In celebration of Children’s Day, President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday hosted some select pupils and students from schools in the Federal Capital Territory, using the event to present his comic book, which contains seven key messages on the role of children in nation building.
Addressing the children, the President admonished them to build a great Nigeria through honesty, patriotism and unity.
He expressed fulfilment in having this interaction with them at the Council Chamber, State House on the cusp of his exit from office after eight years of service to the nation, stressing that children are the leaders of tomorrow.
Buhari encouraged the children to be good citizens before becoming leaders, highlighting the importance of self-reliance and responsibility to build and develop Nigeria.
He shared his own life journey, recounting how he went from being a child to becoming the leader of the country both as a military officer and a civilian.
His words: “God spared my life to grow up from child to an adult. As students, we were told that we were the leaders of tomorrow. I never knew that I would one day lead my country, much less lead it twice as a military officer and as a civilian.
“Therefore, I would like to say that among you, there are future councillors, lawmakers, governors and presidents. But you must first be good citizens before you become leaders.
“You may become engineers, doctors, accountants, journalists, IT experts, judges and lawyers, to name just a few. The country is going to be in your hands one day. We are not going to import foreigners to come and run our country. We must do that ourselves.
“When we say the future of the country is in your hands, we are not doing you any favour. It is a fact of life. That is why I find it satisfying that I am having this interaction with you.
“I am privileged to be standing in front of a new generation of future citizens and leaders to whom we hope to bequeath a country they can be proud of and a country they will take higher in the comity of nations when it is their turn to serve their fatherland.
“I am 80 years old. I have seen Nigeria at its best and at its worst. I have seen Nigeria fight for Independence from the colonial powers. I have also seen Nigeria fight a war to remain one. I did not only see the war, I fought in it and I could have lost my life in the course of that conflict.
“I have seen the country enjoy an oil boom and prosperity. I have also seen the country nearly go bankrupt. I have seen the best of public officers and I have also seen the worst. I have seen honest Nigerians and I have also seen dishonest ones.”
Asking the children what kind of Nigeria they want, the President underscored the importance of honesty, patriotism and unity in building a peaceful and prosperous nation.
Buhari added: “My Dear Children, what kind of Nigeria do you want? Do you want a country of honest people who will do everything to make Nigeria great? Do you want a country of dishonest people? Do you want a country of patriots whose motivation is building a peaceful and prosperous nation that everyone will be proud of? Do you want a country where it is hate mongers that will be calling the shots?
“I will tell you one thing: the choice is yours. When I talk about a country full of honest people and patriotic citizens, I am not talking about some aliens. I am talking about you.
“The future starts with you. If you are going to be honest, it starts today, not when you get into public office or become a Managing Director. If you are going to be patriotic, it starts today, not when you have finished school.
“You must be prepared to be leaders and also followers. Not all can be leaders. You must follow your leaders.
“You are the future and the future has started already. Whatever you are going to be, you are already preparing for it. If you do not prepare today, there will be no good future.”
President Buhari also shared his experiences as a follower and leader, stressing the need to rebuild the country from its foundation and combating corruption.
He said: “My experiences in life as a follower and as a leader have shown me that to rebuild a country, you have to rebuild from the foundation.
“When the building is faulty, you can only struggle to keep it standing. My war against corruption in the last years has shown me that it will take a new generation for the message to be part of your way of thinking.
“That is why I am happy to be having this discussion with you on your role in making Nigeria great. We need a new orientation. We need new Nigerians to own this message and make it their way of life.”
In the comic book, titled: “HOW TO MAKE NIGERIA GREAT,” the President outlined seven lessons from the publication that will help shape the future of a great country, Nigeria.
These lessons include believing in God and loving Nigeria, understanding and respecting our differences, living by the rules, thinking for the community, embracing good values, seeing government money as our money, and being good children at home and in school.
President Buhari expressed gratitude to the children for spending time with him and concluded his speech by reiterating a statement he made 39 years ago: “I said something in 1984 and I will end this speech by repeating it: ‘We have no other country but Nigeria. We will stay here and salvage it together.’”