Yes, like President Muhammadu Buhari has said, despite the country’s occasional ethnic tensions, Nigerians are better off and stronger staying together.
The President spoke at the 12th Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Colloquium held recently in Kano.
“Despite occasional inter-ethnic tensions in our national history, it seems to me that we have all agreed on one point that, notwithstanding our diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion, Nigerians are better together; even stronger together,’’ he said.
Thus, for the role he plays in the process of unity building, the president commended the celebrant for always being an advocate of unity and cohesion in Nigeria.
The president said the commitment to nation building remains a constant factor in Tinubu’s outstanding political career, recalling the time he served in the short-lived senate of the Third Republic to his involvement in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola, to his much-acclaimed period of service as Governor of Lagos state from 1999 to 2007.Tellingly, the president said: “The ranks of Asiwaju’s political collaborators, whether as party members, comrades in the struggle, members of his cabinet, or his advisers, assistants and political associates, have always reflected a pan-Nigeria attitude.”Indeed, pan-Nigeria attitude is what we all, especially leaders and politicians, need to have. Unity is what we all, ideally, should preach. Our population size should, instead, be our strength and reason for development.
Yet, Nigeria’s population, estimated at over 200 million, which means the country has skilled and unskilled labour in abundance, is its source of weakness, division and conflict and its vast mineral resources becomes its source of economic exploitation and corruption.
These endowments should have made Nigeria one of the key destinations for global investment. And with its wealth in petroleum and natural resources as well as its vast agricultural potential, Nigeria should have by now become Africa’s undisputed economic giant.
However, many decades after its independence, Nigeria, like a vehicle struggling to climb a hilly road, has yet to achieve its potential. Its large population has become a source of weakness, not strength.
With mass unemployment and overstretching of inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure, many Nigerians have had to seek their fortunes abroad.
At independence, all eyes were on the most populous black country on earth – Nigeria, of course, for a good reason. Nigerians were high flyers in intellectual and educational endeavours, business, international diplomacy, and in military and political leadership.
Unfortunately, expectations regarding Nigeria, from local and international quarters, soon became dashed and the country’s development process became arrested by some avoidable factors such as succession of failed administrations, political instability, structural adjustment programme (which destroyed the local economy), moral bankruptcy in public institutions, military misadventure into the political arena and religious and ethnic bigotry.
Other factors include the growing rot in public bureaucracy, sleaze in the oil sector and overdependence on oil revenue, public office allure – which has attracted more thieves and charlatans to politics, the ceaseless plunder of the national treasury and a lack of public accountability.
With all that, it is inevitable that a lack of commitment by leaders and the people to the Nigerian project – a united, stable, developed and prosperous country – and flooding of the polity with hard-line ethnic or proto-nationalists in a country of over 250 groups – will inexorably land the country in constant clashes and destruction.
Then, there is insecurity, which, for more than 10 years, has been intractable. Obviously, the country’s state of insecurity arises from a weak and compromised national security architecture, which has been one of the stumbling blocks to Nigeria’s realisation of its development potential. While several other factors have combined over the decades to hold Nigeria down, the horrific state of security has, no doubt, weakened the fabric of the state.
Undoubtedly, the frequency of insurgent attacks has resulted in collateral damage to the peace, stability, development, and challenges the sovereignty of Nigeria.
Still, change in Nigeria is possible. But first, there has to be a mental and moral reorientation and, if governments fail in this regard, civil society organisations should take up the task while religious organisations, with their massive and committed followers, also have a role to play here.
However, above anything else, the Buhari-led administration has to truly commit itself to fight corruption. Corruption has bled Nigeria to a near-death, and from its destructive tendencies rises, in a sustainable manner, the issues of ethnicity and religious bigotry. And, worse, corruption could cost up to 37% of gross domestic product by 2030, if not checked and stopped.
When honesty is rewarded and corrupt acts are publicly punished, more Nigerians will more likely embrace honesty in their endeavours. Governments should purge themselves of corrupt elements and prosecute those found culpable.
This internal purge will not only show commitment and the will to fight corruption, but will also serve as a deterrent to others across the country.In the end, the kind of national integration preached by, and demonstrated by both Buhari and Tinubu and its benefits can be realised only with the development and entrenchment of a supportive public culture.
Nigerians must understand, respect and tolerate differences occasioned by socio-cultural diversity and also develop new institutions and mechanisms that address poverty, illiteracy and other national issues peacefully.
No doubt, Nigeria can transform its potential into success. With a huge population, its citizens can be mobilised and empowered to engage in manufacturing as it is done in serious-minded countries.
More than 60 years after the country’s independence, Nigeria should not be groping in the dark, with several of its ethnic groups fighting and suspecting each other of bad intentions and actions, and its citizens wallow in abject poverty and illiteracy.
Thankfully, the objectives of the just-ended colloquium were organised to find answers to national issues and reflect on the personal principles of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with a view to promoting the unity and welfare of the country.
On utilising gas industrilisation…
President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, launched a programme called “The Decade of Gas in Nigeria” with a pledge to use the enormous gas resources in the country to uplift the economy and drive industrialization.Natural gas is a transition fuel that is environmentally friendly, affordable, reliable, accessible and flexible. As countries face mounting pressure to provide electricity and reduce carbon emissions, natural gas has emerged as a great compromise between industry and environmental activists.
Setting the tone for the development of the gas industry in the next 10 years, the president said given the country’s potential of about 600trn cubic feet of gas, the commodity has the enormous potential to diversify Nigeria’s economy.And, that is true. Nigeria, considering its huge reserves and potential for economic transformation, is considered as a gas nation as much as it is an oil-producing country.
With many discoveries across Africa, the need to explore gas for domestic development and implement policies to drive its utilisation, especially as it relates to electricity and industrial growth, remain a major agenda for stakeholders in the natural gas space.
Therefore,with the rising global demand for cleaner energy sources, Nigeria has been offered an opportunity to exploit its gas resources for its own good. No wonder Buhari says: “We intend to seize this opportunity.’’