Speak Out for Nigeria's Unity
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Recent drums of division, violence and intolerance beating across the federation underscore the growing frustrations of Nigerians everywhere. A peculiar brand of toxic communication has enveloped our public affairs, threatening to pollute the relationships of people and communities that have – despite occasional challenges - largely co-existed in relative peace with one another.
Voices of agents of violence and division now command the most attention from both within and beyond government. A growing sense of uncertainty and fear begs for immediate action to reassure Nigerians that there is a clear pathway to equity, unity and security.
All these take place at a time when our country is going through a difficult period of uncertainty. Communities live with a sense of deepening insecurity while citizens feel an equal threat to their livelihoods, together leading to pervasive sense of institutionalised inequities, rising hate and deepening division. The frustrations triggered by these challenges can easily get out of hand or be exploited by the recklessness of desperate politicians and identity entrepreneurs or their agents. This cannot be allowed.
These developments are the cumulative result of leadership failures and poor choices over the years at various levels, including government, political parties, security agencies, business, traditional institutions, communities, places of worship, schools, and civil society across the country.
The consequences of these failures now confront us as a people with an existential threat of potentially profound significance. Inspired by this realisation, we believe it is important to evolve an agenda of urgent steps to address these rumblings of discontent and division.
Against this background, we the undersigned Nigerians, driven by our faith in the potential of Nigeria and our appreciation of the value that each and every Nigerian has in making it a country we can all be proud of, have come together to make this statement. We are bound together by shared values of belief in unity, equality, justice, responsible citizenship, the inherent worth of every human being and, most importantly, by commitment to shared bonds of friendship and citizenship which transcend religion, ethnicity or other narrow identity. We are, to put it simply, all Nigerians.
Troubled by the state of affairs in our country we wish to state that:
1. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is richly endowed and all communities found in it belong to it. All citizens and communities as well as succeeding generations of Nigerians, without discrimination on any grounds such as political or other opinion, origins, religion, gender or status have an equal stake in sustaining and improving the many bonds that connect us.
2. Government at all levels, including federal, state and local government, must take urgent steps to address the prevailing economic situation and stem the growing patterns or perceptions of chronic inequity, alienation and discontent across the country.
3. Government at federal, state and local levels has the primary duty to secure public safety and wellbeing and show that Nigerian lives matter. Accordingly, it must enlist the full support and participation of Nigerians everywhere in confronting the underlying causes and growing incidents of violence, division and hate wherever these occur. Individuals or groups who by their words or other conduct constitute threats to lives and property of Nigerians or to our collective coexistence should be dealt with swiftly, firmly, lawfully and without discrimination on any grounds such as political or other opinion, origin, religion, gender or status.
4. Civic groups, including those founded on identity such as faith or ethnicity, have a particular responsibility to discourage hate, division and violence. Together with the media, including social media, we all have a duty to amplify voices of reason over and above the voices of division. We must not subscribe to or sustain the emergence of a single narrative of strife and hate amongst Nigerians. There is an urgent need to promote and amplify narratives that bring us together and encourage improved engagement across ethnic and religious divides as well as collective action against bad governance wherever it exists in the country.
5. In the immediate future, these problems of national cohesion could easily spiral out of control if we do not prepare adequately to meet the challenges of Nigeria’s rapidly growing population and the accompanying crisis of social exclusion among our youth population. To meet this challenge, government at all levels should prioritise effective investment in academic and vocational education, enlightenment, innovation and skills on a sustained basis. For this purpose, Nigeria needs to urgently roll out an inclusive national plan on education, innovation and skills that is both fit for purpose and implemented effectively. Such a plan should be built on partnership with private and voluntary sectors, with room for complementary investments from Nigeria’s international partners.
6. None of this can be achieved unless we commit at all levels to zero-tolerance for impunity by improving the performance and credibility of the institutions and processes of accountability, including the police, judiciary and security agencies.
7. At this time more than ever before, we urgently call all leaders, including elected, appointed, community, traditional, civic, and faith leaders, to show true leadership and transcend divides of partisan politics, religion, origins, geo-political zones, or hemispheres of north and south. Nigeria is our home and the only country we have. Every Nigerian owes it as a duty to work for the best interest of this country. Many of us already know first hand that Nigeria’s diversity is a valuable resource and source of strength but we need millions more to realise this and we can only do this if we are willing to constructively engage these issues that challenge us as a country.
8. We commit to working together to advocate these values and call on all Nigerians who share these values to stand firm and speak out loudly in favour of peace, equity and social justice in our land. We call on them to speak out in favour of meaningful dialogue, which alone can bring lasting resolution to the multi-faceted issues that threaten to consume us. We ask them to speak up and take back our destiny from those who believe that what differentiates us is more important than what unites us and the great potential we have to achieve more together. We owe it to ourselves to create the enabling environment and structures for peace, prosperity and development and we cannot do this if we continue to disdain each other. We call for calm and mutual respect across peoples wherever we are so that, living and working together, what we dream of for ourselves and our children can be achieved.
Amb Fatima Balla, mni
Prof Adele Jinadu
AVM Andy Giwa Tsakr (Rtd)
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim
Dr. Chris Kwaja
Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani)
Prof Awwal Yadudu
Kola Awodein, SAN
Dr. Kole Shettima
Yemi Candide-Johnson, SAN
Dr. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu
Col. Kingsley Umoh
Dr Hussaini Abdu
Dr. Ayesha Imam
Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed
Mabeiam Gloria Ballason
Abdulkhalid Ali Baba
Franklin Acho Nlerum
Mohammed Sabo Keana
Udo Jude Ilo
Prof Mohammed Yahaya Kuta
Ozolua O. Giwa-Amu
Prof. Mohammed Kuna
Prof. Sam Egwu
Dr. Clement Adibe
Dr. Amina Salihu
Dr. Jude Ohanele
Sutura Aisha Bello
Wole A. Akande
Hamza Grema Mohammed
Prince Paul Adelabu
Prof. Adesoji Adesugba
Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim
Mohammed Bello Tukur
Aisha Waziri Umar
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