Nigerians better off together, says Buhari
• Eminent citizens advocate national rebirth, inter-ethnic equity
The annual Tinubu Colloquium, 12th in its series, to mark the 69th birthday of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), lived up to its reputation yesterday to make some inquest into national conversation and evoke frank discourse on the state of the nation.
The colloquium held in Kano, was themed: ‘‘Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth: The Imperative of National Cohesion for Growth and Prosperity.’’ The event was virtually attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, who chaired the occasion and restated the essence of a one Nigeria.
The colloquium was also virtually attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; amongst others, whose itineraries were disrupted by poor weather from the Abuja airport to the Kano airport. The colloquium was conceived by Prof. Osinbajo as a platform to celebrate the former Lagos State governor popularly called Jagaban and has held every year since 2009, except last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic
After missing out last year due to the lockdown on major cities in the country, yesterday’s colloquium was another moment of soul-searching for the ruling party as its bigwigs rendered torrents of accolades for its convener.
Amidst the din of tributes, Tinubu cautioned the Federal Government against inflicting stiffer economic policies on Nigerians, stating that citizens were already going through devastating pressure occasioned by the administration’s economic management.
Tinubu said: “What Nigerians need is economic stimulus and not austerity measures capable of driving Nigerians deeper into poverty.”
Asiwaju, who lamented the country’s unemployment rate, which stood at 33 per cent, said the country is competing with bandits to recruit unemployed youths, while he proposed immediate recruitment of 50 million youth to fill the acute shortage in the military and police.
The former governor of Lagos State said: “Nigeria is under-policed. We are competing with armed robbers and bandits to recruit from the youths who are unemployed. Nigeria’s unemployment rate recently hit a new record high at 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“With the high unemployment rate, some have feared that many youths who are out of jobs might turn to social vices and ills including banditry in northern parts of the country. It is time for the Buhari administration to address the situation so as to improve the standard of living of the citizens. Something must be urgently done to salvage the country
“Let’s do a lot of things at home to create jobs. We find very creative minds on social media. Let us salute our youths.
Yes, they (youths) are angry but we will pacify them. We need to pacify our youths otherwise the consequences could be dangerous. What we did in Lagos could be replicated across the country.”
Tinubu, however, cautioned against constant youth agitation, which he claimed might be a vital ground for dangerous revolution.
He disclosed that the shift of his annual colloquium to Kano was deliberately considered to strengthen Nigeria’s unity and promote peaceful co-existence across the country regardless of divergent views.
Making reference to the marriage of the daughter of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, to the son of the late ex-Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, which took place in Kano in 2018, he asked: “Why are we in Kano? It is to demonstrate unity to Nigerians at this critical time. It is because there is a Fulani man, a herder who gave his daughter to a farmer, Yoruba man.”
Tinubu, who appreciated his host, Governor Ganduje, said by hosting the event in the northwest state, he and the governor have demonstrated that a firm Nigeria is possible, going forward.
President Buhari said occasional tensions in the nation’s history characterised by diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion, notwithstanding, Nigerians are better off and stronger together, especially at a period the corporate existence of the country is being challenged by ethnic diversity and agitation for self-determination.x
The president, who commended the celebrant for always being an advocate of unity and cohesion in Nigeria, said: “This has been a constant factor in his outstanding political career, from 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.
“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. I believe all of us here can also confirm that the same outlook of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other like-minded Nigerians eventually made possible the coalition of four political parties into what we now see as our great party, the All Progressives Congress,’’ he said.
President Buhari noted that the objectives of the colloquium, which seeks to provide answers to national issues, further reflect the personal principles of Asiwaju Tinubu in promoting the unity and welfare of the country.
“I can also relate personally to the ideals of one Nigeria. As a military officer, I have served with great comrades from all the nooks and crannies of our country. I have seen over and over again that their goodness or failings did not depend on ethnicity or religion.
“More importantly, I fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970, and I saw first-hand the unspeakable horrors of war, not just on fellow soldiers on both sides, but on the civilians: innocent children, women and elderly citizens that they left behind. As we all know, the peace-building, recovery and reconstruction that followed could also not have succeeded under an atmosphere of inter-ethnic animosity.”x
This message of unity was also corroborated by the Vice President, who said the country needs “a growing new tribe of Nigerians that are willing to make the sacrifices and self-constraints crucial to building a strong society, and are prepared to stick together, fight for equity and justice.
“This would be my first colloquium where I will not be physically present at the venue. Several of us did the best we could from Abuja to get to Kano this morning, but bad weather certainly gave us so much difficulty that we were unable to fly there,” he disclosed.
According to the VP, despite the various socio-economic challenges worsened by the fallouts of a global pandemic, he urged Nigerians to avoid stoking tendencies, viewpoints and opinions that threaten the federation and its unity.
Participants also used the occasion to advocate for a renewed national integration and genuine rebirth to purge Nigeria from a looming ethnic and religious fragmentation.
Keynote speaker, Prof. Dani Rodrik, who contended that infusion of social conflict is not necessarily destined to ravage any society, however suggested inter-ethnic equity, spatial integration and encompassing politics as solution to peace.
The professor of international political economy from Harvard University noted that inequality and lack of economic inclusion among diverse ethnic groups remain major cause of instability and acrimony in Nigeria. He tasked political leaders to ensure wide spread of resources to check growing disaffection in the country.x
The don added that if anything, democracy is better in handling diversity than authoritarian regime. “Democracy provides more economic stability. Africa provides two important examples of this claim. Mauritius and Botswana.
Mauritius was wrecked in the first time by ethnic crisis but good leadership addressed the situation.
“Democratic form of governance is better than authoritarian government. It was proven during the Covid-19 lockdown. Democracy is not only about election but protecting the rights of the people, including the minority group.”
In his comment, Acting National Chairman of APC, Governor Mai Mala-Buni, said the colloquium is with a difference because it demonstrated the sense of unity in Nigeria. According to him, “We are demonstrating a great leader and a bridge builder. I also salute Ganduje for demonstrating the true sense of unity by hosting the event.
Gbajabiamila said many successful politicians today in the country owe their gratitude to God and of course to the vessel God used to bring them up, which is Tinubu. “I do not know of any man in Nigeria either living or dead that dreams, talks and thinks politics 24 hours everyday like Asiwaju. I don’t know anybody with such capacity.”