Con­fab del­e­gates and the unity of Nigeria

Daily Trust - - VIEWS - By Saleh Shehu Ashaka

It was not for noth­ing that Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the na­tional con­fer­ence this month, urged del­e­gates at the con­fer­ence not to ven­ture into ar­eas that would put the unity of the coun­try in jeop­ardy, but fo­cus on ar­eas that would fos­ter peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and mu­tual trust among its people.

The pres­i­dent’s speech hit the nail on the head as at the men­tion of a na­tional con­fer­ence, most people’s minds were ag­i­tated that the sovereignty of Nigeria is about to be rene­go­ti­ated.

Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan def­i­nitely with this in mind, said while the coun­try rec­og­nizes the fact that groups and com­mu­ni­ties are the build­ing blocks of na­tion­hood, Nige­ri­ans must also em­pha­sise that we need one an­other to build the solid and pros­per­ous coun­try of our dreams.

In­deed as the Pres­i­dent noted, our abil­ity to stay to­gether de­spite our ac­knowl­edged dif­fer­ences, when other coun­tries are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to meet that chal­lenge, is a pow­er­ful state­ment by Nigeria to the world on the virtues of tol­er­ance and unity.”

From a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, those who speak in favour of the coun­try break­ing up merely re­act to spon­ta­neous is­sues that crop up at cer­tain times, and not due to a holis­tic ap­praisal of the ben­e­fits or other­wise of stay­ing to­gether.

That is why im­me­di­ately such con­cerns are ad­dressed, the is­sue dies down and the ag­grieved for­get their ag­i­ta­tions only for an­other sec­tion of the coun­try sim­i­larly af­fected, to raise the mat­ter un­til it also at­tracts at­ten­tion.

This could also ex­plain why the de­mand for the breakup of the coun­try keeps shift­ing from one side to the other prov­ing fur­ther, that emo­tion, borne by anger and other such sen­ti­ments fuel such ag­i­ta­tions.

At a time it was the North­ern part of the coun­try that made the de­mand for a breakup of the coun­try in the well known ‘araba’ protests, which was closely fol­lowed by the Igbo with the Bi­afra se­ces­sion­ist bid. Later af­ter the an­nul­ment of the June 12 1993 elec­tions, the Yoruba in the South West feel­ing pained by the ac­tion also de­manded a Sov­er­eign Na­tional con­fer­ence to dis­cuss terms for re­main­ing within Nigeria.

Re­cent hap­pen­ings at the con­fer­ence how­ever draws our at­ten­tion to the fact that we must tread cau­tiously so as not to give in to the naysay­ers who do not see the larger pic­ture that a one united coun­try pre­sents,

In­deed as some­body ob­served, the ben­e­fits of re­main­ing as one in­di­vis­i­ble na­tion, far out­weighs the neg­a­tive be­ing ped­dled about.

We are wit­nesses to how the once united Sudan bowed down to such pres­sures and carved it­self into two coun­tries in a process it thought would as­suage eth­nic and re­li­gious ag­i­ta­tions, but no sooner had they fin­ished with that than they be­gan to have prob­lems even within the com­po­nents that days be­fore was in ju­bi­lant mood over Sudan break­ing up.

This should serve as a les­son to all that dif­fer­ences must oc­cur at any level of hu­man co­hab­i­ta­tion and that the is­sue is not about suc­cumb­ing to the easy prey of frag­men­ta­tion but in mak­ing sac­ri­fices that would lead to har­ness­ing the big­ger ben­e­fits.

One coun­try which seemed to have re­al­ized this early enough was Ger­many which over­came the ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide and came to­gether as one na­tion.

To say that Nigeria stands out to­day be­cause of its hu­man re­sources is to put it mildly ,as many na­tions of the world have come to envy where we are and re­gard us due to the eco­nomic ad­van­tage deriv­able.

Nigeria as well know pre­sents an eco­nomic ad­van­tage to in­vestors due to its hu­man po­ten­tial and we can­not lose sight of that ad­van­tage.

That is why del­e­gates at the na­tional con­fer­ence must now al­low them­selves to be car­ried away by emo­tion, but must re­main state manly and true to their call­ing as el­der states­men.

The Lamido of Adamawa, ap­par­ently irked by what has been termed the ‘black­mail of north­ern­ers’ at the Na­tional Con­fer­ence re­cently had cause to say that he and his people are not afraid of Nigeria’s dis­in­te­gra­tion.

In his words: “If some­thing hap­pens and the coun­try dis­in­te­grates, God for­bids, many of those who are shout­ing their heads off will have nowhere to go. But I and the people of Adamawa and many oth­ers have got some­where to go. I am the Lamido of Adamawa and my king­dom tran­scends Nigeria and Cameroon. The larger part of my king­dom is in the Repub­lic of Camer­oun and a part of that king­dom is in Chad Repub­lic.”

“Mr Chair­man”, he con­tin­ued, “a part of that king­dom in Camer­oun, there is a state called Adamawa presently in Cameroon. So, if I run to that place, I will eas­ily as­sim­i­late”.

Pre­dictably his com­ments pro­voked a lot of com­ments with many in sup­port and many oth­ers against.

But while we strug­gle to com­ment, the bot­tom line to me should be that there is a need for us to have mu­tual re­spect for one an­other, build on the pos­i­tive as­pect of our to­geth­er­ness and ex­ploit ar­eas that would har­ness the po­ten­tials that this bless­ing be­stows on us.

It is sad that shortly af­ter cel­e­brat­ing one hun­dred years of be­ing to­gether is­sues such as this should con­tinue to taunt us in the face as we should by now have over­come them.

The ef­forts of our past lead­ers by cre­at­ing unit­ing agencies like unity schools and Na­tional Youth ser­vice Corps (NYSC) pro­gramme were meant to fa­cil­i­tate this to­geth­er­ness so that, as one on our lead­ers said, we can un­der­stand our dif­fer­ences and learn to live to­gether. It was not meant for us to keep em­pha­siz­ing on our dif­fer­ences.

One of the ways we can en­sure this is if we be­gin to see our­selves as one whole in­stead of dif­fer­ent people scat­tered all around.

Ideally, any threat to any part of the coun­try should be seen as a threat to the cen­tre and not an iso­lated case that af­fects a dif­fer­ent people. It is my sin­cere be­lief that if we de­velop n that at­ti­tude then we would have suc­ceeded in elim­i­nat­ing one of the scourges that di­vi­sion bring to us.

Just as the Pres­i­dent in his speech said, “We must be­gin to see our­selves as one com­mu­nity. We are joined to­gether by sim­i­lar hopes and dreams as well as sim­i­lar prob­lems and chal­lenges. What af­fects one part of the com­mu­nity af­fects the other and urged the del­e­gates to seize the op­por­tu­nity of the con­fer­ence to do more to fur­ther turn our di­ver­sity and plu­ral­ity into unique na­tional re­sources for strength and great­ness.

Ashaka can be reached at salehshehu@ya­

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