The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, has explained how he plans to address the scourge of ethnic agitations in the country if elected Nigeria’s president in the February 25 election.
Obi made the explanation on Sunday in Abuja, at the 53rd anniversary of the end of the Nigeria/Biafra war.
In a piece entitled: ‘Nation Building and Ordered Society Are Imperative,’ Obi lamented the negative trajectory of the Nigerian nation, urging every citizen of voting age to take advantage of next month’s presidential election to vote elect a leader desirous of giving the nation a fresh start.
He said: “I believe that various agitation groups will stop their agitations when they see a patriotic leadership imbued with fairness, equity, justice, and a determination for a very inclusive and progressive society.
“Every rational human being can change when he sees a good reason to do so. Such incentives require the right approach, effort, and time.
“There are youths all over Nigeria who are frustrated because of injustice, poverty, lack of opportunities, unemployment, and apparent exclusion. Such youths could seize and use any issue or tool to express their frustration and anger.
“I believe that some of those who are agitating are doing so partly due to our failures in creating an inclusive and progressive Nigeria. A working Nigeria with equity, justice and fairness will also definitely and effectively checkmate such extreme groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West African Province.”
The former Anambra State governor also stressed the importance of dialogue in addressing issues of divisions in the country, noting that if elected, his government would deploy both kinetic and non-kinetic strategies in bringing about a peaceful society for all Nigerians regardless of where they live.
“I personally believe that the best strategy for dealing with these situations manifesting in the guise of unclear nationalism, bigoted patriotism and religious bigotry is a carrot-and-stick approach.
“Nation-building and an ordered society are now imperative. We must wean those that can be weaned through the creation of a society where equity and justice will prevail, a society where the basic freedoms and necessities of life, such as health, jobs, skills, and empowerment are provided.
“There must be a national programme for those who will accept the carrot approach. For those unwilling to yield to the carrot approach, the stick option will be fully justified and applied. We must put an order in our society and where necessary, justice will be tempered with mercy,” he added.
Although the war came to end 53 years ago, Obi regretted that not much had been achieved in terms of building an inclusive nation for all.
Continuing, the Labour Party presidential candidate said, “January 15, a very special and unique day in 2023 as it was 53 years ago. Forty days from today, Nigerians will be voting in an election that many regards as the most crucial and existential decision we have to make as a nation, and particularly for our children and youths, given the sad state of our dear nation, Nigeria; alarming insecurity, unemployment, poverty, inflation, debt, hunger, disunity, hopelessness and many other indices of a failing state.
“It was also on January 15; 53 years ago, a very special red-letter day for Nigeria that the booming of guns and other paraphernalia of battle were formally silenced in the thirty-month civil war in which millions of lives were regrettably lost and an unquantifiable number of properties destroyed.
“As we can recall, Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, as he was then known, led the then-Biafran delegation to General Gowon to declare that the war was over and that the military colleagues from the Biafran side should be deployed.
It was stated, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done and ‘No victor, no vanquished.’ It is this task of keeping Nigeria one in the spirit of ‘no victor, no vanquished’ that has provided the platform for the commitment of both mental and physical energy to the arduous but noble task of building one strong, united and indivisible Nigeria.
“As such, the overriding task we should all be committed to, as stated above, is securing and uniting Nigeria for Sustainable and Inclusive Development, particularly for our children and youths.
“While we regret the immense losses from the war, we pray for the repose of souls of the departed and thank God that it ended, we all must join hands with utmost sincerity and commitment to preventing any serious violence in Nigeria, let alone another civil war! Never again!
“This task of securing and uniting Nigeria should be our only option and we all can agree that the leaders and people of different sections of Nigeria have done admirably well, particularly in the years immediately after the war.”
He added: “Within less than 10 years after the end of that civil war, a committed personality from defunct Biafra, Dr Alex Ekwueme, was the number two man to a most patriotic, humble servant-leader, Shehu Shagari, who was number one.
“May their souls continue to rest in peace! Our dear Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme -both of blessed memories – became a strong and veritable expression of the unity and togetherness that engendered a vibrant post-war Nigeria.
“This democratic leap with its unifying symbolism was glorious for Nigeria, and I deeply cherish such a path of brotherhood and oneness established by Shagari/Ekwueme and truly believe that it is this path of inclusiveness and togetherness as one Nigeria we should follow today.
“Anyone who still harbours a different agenda different from the realisation of a wholesome and unifying people-oriented development vision is doing a terrible disservice to this generation and generations of Nigerians yet unborn.
“I cannot think of any valid reason, except for the deficit of sound socio-economic and political policies and programmes that will unite and propel Nigeria forward.
“From what I know of the South-East, the Igbo Nation, led by Ohanaeze, has at every opportunity been unequivocal about its commitment to the unity, oneness, integrity, and progress of Nigeria, based on equity, justice, and an inclusive society.
“And I, Peter Obi, a proud Nigerian of Igbo extraction, am most truthfully and wholly committed to that stand of one united, secure and progressive Nigeria,” adding that “It is also unfair to use the misconduct or position of one person or few persons in an ethnic group to stigmatise the entire group.
“It is a wrong approach and should not be so. I have repeatedly said that I will sit down and discuss with all agitators, believing that we must continue to talk and negotiate with all to achieve positive results.”
Obi, further promised that if given the opportunity to preside over the affairs of the nation, he would ensure that the events which brought about the civil war do not happen again, saying, “let us accept that the war has truly ended. To try to continue to ‘fight the civil war’ today, after fifty-three years, would be a great disservice to Nigeria and Nigerians, particularly our heroes who diligently laboured to secure and unite us.
“Let our rallying anthem remain, ‘though tribes and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand,’” he said.
Obi further stressed, “On this day, January 15, 2023, I most sincerely pledge and commit that I will spend the rest of my life making sure that the civil war and the circumstances that led to it do not re-occur; and to ensure that we build an all-inclusive and progressive society where no individual or group will be estranged, marginalised, or excluded. I remain resolute that a New Nigeria that we are all proud of and patriotically committed to is possible and it is a task that must be achieved.”
He lamented the poverty and unemployment in the land, assuring that if elected, every Nigerian would have the opportunity to engage his talent to earn a decent living.
Gabriel Emameh in Abuja