Those seeking the disintegration of the country are “lazy politicians seeking to be kings in tiny islands’’, President Goodluck Jonathan stated yesterday in Abuja.
Jonathan spoke while declaring open a national summit and rally for peace, unity and development, oganised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.
The president noted that the strength of the nation is in its size, population and diversity and that his administration remained committed to its unity.
He said: “I agree with other speakers that we cannot talk about cannibalising and balkanising Nigeria. I think those who are thinking that way want to be kings in tiny islands, because I believe from the little I know that Nigeria is still rated as a country to look at globally. It’s not because we produce oil and some people think it’s because of our oil.
“One small country with less than 10 million population produces more oil than Nigeria. So it’s not the oil, it’s not the vast land. What is the land space of Nigeria compared to Sudan?
“The population, yes, we have the population, but I think the key thing is actually the size in terms of the human beings; it’s not the oil that we think we have.
“So any person who feels that they just want to stay as one nation, just want to be king without hard work. They will not get it, because Nigeria will not divide.’’
President Jonathan underscored the need for Nigerians to embrace peace as a pre-requisite for achieving the desired development.
He decried the present development where communication towers and equipment had become the target of destruction by some disgruntled elements.
Jonathan noted that such negative trends by saboteurs impacted negatively on the economy and made it difficult to move a modern society forward.
The president commended the NLC for organising the summit, adding that it was in line with government’s position of seeking consensus in nation-building and sustainable development.
He urged the organisers to use the summit to open discussion on home-grown strategies in confronting the challenges of security, peace and development.
The president also charged the gathering to examine the roles labour and the citizens could play in the attainment of sustainable security.
Jonathan requested the NLC to take serious interest in the nation’s constitution development by making valuable contributions in writing to the National Assembly committees on constitution review.
He enjoined the NLC to also continue in its quest for a peaceful Nigeria and join hands with his administration to work for the overall development of the country.
He noted that the modest efforts of government were yielding results particularly in the areas of foreign direct investments, power, agriculture, aviation and manufacturing.
Earlier, Edo governor Adams Oshiomhole identified a disconnect between the political class and the masses, unemployment, corruption, anti-masses policies, among others, as causes of disunity and crises in the country.
Then former NLC president noted that there could not be peace, unity and development without justice.
He noted that economic growth and development could only be measured when it trickled down to the masses and the generality of the society.
Oshiomhole called for a review of the revenue allocation formula to allow for a reduction in the resources accruing to the federal government in favour of states and local governments.
He noted that, by so doing, states would be allowed to develop at their own paces and attention would be shifted from the federal to the states.
Chairman of the occasion and former head of state Gen. Yakubu Gowon said the dimension of the current security challenges had made it imperative for all Nigerians to come together to proffer solutions.
He noted that without unity of purpose and unity of all ethnic nationalities, there would be no peace, security and meaningful development.
Gowon expressed his reservations about the general notion of minority and majority nationalities, saying that Nigerians must see themselves as one.
He said the event was a departure from what labour was erroneously known for: militancy, civil disobedience and opposition to government’s policies.
Also speaking at the summit, Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar blamed the division of Nigerians on bad leadership, saying that Nigerians must not allow any group or person to undermine the existence of Nigeria.
The Sultan also urged Nigerian leaders to shun corruption and injustice which, according to him, would led to the needed peace, unity and development in the country.
“We must shun injustice and corruption which lead to poverty, and also maintain effective communication by resisting any group or person that does not subscribe to Nigeria’s existence.
“We are where we are today because of bad leadership and the lack of fear of God by our leaders who see the country as their personal property and do what they feel with impunity.”
NLC president Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar vowed that Nigeria must survive in spite of the recent security challenges facing it.
“While we appreciate government efforts in tackling the challenge, it is our firm belief that the solution goes beyond the government and those well-meaning nationalistic individuals and institutions must weigh in to achieve the correct harmony needed for sustainable development in our nation,” Omar said.
Other speakers including the lead speaker, Professor Etannibi Alemika,and Governor Oshiomhole who spoke before President Jonathan, however, blamed the security challenges on inequality, education, poverty and lack of equal distribution of wealth.
At another event taking place at the same time, former military president General Ibrahim Babangida affirmed that the country will remain intact and shall not disintegrate despite the challenges that it faces.
Babangida made the declaration while delivering a paper as the guest lecturer at the public presentation of Blueprint newspaper in Abuja yesterday.
In his lecture entitled “Development and Economic Growth in a Multicultural Society: An Agenda for Nigeria”, Babangida said although Nigeria’s diversity serves as a challenge to its development, the disintegration of the country is not an option.
Development and economic growth, he added, can be facilitated by Nigerian citizens developing a bond and a sense of patriotism towards their nation, which will make it more difficult than any other sense of identity in ethnic, regional and religious terms to cause instability in the nation.
However, Babangida decried the obvious distortion of Nigeria’s diversity, saying: “The country’s biggest challenge towards its development is how the nation’s diversity is negatively mobilised by the elite for political purposes.
“The most fundamental characteristic of the Nigerian nation is its diversity. The country, like many others, is constituted in a complex amalgam of cultures, ethnic identities, religious adherences and regional backgrounds. I must, however, hasten to say that on its own our diversity is not a problem, but only becomes so when it is mobilised to serve various political purposes by the elite.”
He went on to reassure that the misuse of Nigeria’s diversity by the elite will not cause the disintegration of the country because Nigeria’s cultural, political and social ties have been interwoven since before the country’s creation.
“We have no option but to face the fact that our diversity is not going to disappear, and disintegration is not an option that Nigeria and its people can afford”, he said. “The historical association between the different communities currently in Nigeria predated the creation of the country. Consequently, we have been long intertwined by criss-crossing political, cultural and economic ties that cannot be untangled.”
He therefore urged Nigerians to focus on their patriotism to Nigeria which would replace their particularistic sense of identity in ethnic, religious and regional terms and prevent those identities from being used to cause instability in the country.
“We must focus on the evolution of a truly Nigerian citizen, not in a formal sense of holding the green passport or just inhabiting a given territory, but in the normative sense of the feelings of belonging and deeply held sense of allegiance to the nation. Our particularistic sense of identity in ethnic, regional and religious terms graduates into a patriotic sense bond between the citizens and their nation.”
We declare war against bad governance – Blueprint chairman
Earlier, the chief executive officer (CEO)/ chairman, Blueprint Newspapers Limited, Mohammed Idris, said the daily paper was geared towards declaring war against bad governance and bad journalism, as well as the defence of democracy and people’s rights.
Idris disclosed that Blueprint was established on the core values of responsible journalism, saying that the paper will strain its sinew to ensure balanced reportage in order to entrench good leadership and true democracy in the country.
He also pointed out that the event was the fruition of a vision to introduce a newspaper that is pleasant not only to look at but also to read.
“Blueprint was established on the core values of responsible journalism. That is why its mission statement reads more like a declaration of war against bad governance and bad journalism, as well as the defence of democracy and people’s rights. This auspicious event is the fruition of a vision to introduce a newspaper that is pleasant not only to look at but also to read,” he said.
Idris revealed that Blueprint has, within five months, achieved a laudable feat that even its older sisters have not been able to achieve. In the same vein, he said, the paper has made a silent achievement, which is the procurement of a new printing press.
“We are determined to move this project forward. That is why, after recording the feat of going daily within five months, we also made one silent achievement – and that is buying our own new printing press within a year of our starting. As I speak, a team of technicians is busy installing the printing press and we shall begin to print it at our own plant,” he added.