Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has challenged the elites to build a new nation out of the rubble of cynicism, division and suspicions.
Prof. Osinbajo was speaking on Friday as the Special Guest of Honour at the graduation of the 2017 Class of the Senior Course 39 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, North West Nigeria.
At the impressive ceremony attended by Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Minister of Defence, Rtd General Mansur Dan-Ali and top military chiefs, the Acting President said he envisioned “A Nigeria where the Igbo or Ijaw man can live peacefully in Sokoto, and the Fulani man can live peacefully in the Niger Delta.”
He said “We can build a new nation; a new nation built on trust, consensus and love for one another and love for our country is possible.
“A nation where the rulers do not steal the commonwealth, where every Nigerian is safe to live and work, where the State takes responsibility for the security of each and every Nigerian, where the State knows every Nigerian by name and can find and locate each one of us.”
Delivering a speech which addressed the hate-filled agitations being witnessed in the polity, the Acting President observed that the elite is largely to be blamed for the festering negative narratives, saying “I would like to emphasize the fact that this was essentially an elite phenomenon, unity and disunity are promoted by the elite which the vast majority of the Nigerian people are only later conscripted.”
He cautioned against the misuse of democratic right of freedom of speech saying, “while we must remain irrevocably committed to freedom of expression and the tenets of a free press, we must draw the line between freedom that conduces to healthy democracy and that which threatens and endangers the entire democratic enterprise. It is an important balance that we must strike. Failure in any way will be tragic.”
He also observed that the problem is exacerbated by the influence of the internet and hate media.
“Today a great deal of the threats facing Nigeria are being nurtured and cultivated in the vast spaces of the Internet. The rumblings of secession, the dangerous quit ultimatums to ethnic groups, the radio stations and blogs that spew divisive speech and exploit our fault lines; all of these are now to be found online,” he emphasised.
The Acting President noted that though that the days of military rule are now behind the nation, its officers and men should devote resources and talent to these new battlefields, including the internet, “where mindless verdicts on the continued unity and existence of Nigeria are daily being delivered.”
He added “the battle is not just to defeat the terrorists; the greater battle is to defeat the ideology and mindset that feeds the madness and to cut off its oxygen, money and publicity.”
Prof Osinbajo however expressed optimism stating that “the truth is that our nation and national unity is worth preserving and protecting. We are the preeminent power in Africa today in terms of population, size of our markets, natural resources and economy. We are a factor in the geopolitics of the world; no one can ignore a nation that is home to one in every four black persons. Smaller is weaker not stronger today.”
He charged the nation to rise above unproductive ethnic and religious sentiments “we must develop the emotional intelligence required to cope and adapt in a swiftly and constantly changing world. We must adopt a global mindset that seeks to learn from the experiences of other countries, far and near, so that we do not waste valuable time repeating mistakes that we should have learned from and learned to avoid.”
In his welcome address, the Commandant of the College, Air vice Marshall S. A. Dambo, announced that 187 persons graduated comprising officers from the nation’s Armed Forces, paramilitary and Ministry of Foreign Affairs including 10 international officers from eight countries, namely Liberia, Togo, Ghana, Cameroun, Niger, Mali, Rwanda and Gambia.
Dignitaries who attended the graduation ceremony included representatives of Service Chiefs, senior Military Officers, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni and members of the diplomatic corps.