Delivering the President’s remark at the 13th Anyiam-Osigwe lecture, which focused on developing ethnic policy for national integration to address the issue of indigenes versus settlers, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Viola Adaku Onwuliri said “things just have to change.”
”In the plan for nation building, the joy for all patriots is for all citizens to enjoy the rights of citizenship” Mr Jonathan said, as he acknowledged that ”there is a dangerous growth of ‘indigeneship’ versus ‘settlership’ crises” and ”these are enemies of Nigeria which we must aggressively not tolerate” he said.
”There is hardly any ethnic group in Nigeria which does not have a sizeable amount of its people residing outside of their ethnic communities. These strong cosmopolitan is the future of Nigeria,” Mr Jonathan said
The president said ethnicity must give way to citizenship as granted by rights of the Nigerian Constitution, and “this I will defend with all my power as President.”
Delivering the keynote address at the event, former President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga urged the Nigerian government at all levels to develop inclusive policies to address the nation’s perpetual ethno and religious crisis.
Mrs Kumaratunga, who spoke on the topic: Synthesis for nationhood: Ethnic Policy and national Integration: from indigenes to citizens, said ”economic development is not the only solution” to ethno-religious crises but that ”marginalized people must be included” in every nation’s socio-political and economic development by the use of an inclusive policies.
Admitting that a number of countries in the developing world have made significant economic strides, she however said ”a lot of people in the developing world are remaining even poorer than before” and this she claims ”causes violence because the people cannot tolerate the injustice anymore.”
‘Any young hope betrayed, transforms itself into bombs”, Mrs Kumaratunga noted as she explained that ”economic injustice, social and political exclusion breeds inequality and marginalized groups.”
Using the exclusive and inclusive policy operated in both Calabar and Warri political scene since colonial era, the SriLankan leader said the Efiks in Calabar, as a major tribe in the state, have practiced an inclusive policy which empowers other minority groups, hence the relative peace in the Cross River state.
This, she noted cannot be said for Delta state, where the Itsekiri, as the major tribe, practice an exclusive policy enshrined by the colonial masters which, she claimed has led to the prolonged ethnic violence in the oil reach state.
She blamed the exclusive rule on colonial policies that ”favoured some ethnic groups over others.”
Mrs Kumaratunga admitted that ”decolonization has not being completely achieved in a number of developing countries, where most post-colonial nations have failed democracy, even years after independence.”
She said an inclusive federal system practiced in India has led to the suppression of ethnic violence in the nation of over a billion people in the last four decades of its independence while an exclusive federal system has led to unresolved ethnic violence in Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Cote’d Ivoire and currently in Burma.
The former Prime Minister advised that whilst the government work towards achieving inclusive policies for all, efforts must be made to address violence from the dominant ethnic groups that might want to oppose the fight against inequality.
She also prescribed that governments must ensure that macro-economics are gotten right and that specific policies be targeted at the minority group.