvanized and we would have encouraged those youths to be real entrepreneurs, the people who can carry our culture and our tourism outside the shores of our country. And finally, I will come here one day to talk boldly about Security and Good Governance and I will be able to tell you that, indeed, we all can sleep with our two eyes closed because by that time we believe that what we be have been asking for under the State Police would have come to reality and we can put our money where our mouth is and I can fully protect each and every one of you. This is the Lagos of my dream. This is the Lagos that I see. This is the Lagos that we are promising you. And this is the Lagos that we believe is possible for each and every one of us.
Children of God, I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for holding faith, for listening to your religious leaders and for believing that indeed as a child of the Most High God, He will continue to protect us. God does not promise that there would not be challenges; He doesn’t say that our roads will not be shaken. But He promises us that at the end of all of it, he will take us out of all the troubles of this world and will build a better one for us. So, on that note, I want to thank you very much for being a part of IDDS this year and I hope that when I see you next year, it would be for greater news from Lagos. Thank you very much.
- Being excerpts of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s speech at the Interdenominational Divine Service organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Apostolic Church, Ketu on February 20.
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