By Nwafor Okafor
The Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has asked secessionist groups in the country to learn from the history of South Sudan which broke into war
within the new nation two years after achieving self-determination .
He stated this on Tuesday as the Guest Lecturer at the combined 9/10th anniversary of Zik Lecture Series held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.
He admonished Nigerians to bury their differences in order to achieve a greater and fulfilled country.
He said a well-structured dialogue remained a major pathway to peace and progress, adding “there is nothing heroic in dying for a cause that dialogue and negotiations can help resolve.
The Ekiti Governor who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum stressed the need to develop a democratic system in Nigeria that would meet the expectations of Nigerians and restore people’s trust in the government they voted into office.
Fayemi who spoke on the theme” “Nation-Building: Between Restructuring and Autonomy” said Nigerians must learn to manage their differences and do so in order to achieve the goal of a better and more perfect union.
He said “The indestructibility of Nigeria, as envisaged by Zik is indeed best assured when the majority of Nigerians are emotionally connected to Nigeria because of what Nigeria is able to do for them and in the quality of life it provides for its citizens.”
Paying glowing tributes to Azikiwe, Fayemi said “In his time, Nnamdi Azikiwe scored many firsts that can only be recalled with awe and admiration.
” He was among the pioneering University-educated Africans who sojourned to the United States in their quest for knowledge and send-improvement. He was also a pioneering sportsman, public intellectual, journalist, newspaper proprietor – with 12 daily titles in his stable at one point in time-, owner of a pan-Nigeria athletic club, and author.”
While arguing for the preservation of unity of Nigeria amidst agitations of groups like MASSOB and IPOB, Fayemi enjoined Nigerians to learn from experience of a smaller African country, South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011only for a fresh civil war to break out within the new nation two years after achieving self-determination which led to the death of about 400,000 people with over four million people displaced.
Stating that the Nigerian situation no matter how dire it looked was not irredeemable, Fayemi advocated the need to strengthen those pillars that unite Nigerians rather than fanning the embers of disunity and disintegration which he said negated the ideals of nationalists like Dr Azikiwe.
He added,, “I am convinced that the problems that we are called upon to address and redress in building a better country are not beyond our grasp to tackle. With good faith and a generous dose of goodwill, we can, as we have done in various occasions in our history, summon that Nigerian genius to build on the things we have successfully erected together.
“We must strive to do so in the spirit of the kinds of noble values and principles that inflamed the spirit of a youthful Azikiwe to enrol at Lincoln University in a quest to discover the innate goodness in the human species with a view to building a better and freer world.
“We must never abandon the spirit of inquiry and discovery that led Azikiwe to join other nationalists to seek to create a nation-state founded on the best ideals of a citizenship anchored on freedom and justice.
“We, the people of Nigeria,” must truly mean that our considered aspirations have fed into the document that would form the fundamental organising principle of our nationhood. The opportunities are there.
“The question of how to develop a democratic system that meets the expectations of our people and restore people’s trust in government; how to bring ethical principles, empathy and efficiency into the heart of government and leadership at all levels; how to harness our demographic advantage and translate our youth population into an asset rather than a time bomb; how to build a society that is governed by the rule of law; how to build an electoral system that is reliable and efficient; or how to build a trusted, dependable and efficient judiciary.
“All these are at the very heart of what I see as the broad package of restructuring that we need to work towards. It is a package around which we can forge a broad consensus. And I believe that we don’t need to go through another war or tear down our country in order to arrive at such a consensus.
“For me, this encapsulates the idea of nation building at its best. A contract must be founded on cohesion – a covenant to stay true to the agreed contract. All parties must agree to avoid contestations.
“Achieving a sense of common identity, strong institutions and shared values as a nation is a process of building trust and finding unity in difference. This is how we build the sort of national relationship that is not an exploitative social contract but a moral commitment that combines individual and state obligations.
“Permit me to conclude with this admonition. Regardless of how long it takes and whatever we do in-between, war or violence is never an option. I hold a Doctorate in War Studies. Therefore, I feel adequately qualified to speak about the futility of war and violence.
“There is absolutely nothing heroic about dying foolishly for a cause for which dialogue and negotiation can provide pathways to workable solutions.
“Whatever is worth fighting for, is worth staying alive for. I can very much hear this refrain flowing from the life experience and legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe. And if the Great Zik were alive, this is precisely what he would be telling this august gathering. Let us hearken to his words of wisdom.”
The event which, has representatives of the five Governors of the South Eastern States in attendance as well as widow of the late Zik, Prof Uche Azikwe and the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Nnameka Ugochukwu Achebe and the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi in attendance, was preceeded with the turning of the sod for the Zik Centre within the University Campus.