Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, declared yesterday that only dialogue and open-minded negotiation involving people of various ethno-religious and social components of Nigeria can wriggle the country out of the political, economic and social morass it is enmeshed in.
According to him, success can only be achieved if leaders and followers share a unity of purpose to get the problems solved.
Speaking as a guest lecturer at the combined 9th and 10th anniversary of Zik Lecture Series held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Fayemi charged Nigerians to bury their differences in order to achieve a greater and fulfilled country.
Fayemi who noted that a well-structured dialogue remains a major pathway to peace and progress said there was nothing heroic in dying for a cause that dialogue and negotiations can help resolve.
The Ekiti governor stressed the need to develop a democratic system in Nigeria that meets the expectations of Nigerians and restore people’s trust in the government they voted into office.
Delivering his lecture entitled, “Nation-Building: Between Restructuring and Autonomy”, Fayemi pointed out that Nigerians must learn to manage their differences and do so in order to achieve the goal of a better and more perfect union.
He said, “The indestructibility of Nigeria, as envisaged by Zik is indeed best assured when the majority of Nigerians are emotionally connected to Nigeria because of what Nigeria is able to do for them and in the quality of life it provides for its citizens.”
He paid glowing tributes to the late sage, Dr Azikiwe, whose memory the lecture is held annually on his birthday, November 16, to interrogate issues affecting Nigeria, Africa and the world at large and to proffer solutions to key problems confronting humanity.
The governor noted: “In his time, Nnamdi Azikiwe scored many firsts that can only be recalled with awe and admiration. He was among the pioneering University-educated Africans who sojourned to the United States in their quest for knowledge and send-improvement.
“He was also a pioneering sportsman, public intellectual, journalist, newspaper proprietor – with 12 daily titles in his stable at one point in time-, owner of a pan-Nigeria athletic club, and author.”
Calling for the preservation of unity of Nigeria amidst agitations of groups like MASSOB and IPOB, Fayemi enjoined Nigerians to learn from experience of a smaller African country, South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011 only for a fresh civil war to break out within the new nation two years after achieving self-determination, leading to the death of about 400,000 people with over 4 million people displaced.
He further argued that the Nigerian situation, no matter how dire it looks, is not irredeemable, even as he advocated the need to strengthen those pillars that unit Nigerians rather than fanning the embers of disunity and disintegration which he insisted negated the ideals of nationalists like Dr. Azikiwe.
Fayemi said, “I am convinced that the problems that we are called upon to address and redress in building a better country are not beyond our grasp to tackle. With good faith and a generous dose of goodwill, we can, as we have done in various occasions in our history, summon that Nigerian genius to build on the things we have successfully erected together.
“We must strive to do so in the spirit of the kinds of noble values and principles that inflamed the spirit of a youthful Azikiwe to enrol at Lincoln University in a quest to discover the innate goodness in the human species with a view to building a better and freer world. We must never abandon the spirit of inquiry and discovery that led Azikiwe to join other nationalists to seek to create a nation-state founded on the best ideals of a citizenship anchored on freedom and justice.
“We, the people of Nigeria,” must truly mean that our considered aspirations have fed into the document that would form the fundamental organising principle of our nationhood. The opportunities are there.
“The question of how to develop a democratic system that meets the expectations of our people and restore people’s trust in government; how to bring ethical principles, empathy and efficiency into the heart of government and leadership at all levels; how to harness our demographic advantage and translate our youth population into an asset rather than a time bomb; how to build a society that is governed by the rule of law; how to build an electoral system that is reliable and efficient; or how to build a trusted, dependable and efficient judiciary.
“All these are at the very heart of what I see as the broad package of restructuring that we need to work towards. It is a package around which we can forge a broad consensus. And I believe that we don’t need to go through another war or tear down our country in order to arrive at such a consensus.
“For me, this encapsulates the idea of nation building at its best. A contract must be founded on cohesion – a covenant to stay true to the agreed contract. All parties must agree to avoid contestations.
“Achieving a sense of common identity, strong institutions and shared values as a nation is a process of building trust and finding unity in difference. This is how we build the sort of national relationship that is not an exploitative social contract but a moral commitment that combines individual and state obligations.
“Permit me to conclude with this admonition. Regardless of how long it takes and whatever we do in-between, war or violence is never an option. I hold a Doctorate in War Studies. Therefore, I feel adequately qualified to speak about the futility of war and violence.
“There is absolutely nothing heroic about dying foolishly for a cause for which dialogue and negotiation can provide pathways to workable solutions.
“Whatever is worth fighting for is worth staying alive for. I can very much hear this refrain flowing from the life experience and legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe. And if the Great Zik were alive, this is precisely what he would be telling this august gathering. Let us hearken to his words of wisdom”.
The initiator of the Zik Annual Lecture Series, Senator Ben Obi, said the Zik Centre would be committed to research and teaching on the ideals of the late former president, noting that a major bane of the country’s development is the low level of importance attached to the teaching of history in schools.
We’re Poised To End Killings – South East Governors
Also at the event, the South East Governor’s Forum said it has initiated conversations and discussions with various segments of the zone to ensure the security of lives and properties of residents.
Chairman of the forum and Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, said that there had been serious concerns following the activities of kidnappers and unknown gunmen which has led to killings and wanton destruction of properties in the zone.
Governor Umahi who was represented by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, at the 9th and 10th combined Zik’s Lecture series Anniversary Celebration held at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Anambra state.
He said, “We have Initiated conversations and discussions with various segments of the zone to tackle some genuine concerns which was misinterpreted and hijacked by some faceless people masquerading as unknown gunmen to cripple the economy of the zone”.
“As the chief security officers of our respective states, we are committed to carry out our constitutional mandate of protecting lives and properties of the South East zone”.
The governor called on the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to take urgent steps to address sections of the constitution that are inconsistent with the modern trends and capabilities that interrogate the nation’s current security threat.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for embarking on comprehensive multi-sectoral approach in strengthening the security structures of the country.
While commending the organisers for their initiative, Governor Umahi described the late Zik as a symbol of nationalism who made valuable contributions to the Socio- political development of Nigeria.