As Nigeria marks its 61 Independence Day Anniversary this week, the Northern Governors’ Forum (NoGF) has warned that the country cannot be built on bigotry and nepotism, insisting that such parochialism is behind the country’s backwardness.
The governors also warned against defining people based on their religion, tribe and ethnicity just as they noted that de-marketing Nigeria comes with great consequences, attributing the nation’s challenges to such behaviour.
NoGF chairman and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who made these comments yesterday in Jos, the Plateau State capital, as part of the independence day anniversary celebration, also called on Nigerians not to allow the current challenges facing the nation to push them towards de-marketing the country or even advocating its disintegration as, according to him, the consequences will not only be uncertain, but unimaginable.
Lalong spoke at an inter-denominational church service to mark the 61st Independence anniversary at the Government House Chapel, Rayfield, Jos, said Nigeria remains a great nation that will surmount its challenges to realise its potential for greatness.
He said, “While some may use the current travails that the nation is witnessing to cast a shadow of hopelessness and despondency; we should never allow the trials of today overshadow the many successes that our nation has witnessed in the past.
“There are many good things that have continued to happen till date. Many prophets of doom had prophesied that we shall not live to witness this year and some people representing both internal and external interests have also worked fruitlessly to fulfill this prophecy,” he said,
Lalong exoressed confidence that, at the end of the day, Nigeria will emerge very strong and prosperous, exceeding all expectations and putting behind all disappointments. All that is needed, according to him, is for Nigerians to work together in unity, tolerance, sincerity, loyalty and patriotism to ensure that the nation lives up to its God-given potential.
He said, “For far too long, we have focused on our differences and weaknesses, and trivialised, or even ignored, our strengts and prospects. We seem to dissipate so much energy on defining people based on their religion, tribe, ethnicity and even political orientation, completely neglecting their capacities, gifts, talents and willingness to serve humanity.
“We have been blinded by such myopic considerations that we fail to see that God has a plan for creating us with diversity and yet making us dependent on one another.”
The governor contended that all great nations embrace diversity, tolerance, excellence, good work ethics, and a national philosophy based on honesty, reward for hardwork and punishment for deviance.
Lalong insisted that Nigerians cannot embrace corruption, despise hardwork, shun the rule of law, champion nepotism and bigotry, act selfishly, oppress one another, particularly the vulnerable, and yet expect to build a great nation.
“Great nations, according to him, have entrenched good governance, rule of law, tolerance, patriotism, social welfare, respect for human rights and zero tolerance to corruption and indiscipline – an example that Nigeria has no option than to follow if it must make headway.”
Taking his reading from the book of Jeremiah 27 and Luke 8:24-25 among other chapters, Deputy Chaplain of the Plateau State Government House Chapel, Rev. Ezekiel Dewan said Nigerians must avoid negative narratives as there is power in the tongue.
He pointed out that those who give up at difficult times may not benefit from God’s intervention when it arrives as they may be too blind to recognize it.
The governor admonished Nigerians to pray for God’s mercy on Plateau State and Nigeria, as the Bible directs citizens to not only pray for their leaders, but also for the cities where they dwell. He also asked that there should be constant prayers for God to turn the wisdom of the wicked into foolishness and stop them from troubling Nigeria.
In their separate goodwill messages, the Atah Ateng of Ganawuri (representing the State Traditional Council) and GOC 3rd Division and Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Maj. Gen. Ali, said though Nigeria is passing through difficulties of insecurity, poverty and disease among others, there is hope for the future as God is raising leaders who will unite all people, lead with the fear of God, and shun all forms of evil for nation development.
Vision Of United Country Undefeated – Osinbajo
On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo observed that even though there are current security, economic, religious, and ethnic challenges, the collective vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, where righteousness abounds, still abides.
This was the summation of Prof. Osinbajo’s remarks at the 61st Independence Anniversary Inter-denominational church service and the 45th anniversary service of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) held at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja yesterday.
The event tagged ‘Together, Come Let Us Build’, was attended by several dignitaries, especially representatives of the National Assembly, Judiciary, and members of the Federal Executive Council including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
According to a statement by the media aide of the vice president, Laolu Akande,there were also eminent religious leaders, including the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor E.A Adeboye, and CAN president, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, among others.
He said, “We have since become the most educated and most entrepreneurial nation in Africa. Ten of our 36 states have larger economies than at least 15 African countries. From our ranks, we have the most accomplished men and women in the arts, the sciences, in sport, in technology and commerce.
“Our current trials cannot draw the curtains on our story, because the vision is for an appointed time and because this country is greater than the sum of its parts and the sum of its mistakes, and because the God we serve is greater than the sum of our collective hopes and imagination, our nation will surmount our current travails and emerge in victory.”
Also, in pursuit of a more united and peaceful society, Christian groups and leaders of faith in Nigeria must preach fairness and equity at all times and be relentless advocates of freedom of worship, justice and the rule of law, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo, who was honoured on Saturday evening in Abuja with the Christian Association of Nigeria’s Award of Excellence at a Dinner and Awards night organized to mark the 45th anniversary of the association, also delivered President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government’s felicitations to the foremost Christian body on the milestone.
He said, “We must continue to let the important truth be known that Christ did not come to establish a religion or to condemn men, but to show all men that his own righteousness, not our righteousness or performance, is the qualification for eternal life; that the gospel commands consideration for the views of others, treating them as we would wish to be treated; non-violent communication, that our words must be words of grace seasoned with salt.
“We must, as an organisation and as individuals, remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice and the rule of law.”
Commending the works of current and past leadership of CAN in promoting religious tolerance, Prof. Osinbajo said, “CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, it has become a veritable force for peace, unity and social justice.”
According to him, “pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the poor in our society.
“Importantly, the current and past leadership of CAN have acted in full realization and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the government, private sector in nation-building.
“We are proud of the role of moral compass of society and interlocutor for peace among the different faiths that CAN has played and continues to play in our nation.
“I am aware of your collaboration with the leadership of the Islamic and other faiths, to reconcile where there are conflicts, to pacify where there has been offence, and to reprimand where there have been misdeeds. Well done and congratulations.”
Speaking on dousing religious and ethnic tensions in the society, the VP said “as we have seen in the past few years, not just in Nigeria but all over the world, there is a growing religious and ethnic chauvinism.
“An almost intemperate, vehement and often violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions without adequate consideration. At the same time there is the rise of identity and cultural politics. Brethren, the answer to hate, intolerance and conflict is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
On the call by CAN for the renovation of the National Christian Centre, Prof. Osinbajo gave a short presentation on renovation plan for the Centre, assuring that Christian groups and individuals would be mobilised to provide resources and complete the project.
Responding personally and also on behalf of other award recipients, Prof. Osinbajo said, “I accept the award with great humility, being mindful that we are not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition, but that because of the special grace of God, by which we have been chosen to serve in the high capacities that we serve, we are in the advantageous position that our contributions will be more easily noticed.”
The VP dedicated the award to “the many who daily, in different locations, distant and near, propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes difficult, even life-threatening situations. And to the many who have suffered deprivation, and the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.”
Other award recipients include former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; former Imo State governor, Sen. Rochas Okorocha; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; several State governors and faith leaders, including past presidents and general secretary of CAN.
The Imam that saved the lives of over 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, Abdullahi Abubakar, also received a special CAN recognition.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the VP had received the Imam in the Presidential Villa in May 2019 and praised him in public for his acts of courage, sacrifice and tolerance when he stuck out his neck to protect Christians who were being pursued to be massacred during a conflict situation in Barkin Ladi on June 23, 2018.