To mark this year’s international day of sports for peace and development, a Non-Governmental Organisation on the aegis of Arm the Child Foundation and some internally displaced children in Abuja have urged all Nigerians to drop their ethnic and religious differences and embrace one and other.
The United Nation recognises April 6th annually as International Day of Sports for Peace and Development.
Speaking during a novelty match organised to preach peace and unity in Nigeria, at the weekend, President and founder of the Arm the Child Foundation, Shuwargwe Damak, called on all relevant stakeholders to ensure restoration of peace and unity in Nigeria, adding that socio-economic development cannot thrive in an environment of violence.
According to Damak, Nigerians should always remember that they are Nigerians first before whatever ethnic group or religion they identify with.
She said: “Kick for Peace is an annual friendly match, it is a novelty football match that we organised to bring people together regardless of their backgrounds to come and watch soccer and play soccer.
“We have been working with Internationally Displaced Children over the past five years and the existence of Internally Displaced Children is as a result of peace in different part of the country. In the absence of peace social-economic development can’t thrive.
“When you travelling outside the country, as soon as you get to Immigration borders of foreign countries, nobody will ask you for the passport of your ethnic group, what they will ask for is the Passport of your country.
“So, if we divide ourselves here in Nigeria by the time you travel outside Nigeria people over there won’t recognise your tribe or ethnic group, the only identity they recognize is our Green Passport.
“So, if we come together and drop our differences there are more we stand to gain. There will be wide spread socio and economic development, and you will all agree with me that in absence of peace it is hard work for socio and economic development to thrive, there is loss of lives and property.
“Take for example, some of the children that came out from violence area in the North-east of Nigeria had to stop going to school because their schools were burnt down, that has taken social-economic development backward, economic activities won’t thrive in an area where violence is predominant. So, we are calling on Nigerians to drop their differences and embrace one and other.”
Continued, Damak said: “If we are looking for someone who can deliver on economic development it shouldn’t be based on the person’s ethic identification or religion, it should be based on the person’s capacity. So, we should embrace each other as Nigerian and drop our differences. I am not saying we should let go of our culture or religion but we should hold on to the things that made us one which is the country Nigeria, so our identity should be Nigerian not whatever ethnic group or religion we decide affiliate with.”
When asked why the choice of soccer, she described the game as an enabler of peace, adding that whenever the soccer game is on, nobody talks about ethnicity or religion.
“If you go to any football viewing centre, hardly would you identify who is Igbo or Yoruba, the game unite all. So soccer is an enabler of peace, soccer brings people together regardless of their differences. That’s why we are using soccer to send message across to Nigerians to see the benefits of togetherness and at the end of this game we are presenting a Peace Cup to the government of Nigeria, to call on all the relevant stakeholders to restore peace and unity to Nigeria.”
Also speaking, the Foundation’s Director of Social and Community Development, Bondi Bilala, said the organisation is passionate about arming the Internationally Displaced Children and vulnerable children of negative influences and try to arm them with quality education and positive influences.
Bilala, who is also a board member of the Foundation, said her organisation has been organising such event for the past five years where they get the children of different backgrounds together on a football field “and there is no ethnic differences, no religion differences, no I am Yello, you are black.
“We are united together for a common purpose, we are united together to promote the culture of oneness and togetherness, so this is what we are trying to do, that’s the message we are preaching and we think such message is more important now considering what is happening in the country.
“In Nigeria, we had a history of violence, differences and with the recent elections we saw a lot of those differences pushed to the forefront. So we thought it’s very important that we first recognise these things and tell these children who have come from background that has been war-torn and violence, come together on this field to speak unity, peace and teamwork.”
Some of the displaced children who narrated their experiences, urged government and Nigerians to come to their aide in Abuja IDP camp.
One of them, Mathias Yakubu Gowon who hails from Borno state, lamented the deplorable standard of living in the camp, urging government to assist them.
In his own, Clement Adamu, who resides in IDP’s camp at new Kuchigoro area of Abuja, called for more efforts to ensure that peace return to all part of the country, especially North-east region.