Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has called on Nigerians to work towards a more united country, saying Nigeria would be “greater together than apart.”
Osinbajo made the call at a one-day conference held at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Nigerian civil war.
The conference, organised by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Initiative West Africa, had notable Nigerians, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Pat Utomi and Alhaji Ahmed Joda, reminiscing about the civil war and suggesting ways of ensuring that tragic event does not occur again.
Osinbajo, who gave the keynote address, admonished Nigerians to always look more at issues that unite them.
He said: “Instead of trying to flee into the lazy comfort of homogeneity every time we are faced with the frustrations of living together as countrymen and women, the more beneficial individually and collectively is actually to apply the effort, the patience to understand one another and to progressively aspire to create one nation, which in the words of our anthem is bound in freedom, peace and unity. That in a sense should be the Nigerian creed; the enthusiasm that to create a country that provides reasons for the citizens to believe in it, a country that does not discriminate or marginalise.”
The Acting President said it was necessary to remember and learn from history, but advised that it would not be right to continue to “focus exclusively on the narrative of division at the expense of uplifting and inspiring ones.“
He said leaders must strive to uphold the constitution and discourage any form of discrimination.
“We must not allow our leaders the easy but dangerous rhetoric of blaming our social and economic conditions on our coming together,” Osinbajo stated, reminding leaders that it is their duty “our duty to give us a vision, a pathway, to make our unity in diversity more perfect.”
In his remarks, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the civil war was “a creeping incident” which would not have occurred if the founding fathers did not work for unity.
Obasanjo, who fought in the civil war and received the instrument of surrender at the end of the war, said Nigerian forces observed the Geneva Convention and a special code of conduct to ensure that the loss of life was minimal.
He said right from the beginning of the war reconciliation was on the mind of the Nigerian government.
Others who spoke at the event were the West African Representative of the Ford Foundation, Innocent Chukwuma, a board member of the Yar’Adua Foundation and Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onyia.