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Nigeria: Fayemi decries lack of national unity

*Says leaders easily slide into ethno-regional champions

*Civilian regimes undermining national unity – Jega

Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi and former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday took a look at Nigeria’s national unity and said there is evidence of erosion and abandonment of national integration.

The duo, who spoke at a summit organised by the National Prosperity Movement (NPM) in Abuja, attributed insurgency and militancy currently being witnessed in the country, to lack of faith in the Nigerian project.

Fayemi, who was Special Guest of Honour, regretted that some people “entrusted with leadership responsibility very easily slide into the role of ethno-regional champions, xenophobes, and zealots.”

The Ekiti governor, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said unity cannot endure where injustice, exclusion, inequity and marginalisation are embedded in the practice of governance.

“That is why as leaders, we must pay attention at all times to ensure that as we work to deliver on our mandate, fairness and equity are made our watchwords at all times.

“Our commitment to these values must not simply be minimalist – doing only the barest minimum required of us by the constitution – or token, just for the sake of playing to the gallery, or even rhetorical, through the paying of lip service,” he stated.

Although he admitted that no country in the world was created as a united entity from the outset, the governor stated that leaders are positioned to help moderate seasons of deep division in the polity, rather than becoming the ones who add fuel to a raging fire.

“As leaders, we must not only embody the ideals of national unity but also be seen to be their active torch bearers at all time. This way, we build popular trust in our actions and erase doubts about our intentions.

“Fostering unity in a context of multiple diversities no doubt requires fulsome attention to equity, justice, fair play, and merit,” Fayemi stated.

The governor disagreed that the amalgamation of 1914 was a mistake, noting that most countries in the world today are the products of an involuntary and/or compelled mergers of peoples who were once brought together under the same roof.

These countries, according to him, had to work to forge bonds of unity among themselves.

He stated that unity anywhere and everywhere is an outcome that is generated out of initial conditions that are not by any means perfect.

Jega, who was Keynote Speaker, said many young men and women are so frustrated that they are diverting their energies to aggressive behaviour and creativity to all sorts of criminality.

The former INEC Chairman stated that civilian administrations ate more culpable in undermining Nigerian unity than their military counterparts.

According to him, military rule initially threatened and almost destroyed national unity before the civil war, but has through such programmes like reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as well as the introduction of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) helped “accelerate the goal of national integration.”

Although he condemned the introduction of the federal character principle in employment into federal service, and the quota system of admissions into tertiary institutions, which he said laid the foundation for heightened mutual suspicions and fears, Jega said “civilian administrations, especially since 1999 seem to have, more or less, presided over the undermining if not destruction of the bases and foundations of national unity and integration in Nigeria.”

Chairman of the occasion, Maj-Gen. Ibrahim Haruna (rtd) said insecurity, corruption and intolerance have continued to dominate Nigeria’s political scene despite the various mantras introduced by successive civilian administrations in the country.

 

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