Remarks by His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCF at the launch of the Victims Support Fund on Thursday 31st July, 2014
1. I welcome you all to this all-important occasion as we set out to demonstrate our love and care for those who have been affected by terrorism in our country.
2. At this point in time in our nation’s history, we have two clear choices before us. The first is to sit down and bemoan the tragic consequences of terrorism in our land. The second is to stand up and take action that will show that good will always overwhelm evil. By this fund-raising initiative, we have chosen the latter. We are reaching out with a cuddle of comfort and a show of support to our people.
3. One aspect of Nigerian culture I have always been proud of is our preparedness to always be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. This was on display in 2012 when we experienced the natural calamity of flooding. As we fund-raise today, I am confident that this quality, domiciled in the minds of our people, will once again give expression through your work and the generosity and large heartedness of the good people of Nigeria.
4. Let me quickly share a story with you. On Thursday, July 24th 2014, at exactly 12.35pm, a courier letter arrived in my office from Aba, Abia State. In the package was a bank draft for N5,000 sent in by a kind-hearted Nigerian, Dr. Uchenna Nnanna-Kalu, whom I never knew. He sent in the draft as his own contribution to the Victims Support Fund that we are launching today. I share this story because it touched my heart. Very clearly, Nigerians are very good people.
5. Many lessons are contained in this seemingly little package of gesture. The first is that any amount donated to this cause would do. He gave what he could, apparently from the bottom of his heart. In seeking to provide succour to the victims of terror attacks, no amount is too small. The N5,000 Nnanna-Kalu gave can clothe a whole family or pay for their food for some days. We should therefore not think that our contributions have to be extremely large before they can be useful.
6. The second lesson from Uchenna's gesture is that you cannot defeat the Nigerian spirit of good neighbourliness. Those who are trying to define Nigeria on the basis of ethnicity and religion are missing the point and they will continue to miss the point. Injury to one Nigerian is injury to all Nigerians. Discomfort in any part of the country is discomfort to all.
7. We all want a peaceful country where everybody will be happy, where everybody will feel free. This generation must not be allowed to bequeath any speck of hatred to the generation that is to come. We all must work to bequeath a country of equity, fairness and justice to our children.
8. What Nigerians expect this event to demonstrate is that tragedy, though undesired, brings out the best and not the worst in us. We might be passing through some challenging and tough times. These times as is often said will not last. There is something constant in our culture as Nigerians: We do not allow fellow citizens to bear tragedy by themselves alone.
9. It is true, we are navigating a very challenging phase in our journey as a nation. This phase has brought out the extremes of inhumanity in the misguided elements who are hiding under the guise of religion to destroy a country we are working so hard to build.
10. Collectively, rather than despair, we want to repair. The world only makes progress when we solve problems. Problems cannot solve themselves. Lamentation cannot solve problems. We solve problems by standing up and taking action! Nigerians are equal to the task.
11. On July 16, 2014, when I inaugurated the Victims Support Fund Committee, I did say that this is not the kind of projects we would love to wish on ourselves. We would rather be laying foundation stones for more housing projects than compensating people whose houses were destroyed by the terrorists. We would rather be launching more mass transit projects than compensating people whose buses were burnt. We would rather be attending weddings and naming ceremonies than attending funerals of the victims of terrorism.
12. Today, as we seek to raise funds to cater for the victims of terrorism in our land, we are doing this with every sense of responsibility to the citizenry. This is just one of the several steps this administration is taking to address this unfortunate development in the land.
13. The fact that we are setting up a victims support fund does not mean we have accepted that terrorism is here to stay. No! Never!! Rather, this is just one of the short-term measures in our overall strategy against the enemies of peace and progress. We will not allow evil to overcome good. No! We will not!!
14. I understand perfectly that millions of Nigerians are worried about the threat of terror in our country. It is a new phenomenon that took us virtually unawares. I never for once thought that I would, in my life time, hear of Nigerians strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up innocent people. We would have sworn that it is impossible!
15. Ten years ago, no Nigerian would have imagined it. We thought it was something that could only happen in other countries. But here we are today witnessing this sordid phenomenon. Mr Chairman, fellow citizens, we will defeat terror and I will lead Nigerians to achieve this.
16. Distinguished guests, when some twisted minds kidnapped innocent schoolgirls and have since kept them captive for months, many Nigerians never believed it could happen in our beloved country!
17. In our efforts to rescue our daughters, we have had to battle with the dilemma of demonstrating military might and endangering their lives or undermining the sovereignty of Nigeria by succumbing to the blackmail of the terrorists on their own terms. Let me restate that we will not give in or give up to terrorists. We will continue to explore all options that will safely bring our daughters back home. I repeat: We will not give in or give up.
18. We will come out of this a tougher and better nation. In these trying times, we have seen Muslims and Christians, Northerners and Southerners, men and women, and Nigerians from all walks of life rise up in unison to condemn the terrorists.
19. Rather than destroy the spirit and essence of our Nigerianness, the terrorists have succeeded in uniting us and making us to see that they are a common threat to all. By bombing mosques and churches, they have shown to us that they are enemies to all. By killing Muslims and Christians, they have demonstrated to every Nigerian that their evil agenda does not discriminate. Unintentionally, they are motivating millions of Nigerians to see them as a common enemy whose only purpose is to steal, to kill and to destroy.
20. As Nigerians, we must find strength in these trying times. We must redefine our sense of purpose at moments like these. We must tap into our sense of unity, peace and progress in the face of these relentless assaults by these enemies of peace and dispensers of horror.
21. Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot determine what terrorists do with their minds but we can determine what we do with ours. It is our collective duty to defeat this evil philosophy that thrives on bloodshed and sorrow. If we truly believe that God created all of us, what then can be the basis for us to take human lives believing that we are doing God a service? If we believe that God is a God of love and peace, why should we sow hate and wage war in the name of the same God?
22. I call on all Nigerians who have a sense of purpose to join hands with the government to defeat all destructive ideologies in our country. As a government, we will not relent in the pursuit of these individuals until we bring them to justice. We will not fold our arms and allow individuals with narrow agenda undermine the integrity of Nigeria. We will not achieve victory overnight, but our steps will continue to be strong, sure and steady.
23. We are taking steps in investing heavily in building schools all over the country to keep the minds of our children and youths productively and positively engaged. We are building Almajiri Schools. We are equipping young men and women with mental resources without letting them forgo their religious obligations. When the pupils finish from these schools, they will not only know their religion very well, they will graduate with skills that will keep them productive for the rest of their lives.
24. We have also launched the Safe Schools Initiative, not just to provide a conducive learning environment for our kids but also to assure parents and guardians that their wards are safe and secure. If care is not taken, the misguided actions of terrorists can have a lasting impact on parents who would be too scared to allow their children to seek education in the future.
25. In addition to these, we have also launched thePresidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE), as part of the overall development strategy of the government.
26. We have strengthened the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund to be better able to provide a social security protection for all Nigerians. The fund is now better placed to protect the most vulnerable Nigerians, women and children especially, from deprivations and financial insecurity. We have taken steps to recalibrate the pension administration system so as to ensure that those who serve our nation continue to live a life in gratitude to our nation after retirement.
27. But while we earnestly await the manifestations of greater fruits of our efforts, we cannot but pause to spare a thought for the millions of people whose lives have been ruined one way or the other by these terrorists. As we look into the future, we must also address the realities of the present. People have lost loved ones. People have lost property. People have been maimed for life. People have become refugees in their own country for no fault of theirs.
28. The reason we set up the Victims Support Fund Committee is for all of us, everyone who is public-spirited, to reach out to the victims. We want to galvanise the support of Nigerians to provide succour to victims of terror all over the country. The Victims Support Fund Committee, as I said at the inauguration, will help to mobilise collective efforts and resources in support for the victims.
29. Mr Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I want to challenge us to think deeply about how privileged we are to be able to give. It is a divine privilege that we cannot explain. The victims did not wish this calamity upon themselves. They did not pray for it. It could have been anyone. But for the mercy of God, we could have been the ones needing support as a result of this insurgency. But in His infinite mercy and grace, the Almighty God has decided that we should be the ones giving support, not receiving it.
30. We should therefore reach deep into our hearts and deeper into our pockets to help wipe away the tears of our people in need.
31. Let me conclude by reminding us of the divine wisdom from our Almighty Creator. One of the five pillars of Islam is the practice of Zakkat: The faith enjoins all faithful to give a certain percentage of one's income to the needy.
32. In Christendom, the phrase “God loves a cheerful giver”, and that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, is well acknowledged. I urge us all to give generously. May the Almighty God bless you most abundantly.
33. I thank you.