A former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday, urged politicians, traditional rulers, academics and other stakeholders in Nigeria to work together for the betterment of the country, cautioning that “the warning signs are there that things could get worse for the country if not properly managed.”
Abubakar declared that the country could only move forward when the citizens collectively work together and collaborate for peace.
He made these declarations while delivering the maiden edition of General Abdulsalam Abubakar Foundation Peace Lecture, organised by the Abdulsalam Abubakar Postgraduate Hall students of the University of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, under the theme, ‘Collaborative Peace Building In Nigeria.’
The event, held under the chairmanship of Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, was attended by Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, his deputy, Otunba Moses Adeyemo, Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, and Emeritus Prof. Tam David-West.
Abubakar said: “I come to you this day with the quest for us all to think and reason together on how to prevent the Nigerian state from sliding into complications.
“The warning signs are there that things could get worse for the country if not properly managed. It is time to put our house in order. We must not carry our luck too far. Nigeria is being battered from different fronts, but we are a strong nation. Otherwise, the story would have been different by now.
“Peace is not the absence of disagreement. Every normal society must have disagreements, because we are not born alike, we don’t think alike, we don’t talk alike. Even twins do not operate in alike manner; hence there is nothing wrong with people having disagreement.
“What is expected is that when we have disagreements, we would find peaceful solutions to the issues. In other words, it is difficult to imagine a Nigerian society in which the groups would not disagree with one another. It is foolhardiness for us to be looking forward to a Nigerian society in which the religious, ethnic or political groups in the country would have no reasons to disagree with one another.
“…But getting into political office is not as difficult as having what it takes to hold a country together. In order words, there can be no sustainable development where a people find it difficult to deal with the problems around them peacefully.
“It is, therefore, my honest opinion that we are going nowhere until we have a national consensus to work for peace. The work has to be done by all of us and not the government alone; it would not come from our laws and policies alone; it must come from our hearts and minds.
“There are many flashpoints in the country. What our politicians should focus upon at a time like this is to be working with professionals on how to make a difference. Nigerians want to be told how Nigeria could get out of the social, economic, environmental and security challenges they are facing.
“Politicians would be disappointing all of us if all they do now is to be discussing how to displace one another. Nigerians are getting tired.”
He continued: “…I like to use this occasion to appeal to our politicians to be more conciliatory in their relationship and public utterances. Elections should not be turned to warfare. INEC must be ready to play the role of unbiased umpire. The security agencies in the country must be fair to all. People should be free to vote for their leaders.
“The security situations in the country in Nigeria show that elections are not necessarily a silver spoon.
The conduct of a credible election does not necessarily lead to sustainable peace. Otherwise, Nigeria would not have been bedeviled by as many cases of violent conflict as now witnessed across Nigeria.
“People blame it on poverty, ignorance, religion and ethnicity, but some people feel that the violence is politically motivated. Whatever it is, the youth have been found to be the ones being used to perpetrate these heinous crimes. In the process, many of them get killed.
“We need to reason together on how to check this problem. Nigeria cannot continue this way. What is needed now and here is a change of attitude by all of us. Let us give more attention to what unites us than divide us.
“God has brought all of us together as Nigerian, let us learn to accommodate one another for the betterment of the nation.”
On his part, Bogoro noted that at this time in the country’s history, “we need moral voices to remind us that we are getting it wrong and so we must retrace our steps.”
He stressed the role of veritable leaders in times of need, as is the case of the unfortunate difficult security and conflict chaos “we find ourselves in at the moment in Nigeria and Africa.”