By Ben Adam Shemang
I suggest that we make it mandatory for states to retain a certain percentage of youth corpers in its public service every year. This way, would create employment and state civil services would be more multi-ethnic as unity is a creative process”. Hmm this is a great workable idea as part of our moving forward.
Surely, Nigeria is in serious need of committed stakeholders to stitch the country together. Which is why the Arewa Media Interactive and Development Forum gathered Nigerians in Kaduna from all over the country to look for better and workable solutions citizens are confronting.
The theme was apt – NIGERIA: UNITY IN DIVERSITY. Of course let me make it clearly, Nigerians do not need a prophet to tell them of the harvoc terrorists have caused in this country. Farmers herders clashes have continued to widen the line of divide among Nigerians. Religious, tribal, ethnic , rumours, hate speeches etc have increased tensions all over the place as social media bullies continue to fan the embers of deep hated. Nigerians profile banditry in line with tribes same with kidnappers.
People now want to live among people and where they feel safe as settlements in some places and cases take religious, ethnic, regional colourations. It has not been like this before.
In the midst of this is the drumbeats of war at the horizon.
The Arewa Media Interactive and Development Forum selected key Nigerians to produce solutions on how Nigerians can take advantage of the different multi ethnic, multi cultural, multi religious, the economic empowerment etc and develop an egalitarian society. Ambassador Shehu Malami, Sakin Sudan of the Sokoto Caliphate says “it’s time for unity, we will be losers in a divided Nigeria. Nigeria has never been this divided”.
The Government of Kaduna State has abolished the idea of indigenship and replaced it with citizenship. “We have created youth programmes that don’t bother about religion or tribe beneficiaries come From all over the country”, Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i told the audience.
A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is disturbed that in some places and cases appointments into offices tend to take religious and tribal colourations thereby widening perceived differences.
“Living in unity and diversity is living living in peace. We have to tolerate and accept one another…and since language unifies people I recommend that each Nigerian should learn and speak another language different from their native language”. The former Vice President also wants a secured country where terrorism and banditry are stopped because Nigerians should not live in a state of real threats to life or perceived denomination, anarchy and war.
On his part, Hon Sha’aban Ibrahim Sharada, Chairman House Committee on National Security and Intelligence who also doubles as the President General Network of Africa Parliamentarians on Defence and Security dwelt so much on Nigerian youths who must also learn to take their destiny in their hands.
“It is my sincere pleasure to appeal to Nigerian youths to condemn ethnicity, indigenization, tribalism, religious bigotry all forms of crimes that affect our national identity and unity in diversity”, the law maker says.
Hon Sharada went further to urge the Nigerian youths to take advantage of their numerical strength and participate fully in politics even as he frowned against what he calls “abuse of youths in politics”. During party politics, some politicians recruit some willing Nigerian youths as their vanguards, vigilantes and other and other anti social groups and after elections they’re dumped only to become miscreants problems to society. As a way out, he said “we will organise a national tour in collaboration with the National Association of Nigerian Students and the National Association of Kano State Students to at least three universities in each geopolitical zone to enlighten our youths on their responsibilities to put the country on the path of honour and prosperity”.
The Guest Speaker was Mr Udom Emmanuel the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, all the way from the Niger Delta Region. His coming to the north for the event is the needed friendly handshake across the River Niger which other Nigerians should emulate as he paid glowing tribute to the organisers. Hear him “let me thank the leadership and members of the Arewa Media Interactive and Development Forum for having sufficient faith in the Nigerian Project, and sufficient hope in the unity of this great country, to build bridges of unity at a time the monsters of tribalism and ethnicism are tearing our nation apart”. Mr Udom Emmanuel wants Nigerians to imbibe the virtues of the sage, Sir Ahmadu Bello, then Premier of Northern Region who once appealed to Nigerians thus: “here in Northern Nigeria, we have people of different races, tribes, and religions who are knit together to common history, the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us”.
The Akwa Ibom state Governor, then emphasised that the pain any Nigerian anywhere feels should be the pain any other Nigerian feels irrespective of religion region or tribe. “In the rougher days of Boko Haram, the militants burned churches and mosques, and they slaughtered Muslims and Christians…we did not say it is a northern right, so no southern soldier should go there. It was not a Fulani soldier or Ibibio infantryman. It was the Nigerian soldier. When bullets are fired it does not bear a message on what tribesman it should fall. It hits a human, a Nigerian whatever the name of his God or the tribe or language he confesses”.
He expressed displeasure that now-adays, Nigeria is a country where ethnic champions drive the narrative, and the cacaphorny of discordant voices make it difficult for us to hear ourselves. He says the elite must carry part of the blames.
“It only takes the people to sit at a table and cross-fertilise ideas. You win some, I win some, and all of us become winners”.
He summits even as he cited the old Nigerian National Anthem “Nigeria we hail thee our own dear native land though tribe and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand”. The call here is for us to be our brothers’ keepers.
Mr Udom Emmanuel’s suggestions to resolving the problems confronting Nigeria earned him a standing ovation as he chronicles that: “we must sit down and talk to ourselves, rather than talk at ourselves. We must listen to understand, rather than listen to respond. We must build bridges of unity rather than to respond. We must build bridges of unity rather than walls of division. We must realise that every part of our country is an equal stakeholder in the Nigerian Project and work actively to harness the best of our diversity for the good of our country. There must be a level playing field and equal opportunities for all Nigerians irrespective of where they come from or what language they speak. Development plans and projects of the government must also be spread evenly across the country so that a sense of fairness and justice will permeate the lane. We must take deliberate steps to integrate ourselves and unity the country. One quick step we can take in this direction is a little tweaking of the format of the National Youth Service Corps. This was one of the instruments designed to unify our nation but which hasn’t quite achieved this purpose. I suggest that we make it mandatory for states to retain a certain percentage of youth corpers in its public service every year. This way, we would create employment and state civil services would be more multi-ethnic as unity is a creative process”.
This event that took place in Arewa House Kaduna State ended with attendees believing that more of such lecture should be promoted round Nigeria.
That was also the wish of Alhaji Usman Magawata, former Director General Nigerian Television Authority, and Chairman Arewa Media Interactive and Development Forum, a dream so share and upheld the Chairman, Board of Trustees Arewa Interactive and Development Forum, Mallam Mohammed Ibrahim, Makaman Ringim.
Ben Adam Shemang, a Public Policy Analyst writes from Abuja.