President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina has said that Nigeria will only attain greatness if it manages its diversity properly.
Speaking, on Saturday at the convocation lecture he delivered at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, Adamawa state capital, Adesina said Nigerians deserve wealth, not poverty, adding that the nation must learn how to manage its diversity for prosperity.
He said that the nation’s diversity is at present being mismanaged and suggested the way out, citing the Singapore example.
According to him: “Our diversity is not our problem. Diversity is our strength.
“But when mismanaged, diversity becomes divergence. Rather than unite, we become splintered, with each entity believing that, somehow, it is better without the other. We must manage diversity for collective good.”
Adesina said, any society where meritocracy is subjugated to aristocracy, ethnocracy or religiocracy eventually tends towards mediocrity.
He said: “Nigeria must learn from this experience and forge a new way of engaging among its diverse ethnic groups and religions.
“Nigeria must start managing its diversity for prosperity. We must drive for national cohesion, not ethnic nationalities.”
He said the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was a very good idea because it allowed graduates from tertiary institutions to have one year of national service, largely (ideally) outside of their places of origin.
However, he stated that the real test of “national service” was that it often revealed the lack of diversity.
According to him, after one year of service the NYSC graduates are often not able to gain employment in governments where they served, simply because they are not indigenes of those States.
“That in itself, is an irony!” He added.
He said: “The young graduates are strangers in their own country. A country they pledged to serve. opportunity is denied just because they were not born in those states! Even if they were born in those states, they are told to return to the States of their origin. Yet, their origin is Nigeria, not their States!”
He also called on leaders to address reasons for agitations by listening to the agitators. “We must address the fundamental reasons for agitations, by listening, understanding, removing prejudices, and allowing for open, national dialogues, without preconditions, but with one goal: build one cohesive, united, fair, just and equitable nation for all, not for a few or for any section of the nation or religion.
“A nation, unified by a sense of commonwealth, not a collage of ethnic nationalism. A nation driven my meritocracy, not ethnocracy, religiocracy or aristocracy.”
He also decried the present level of poverty in Nigeria saying this is unacceptable considering the country’s abundant natural resources.
The AfDB President stated that 38.5% of youths in the country are unemployed, “lacking skills, economic opportunities, discouraged, angry and restless, as they look at a future that does not give them hope”. He therefore called on the government to prioritise investments in the youth.
“I speak to you today as a Nigerian. As I have quite often said, I will live as a Nigerian, die as a Nigerian, and on the resurrection morning, I will ask God for permission to rise as a Nigerian, with the green-white-green flag in my hand!” Adesina said.
“Nigeria is blessed with incredibly rich diversity: of people, of cultures, of religions, of mineral resources, oil, and gas, amazingly rich biodiversity, that should make us the envy of the world. We are blessed with abundantly diverse agro-ecologies, that should also make us a land of bountiful harvests with capacity to feed Africa.
“We are a religious nation, so we should understand that God loves diversity. The diversity of rich and brilliant colours that we see in our forests, oceans, seas, and in flora and fauna, reflect the beauty of the Creator.”
Therefore, our diversity is not our problem. Diversity is our strength. But when mismanaged, diversity becomes divergence. Rather than unite, we become splintered, with each entity believing that, somehow, it is better without the other. We must manage diversity for collective good.
“Nigerians deserve wealth, not poverty. For all the abundant wealth of natural resources, Nigeria’s poverty situation is unacceptable. Today, sadly, there are way too many poor people in Nigeria. The Government is implementing bold social programs to reduce the number of poor, through interventionist programs, but the fact of the matter is poverty is not just about money.”
Adesina further said there should not be a Nigeria for the rich and another Nigeria for the poor, adding that every citizen has the right to a decent life.