Recently, a youth religious and political leaders’ gathering on Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence took place at the Bassan Plaza, Abuja. MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI was there for LEADERSHIP Friday.
The conference was to mark the end of Ramadan and it resolved to propagate the message of peace and harmony in the country. This latest attempt was the result of the tumultuous socio-political ecosystem of the Nigerian society in the lead up to next year’s election and an endorsement of the Not To Young To Run Bill.
It is well known that religion; language, cultural practices and individual prejudice have played significant roles in the lives of the people. Peaceful coexistence has not had an easy time thriving in Nigeria because of these differences, however unity in diversity is the only answer out of this current state of quagmire with regards to the current outbreak of the Boko Haram menace, the earlier Niger Delta Militancy and the current Fulani Herdsmen attacks, all fighting for a course that is from the infancy, ethnic or lingual rooted.
The two dominant religions in Nigeria advocate peace and humility and de-emphasise violence. So, how can one reconcile the current wave of socio-religious and ethnic conflicts that characterise most parts of Northern States where majority of the people profess these religions? What can be responsible for the collapse of both moral and spiritual values to the extent that incessant killings of fellow human beings has displaced the humility and peace demanded by God and good leadership?
That was the question on the lips of key speakers, but speaking to LEADERHIP Friday, the executive director of Connected Development, and the organiser of the gathering, Mr Hamzat Lawal said.
Today our polity is heated, it is so heated that it has united Nigerian youths, “we believe that we are the movers and shakers of not only Nigeria but the world at large. Today, we have brought together young people from all walks of life, both from the opposition and the ruling party, young professionals, Muslims and Christian leaders to debate how we can curb hate speech. Sadly, today, our political elites are engaged in acts that can trigger violence and we know that 2019 is around the corner. Violence just doesn’t happen but what we are saying is, enough is enough. As young people, we need to come together and promote the cause of humanity. What unites us is Nigeria,” he said.
He further went on to describe the role of the Nigerian youth in the quest for peace and development, “We must always ensure that we propagate Unity in Nigeria. Today, we see that both Muslims and Christians, ruling and opposition party, and professionals are saying we are going to put away these hate speeches and even put together a road map that other politicians would learn from us as young people. So, we are saying enough is enough and in the spirit of Ramadan, and Ramadan as we know talks about unity, the Unity that will move the nation forward. It is not for us to just end our fast, but to debate issues that affect us as a country and ensure that in the run up to 2019 election, when politicians are debating or come to our constituents at the grassroots to debate issues, when they talk about religion we tell them to stop it, when they talk about ethnicity we tell them, not acceptable but we want them to debate issues like how can we have constant electricity. If you are providing us we electricity, how much will it cost us. If it’s going to cost us x amount of money, how are you going to get it, are you going to increase tax or are you going to get international support and most importantly, how will you be transparent and accountable” he added
He also revealed that good policies are essential, “So today, we are saying let’s debate issues around healthcare, women and children are dying because they can not access affordable healthcare services. Children can’t go to school or afford quality education. How do we ensure that politicians and political elites debate the issues rather than other issues that will divide us? There should be a spirit of apology and taking up of responsibilities. On June 12, the president apologised to the nation. We are also saying that as young people, we are taking responsibility and we want to apologise for what happened in the past, such as being divided by religion and ethnicity. Now, we are moving forward and we only want to hear solutions. Proper solutions that will take Nigeria to the next level, championed by young people.
“It is quite sad that our reality today is that of corrupt politicians, who have stolen billions of dollars and they bring back their money before election to sway votes and instigate violence. When they perpetuate violence, they can easily influence the electoral outcome through voters’ apathy, as people will no longer want to cast their votes.
“ Today we are pulling away from these problems and differences, Nigerian youths are solution, we are solution because we have the number, over 52 per cent of accredited eligible voters, which signifies that they can decide who becomes the president, but we cannot make strong impact if we don’t come together in unity and speak with one voice. Today, we have shown that unity of purpose that as patriots, we are going to unite young people. This forum is just the beginning, we are going to go to the grassroots, to the length and breath of this country and tell young people to sheathe their swords because if we continue this way, we would not enjoy the dividends of democracy.
“Today, when we call leaders out, some youths will not come out because they have been brainwashed to be followers. So, we are letting them know that they are actually leaders, and they have to lead by example. They should drop their violence and come together in peace so that Nigeria can move forward,” he added.
Some of the qualities of a good leader emphasised at the gathering were that, to be a good and dependable leader in Nigeria, you need to be educated; have a genuine, moral and laudable reason for going into politics; your mindset should be on serving the people because in whatever position you are, it’s all about service.
Our religious and tribal differences need to be resolved at the grassroots because at the top, there is no rivalry.
The Not Too Young To Run Bill is all about bringing values to the table.
Realising the potential of youths in socio-political development and national progress, the Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, called on women to advocate for peaceful coexistence among Nigerian youths, stating that the unity and stability of Nigeria cannot be compromised. She said this while breaking her fast (Iftar) among women leaders at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja on Saturday, 2nd June, 2018.
She said, breaking of fast among friends, promotes oneness of purpose “we are friends because we all share a common bond to strengthen the unity and harmony in Nigeria.”
She reminded mothers of the need to promote the spirit of peaceful coexistence among their children, the youth, who are used negatively by different interest groups.
This goes on to lay emphasis on how existing peaceful relationships among people of diverse tribes and religions, contributed to massive development and good governance enjoyed in the country.
It is said that the youths were not only described as the leaders of tomorrow but the assets of today, hence the need for them to be responsible and promote peaceful coexistence.
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