Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday called on secessionist agitators to shelve the idea and work for the unity and oneness of the country.
He said it is better for Nigeria to remain as one indivisible nation than for each tribe to go its separate ways.
He spoke in Abeokuta at his investiture as a Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), organised by the Body of Fellows of the NIS, Ogun State chapter.
Obasanjo, while reviewing the state of the nation, stated that though the present situation in the country is undesirable, calling for the disintegration of the country is not the solution.
He said: “It is better we stay together. If there is any Nigerian who does not feel apprehensive about the situation of the country, the person is a human being without being human.
“Any Nigerian who is human will be apprehensive, if not frustrated with the present situation in the country.
“We are apprehensive about the security situation, apprehensive about the economic situation, apprehensive about our political situation and the drum we are hearing is of disintegration of the country.
“I am a strong believer of one Nigeria, but not one Nigeria at any cost; but one Nigeria where every Nigerian can feel proud that he or she has a stake in this country.”
The former president added that no Nigerian was born a slave and as such, no ethnic group deserves to oppress the other.
He said: “No Nigerian is born a slave in this country. No Nigerian is born to be oppressed in this country and those of us that have shared part of our blood and sweat for this country, we did that because we wanted a country where every Nigerian can claim as his or her own.
“I believe that if we talk among ourselves the way we should and if we change the narrative, I believe this is a great country.
“That we are not making Nigeria what God wants it to be is not the fault of God, but the fault of ourselves, particularly our leaders.”
He identified Nigeria’s diversity as one of the nation’s major strengths, adding that breaking into splinter groups will weaken the influence to be asserted in the community of nations.
According to him, “One thing that gives us strength is our diversity. If all that we have is Republic of Oduduwa for those who said so, their position is understandable. If that is all we have, members of that country will be diminished compared to being a citizen of Nigeria.
“Citizens of the Oduduwa Republic or any other republic from Nigeria, will be diminished compared to citizens of Nigeria.
“In this age and time that we are talking about the reintegration of Africa for economic development, the disintegration of any country will be almost idiotic; even if we have Igboland as an independent country, Yorubaland an independent country, and Fulani/Hausaland as an independent country.
“And as a friend of mine in the military used to say then, what will become of the over 300 minorities – the Jukuns, the Gbasamas? Where will they belong? The only reason they can raise their heads is that they belong to Nigeria.
“Are we thinking of them or are we are just being selfish? It doesn’t matter what we do, we will still be neighbours.”
Obasanjo cited cases of countries that broke and are yet to know peace till date.
He said: “We had seen it before, India was broken into India and Pakistan, they are still at war today. Yugoslavia was broken into how many countries? They haven’t sorted it till today. Sudan was broken into Sudan and South Sudan; I don’t believe South Sudan is better for it and that is the truth.
“I believe it will cost us less to work for our unity, there are many things wrong, but those things are correctable if we make efforts to correct them and hold us together than what it will cost us to break up and be perpetually at war and all our money will be spent on building an army.
“I know what an army contains, I know what it means to keep an army, an army that may not be productive, let us think about it.”
At a separate forum yesterday, Obasanjo advised every citizen to take the task of “building a new Nigeria at heart”, if the country must quickly overcome its current challenges.
He said this had become necessary as Nigeria is currently in a bad shape.
Obasanjo spoke in Abeokuta while hosting Team New Nigeria (TNN), a group of eminent citizens that seek to promote genuine democratic values, equality and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians.
The former president, who expressed delight at the coming into existence of TNN, stated that the current situation in the country called for every Nigerian “to prioritise in their heart, the task of building a new country”.
He, however, said that “the situation is obviously in a very bad shape”.
Earlier in his speech, the National President of the group, Dr Modibbo Farakwai, said the visit was part of the TNN’s efforts towards mobilising the eminent Nigerians to identify with the ideal of the group.
Farakwai stated that the group, which comprises distinguished citizens who all shared attributes of patriotism and nationalism, could no longer afford to sit back, doing nothing about the problems that are daily threatening the collective well-being of Nigerians.
He stated that his group has resolved to embark on the mission of making Nigeria work for Nigerians.
According to Farakwai, though TNN has realised the “enormous task ahead”, Obasanjo’s endorsement of the group will be a morale booster.
“We intend to introduce to the polity, such narratives that will eradicate poverty, religious extremism, hate, political strife, disunity, inequity and corruption,” he added.
Commenting on the importance of the former president to the TNN’s advocacy, a former member of the National Assembly, who also doubles as the North-east Zonal Coordinator of TNN, Senator Abdulaziz Ibrahim, said Obasanjo’s past achievements, both as a military head of state and a civilian president, endeared him to the group.
“Back in history as military head of state, the toughest and the roughest terrain in Nigeria, you have heard of Mambilla. It was Baba as military head of state who gave the contract for the tarring of the road to Mambilla.
“It was only 20 kilometers and it took them 10 years to bring down the rock to get the road to Mambilla.
“When I became the senator, there was no single grid of electricity in the whole of Taraba State.
“The baba (Obasanjo) you are seeing here approved the biggest transmission line from Yobe to Jalingo. No electricity, no roads, nothing in Taraba before he came to our rescue as head of state and president,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim, who represented Taraba Central Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003, described Obasanjo as a leader that would be remembered for the positive influence he made on the state.
He, however, said it would be unfair to Obasanjo if he and his kinsmen failed to appreciate him publicly for the achievements he recorded for Taraba while in office.
Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta