As Nigerians reflect on 50 years after the country’s civil war, hundreds of Nigerians living in the United Kingdom, Europe and America (UK) have called on the Nigerian authorities to follow up with recent calls for a National Dialogue by the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF).
Nigeria is currently plagued with violent extremism and festering ethnic suspicion, an affliction that has plagued the former British colony since independence in 1960 and led to a 30-month devastating war which ended in 1970.
As the country marks half a century memorial of the civil war, the scars appear to have continued to be oiled by corruption and poor leadership which have combined to stifle unity and mutual trust, the Nigerian professionals, under the aegis of Fatherland, have said.
The group also said it was time Nigerians came together for a constructive national dialogue to deal with ethnic suspicion and other socio-political problems afflicting in the country.
Fatherland is a network of Nigerian professionals largely living abroad.
The group said it welcomed the call by a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF), Dr Usman Bugaje, a leading intellectual in the North who late last year called for a National Dialogue on the future of the country.
“In our view it is always good to talk. We share Dr Bugaje’s view on the urgent need for us to find a way forward out of the present morass for the benefit of all of our peoples and so we are pleased to accept his call. However, there are some errors and misconceptions in the lecture that he delivered which need to be corrected. When making the call he identified three things which he said “becloud our vision” and which, he says, we must unshackle ourselves from “before we can arrive at a national consensus,” the statement signed by the Group Chairman, Mr Dele Ogun, a lawyer who lives in the UK, noted.
Ogun, on behalf of the group, said Fatherland supports Bugaje’s argument, but pointed out some misconceptions in his theory.
The group said while Bugaje cites Somalia as an example of a failed state – despite being a people of the same language, faith and culture – it was not the whole story because he must also be aware of the peace and prosperity that multi-ethnic Switzerland has enjoyed despite the fact that the nationalities of which it is made up fought each other in two bloody World Wars.
“This feat has been possible because the country faces up to and embraces its diversity in its constitutional arrangements. The post-Apartheid, Rainbow Nation of South Africa offers even better example in how diversity should be embraced,” Fatherland said.
Ogun said the focal points of Dr Bugaje were Demystification of Ethnicity, Knowledge Driven Discourse and Appreciation of the Future.
The group said in relation to the “Demystification of Ethnicity”, Bugaje complained that “we seem to have allowed the ignorant to lead the national discourse on ethnicity or better still those who know better looked the other way when the ignorant and the manipulators were using the ethnic card to score their cheap points”. He is wrong in this. Far from the discourse on the need for constitutional arrangements to take account of the reality of our differences, having been led by the ignorant, it has, in fact, been led by those who have refused to play the Ostrich by burying their heads in the sands of denial. These are the ones who have opened their eyes and minds to the obvious fact that skin colour alone does not make us one.
It said in an effort to support his claim that those who have faced up to the realities have been scoring “cheap points,” he points to England and says: “Today the Turkish roots of the current British Prime Minister are very well known and acknowledged, but it did not make him any less British”. He fails to realise that the four remaining fingers of his hand are pointing home to Abuja where no Southerner has been allowed to occupy the office of Minister for the Federal Capital Territory even though we are all Nigerians. England is in fact a bad example for him to point to because, in the same way, no practising Roman Catholic has ever occupied the office of Prime Minister of England.
Fatherland said by choosing his own ethnic group’s platform – the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the investiture of Sarkin Fulani of Lagos – to deliver this call for other Nigerians to free themselves from the shackles of ethnicity, Dr Bugaje seriously undermines his message.
The group said in relation to the need for a “Knowledge Driven Discourse”, Fatherland could not agree more with his admonition that: “we confuse unity with uniformity, that we want to be united in a country we must look the same, think the same and even wear the same. This is not possible, the unequal length of the fingers of our hands is instructive enough. Each finger has a specific role that only it, is designed to perform”
Fatherland stated: “We say he should tell the Arewa Consultative Forum, which he represents, to back up these fine words with a commitment to a new constitutional arrangement which, with intelligent design, eschews uniformity and allows flexibility to each of the fingers of this country to allow the limbs to work independently and collectively in spite of differences. This requires that we make harmony between our ethnic groups our first priority, just like the fingers of our hands.”
Ogun said with reference to his third headliner, “Appreciation of the Future”, Fatherland welcomes his acknowledgment of the fact that “creativity is the new oil” and that “knowledge is the greatest capital”.
The group added: “in our view, each and every one of our peoples has something to offer in this regard. To unshackle that potential, we, in the Fatherland Group, stand ready to join with the Arewa Consultative Forum in mobilizing for the National Consensus which he has called for.”
Late last year, Dr Bugaje a leading intellectual of the Arewa Consultative Forum, came down to Lagos to deliver a lecture titled “Nigeria In Turbulent Times: Pathways to Peaceful Co-Existence and National Cohesion” in which he called for the mobilization of what he termed a ‘National Consensus’.
In his words, “We must mobilize for a National Consensus, which must be led by the Nigerian elite. If you look at the history of nations that went down and had to start from the (sic) scratch and today are the envy of their peers, you will discover that they all had to arrive at some national consensus and direction before they could mobilize their collective national energy in that direction.
“If you look at South Korea, which went through a devastating civil war in the 1950s, but today at the cutting edge of technology; if you look at Singapore, which a few decades back was a fishing village in the backwaters of Malaysia, now with one of the best educational and governance systems; if you look near home the rise of Rwanda from the ashes of the worst genocide in Africa, yet one of the fastest growing economies with high scores on the SDG score card; you will find that their leaders crafted a national consensus, which gave impetus to their rise to the levels they are today. Indeed leaders are essentially there to build consensus and provide direction”.