President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday sent warm greetings to Nigerians, particularly Christians, as they celebrated Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.
But he quickly acknowledged that 2018 was a mixed year of mindless bloodletting and the recovery of the country’s economy from recession, among other challenges.
Buhari personally signed his Christmas message.
He wrote, “I felicitate with all Nigerians, particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, on the joyous occasion of this year’s Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Like I have done in the last three Christmas messages to my fellow compatriots as a serving President, I believe this season is another opportunity to reflect on the imagery of the humble, symbolic and divine birth of a young child thousands of years ago in Bethlehem, Judea, and the message of hope, compassion, salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace that Jesus Christ embodies and conveys.”
The President further stated that 2018 would go down as a year of mixed blessings for Nigerians.
He explained, “In 2018, Nigerians have had mixed blessings, typical of human beings. On the pleasant side, our economy has made significant progress since coming out from recession and our faithful implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“Agricultural revolution has seen a vastly improved local production to the detriment of importation, while we have achieved surplus in our trade balance. Similarly, infrastructural deficit has been greatly reduced with significant improvements in roads, railways, aviation and power.
“In addition, we have not relented in the fight against corruption while the business environment has been improved through institutional reforms.
“On the downside, we have seen so many unnecessary deaths caused by violent clashes between neighbours, who ordinarily should complement and support one another.”
Buhari added that many other lives were lost to floods, unfortunate fire disasters, road accidents, farmers/herders’ clashes and insurgency,” which he said, could no longer be brought back.
He stated, “But, we can put back smiles on the faces of the grieving, the displaced and the troubled, if we show a little love and re-commit ourselves to building relationships with those outside our ethnic, religious and socio-political divides.”
In the spirit of Christmas, the President urged Nigerians to remember those who could not afford food by providing for their needs and pray for them.
He made a similar call to remember the Armed Forces and others facing grave situations to keep the country one.
Buhari added, “Our brave Armed Forces, and other security men and women who make incredible sacrifices to keep us safe, the aged, the sick, physically challenged persons, all deserve our goodwill in this season of love and sharing.
“Together we can show generosity to our neighbours and demonstrate the diversity that makes Nigeria unique – a land with a beautiful climate and vegetation, beaming with an energetic and creative youth population.
“We must not also forget that what lies ahead of us as a nation is better than whatever we must have experienced in the past.”
My word is my bond on fair polls in 2019 – President
On the 2019 polls, Buhari again asked security agencies to fully monitor the exercise to ensure that voting was free, fair and devoid of violence.
“With general elections around the corner and heightened political activities across the country, I have charged our security and law enforcement agencies to secure the sanctity of the ballot box and ensure that the outcome of the polls reflects the will of the Nigerian people.
“My avowed commitment to free, fair, credible and violence-free polls is not a ruse or yet another vain political promise. My word is my bond.
“It is a sworn declaration on the advancement of Nigeria, the future and safety of our young and unborn generations.
“Let us tell the world that, indeed, ‘‘something good’’ can come out from Nigeria. And it will happen, as we all team up to make it happen.”
This is your last Christmas as President, PDP tells Buhari
However, the Peoples Democratic Party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, painted a gloomy picture of the state of the nation. He said 2018 Christmas celebration would be the last time Nigerians would celebrate under what it called oppressive government of Buhari.
Ologbondiyan, who is also Director, Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, appealed to Nigerians to use this year’s Christmas to pray for Nigeria.
The opposition party said the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, signified the triumph of light over darkness.
He stated that Christmas offered Nigerians the new hope and spiritual impetus in their shared quest for a brighter future for the nation under a new administration.
The PDP spokesman stated, “This year’s Christmas celebration is unique, in that it marks the last time Nigerians will be under an oppressive and insensitive administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his dysfunctional All Progressives Congress, which relish in inflicting hunger, suffering and pains on the people.
“The PPCO laments the ugly situation in which Nigerians cannot celebrate a wholesome Christmas as they used to do prior to the emergence of the Buhari presidency in 2015.
“PPCO, however, charges Nigerians not to despair as the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has already perfected templates to revamp our economy and ease suffering in our nation.”
He said Atiku’s policy document showed his commitment to entrench greater participation of the citizens in economic activities in various sectors.
This, according to him, is against the alleged Buhari exclusionist system, where Nigerians’ collective patrimony is only accessed by a cabal in the Presidency and alleged corrupt APC leaders.
Ologbondiyan stated that in the same vein, the Atiku policy document showed practical intervention in infrastructure and policy drive, in such a manner that would guarantee rapid inflow of investments.
According to him, this will in turn, revamp the ailing productive sectors, create jobs, boost the value of the naira and increase the purchasing power of Nigerians from what he regarded as abysmally low level under President Buhari, to one of the most competitive in the world.
He said, “Nigerians should therefore celebrate this year’s Christmas, focusing on the brighter future that awaits our nation under Atiku Abubakar as the next President and not on the pessimism and promise of more suffering by President Buhari.”
Saraki, Dogara seek prayers for peaceful polls
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, have congratulated Nigerians on their resilience in the face of the challenges facing the nation as they celebrate the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, on Monday, also urged the people to pray for improvement in the social, political and economic condition of the country in the New Year.
He urged them to pray for peaceful, credible, free and transparent elections in February and March 2019 so that the results would lead to rapid socio-political and economic development of Nigeria.
The Senate President noted that the elections would be another opportunity to lay a new foundation for the growth and prosperity of the nation and banish poverty from the land.
“The security agencies must of necessity redouble their efforts to ensure that the Christmas and New Year celebrations are observed peacefully across the country,” Saraki added.
Dogara, in his Christmas message to Nigerians, urged them to imbibe the spirit of the season, which he said, was the love of God for humanity.
Dogara noted that it was because of the love of God for humanity that “He allowed His son to come into the world for the ultimate goal of redemption.”
He said that “such selfless love is what Christians should reflect in their dealings with one another.”
The Speaker added that God’s solution “to humanity’s problems is love,” adding that embracing God’s love would put an end to wanton killings, ethnic and religious clashes, and other evils that had stunted the nation’s growth.
He urged Nigerians to be steadfast in prayer for the country, adding that they should use the Christmas season to practise the love of God by sharing whatever they have with the needy.
Atiku seeks support for security agencies
Atiku, in his Christmas message, urged Nigerians to show love to another, irrespective of religious inclinations.
The PDP presidential candidate, in a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, on Monday harped on the imperativeness of reconciliation.
Atiku also urged Nigerians to spare a thought for the nation’s military and security forces who are on the frontlines on the war on terror.
He lamented that there were divisions in the country and called for national unity and cohesion.
Atiku, said, “Seeing that the essence of Christmas is that Christ came to earth to reconcile us to God, should we not, as beneficiaries of such divine reconciliation, reciprocate it by being reconciled with each other during this Yuletide period and beyond?
“There are too many divisions in our nation today and it is up to each and every one of us to inject the healing and unifying serum of love for our neighbour into the nation’s consciousness this Christmas.”
2019, a year of blessings for Nigeria –Obasanjo
However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said though the situation in Nigeria was getting worrisome by the day, 2019 would be a year of blessings for the citizens and the country.
Obasanjo, according to a statement on Monday by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, spoke on Sunday at the 2018 Christmas Carol and Service of six lessons of the Chapel of Christ the Glorious King of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta.
According to the statement, the former President raised the hope of Nigerians ahead of 2019, saying, “it will indeed be a year of blessings for all and sundry in the country.”
He said, “It will be a year of blessings for each one of us and particularly for Nigeria. When people come to me and say they are giving up on the country, I tell them no, that next year is a year of blessings for all.
“With right statements, right actions, people will be trooping back into the country. We had it before, there is no reason not to have it again,” Obasanjo told the congregation.
The former President also urged Nigerians not to encourage violence in the country, adding that peace was very important in view of the growing insecurity in the country.
He lamented that the situation of insecurity as a result of kidnapping and killings in every part of the country was the same.
The former President, however, warned Nigerians against allowing peace to elude Nigeria.
Obasanjo stated, “If peace eludes us, it is not an act of God, but our own making. That is why I am happy that our Bishop in his sermon also talked about peace. This is the appropriate time to talk about peace; this is the season of peace.”