The solid foundations that bonded Nigeria during the colonial era, which eventually helped secure the country’s independence, have become too shallow and shaky to hold and sustain its democracy without social tensions and fissures.
Hence there is need for everyone to rise to this reality and fortify those foundations with the bricks of faith, patriotism and love to confront the challenges threatening to shatter the unity of the country.
Governor Emmanuel stated these, as keynote speaker at a national lecture organized by the Arewa Media Interactive and Development Forum, at the Arewa Research House, Kaduna.
While commending the Arewa Media Forum for having sufficient faith in the Nigeria Project, he said organizing a lecture with a theme that centers on the Unity in the nation’s Diversity, attests to the forum’s belief in its abiding conviction and endless possibilities.
“In the mood of our current national despair, heightened by insecurity on a level only seen in war time, you have lit a candle of hope, unity, and love.
“My prayer is that this flame should be fanned into an enchanting blaze of love that would light and soften the dark crevices of our Nation and bring forth a new dawn of hope anchored on unity and brotherhood for our country and our people.”
Mr Emmanuel noted that Nigeria has, for several years, been rocked with speculations and permutations of imminent collapse and demise as a united country, and observed further that, “though the contours of our unity may not be straight, though the lines of development may be zigzag, the tone and tenor of our discourse discordant and divergent, but the soul, the spirit and the identity of our Nation remain sacrosanct.”
He cited the opinions of some notable Nigerian leaders, Late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Late Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Solomon Lar, on the strength of the country in its diversity, and lamented that, “the very issues they spoke so eloquently about, our Unity in Diversity, have, instead of being our bulwark, become wedge issues, standing in the way to our unity and the definition of our common purpose as a untied, indissoluble Nation, shaped by common aspirations and hopes.”
The Akwa Ibom State chief executive officer was of the opinion that the diversities of the country “have been exploited by the purveyors of divisive narratives, enlarged by the merchants of tribalism, and promoted to a level that has created a chasm of alienation amongst our people.
He however believed that Nigerians are inherently united and believe in the sanctity of the Nation, but are in dire need of a galvanizing force to deepen the cords of unity.
He recounted how unity of purpose propelled Nigeria to a first ever Olympic Football Gold medal, despite having to overcome serious hurdles against Brazil in the semi finals and Argentina in the final match; and agreed with a member of that winning team, Victor Ikpeba, who said, “when it comes to football, everybody puts aside the tribalism we have back home. Everybody becomes united.”
The Governor insisted that when united, no foe can withstand the Nigerians.
“Nigeria is a nation that is diverse, and beautiful as a coat of many colours. What tends to divide us should bring us together. Is it tribe, is it language, or is it food, or is it dance or is it religion?
“Take, for instance, the consumption of kola nut. Few know that it is grown in the Southwest, used for prayers in the East, and consumed for recreation in the North. It comes to life among the Yoruba, gives life in Igboland and is lively in the jaws of the Hausa man.
“In the same way, a lot of our onions come from the far North; it enriches Ofe Nsalla in the East, Ewedu in the Southwest and Afang soup in my house in Uyo.”
He maintained that “in the rougher days of Boko Haram, the militants burned Churches and Mosques, and they slaughtered Muslims and Christians. Who were the soldiers fighting to save the whole of the country? We did not say it is a Northern fight, so no Southern soldier should go there. It was not a Fulani soldier or an Ibibio infantryman. It was the Nigerian soldier.”
Mr Emmanuel observed that “many individuals and groups have taken umbrage at the over-centralization of power at the centre, perceived marginalization of some parts of the country” and suggested these are sore points that give fillip to the agitations for balance and equity in the country.
He warned that, “we cannot afford to run a country where some parts of our country feel marginalised or left out of the scheme of things as this is a potent threat to the unity of the country.
“We must ensure that there is equity and justice and that no part of the country is made to feel less of itself as this will definitely not augur well for our union.
“Hence many have said we need a more equitable union, where no one feels short-changed or short-circuited or left behind.
Governor Emmanuel advised the Nigerian elites to work towards the unity of the country, and help resolve issues like VAT, restructuring, zonings, herdsmen that tend to destabilise the Nation.
Goodwill messages were also received from eminent personalities like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON, Governor Nasir El-Rufai who was represented by His Commissioner for Human Services, Hafsat Mohammed Baba, Amb. Shehu Malami, Mr. Boni Haruna, Sen. Abdul Ningi, Sen. Ehigie Uzamare among others.
Earlier, upon his arrival in Kaduna, Governor Emmanuel was received by Governor Nasir El-Rufai at Government House, Kaduna.
Governor Udom Emmanuel was accompanied to the event by Chief Assam Assam SAN, Rt. Hon. David Lawrence, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, as well as his SSA on Security Capt. Iniobong Ekong(Rtd), his Chief Press Secretary Ekerete Udo, SA on Public Affairs, Raphael Edem, and media aides Essien Ndueso, Aniekeme Finbarr and Solomon Eyo.