By AbdulSalam Muhammad
KANO —Former Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), yesterday, expressed regret that creation of state started by his administration had been bastardized to serve as a means of dividing Nigerians instead of uniting them.
Gowon, who spoke at the international conference on Islam, peace building and political engagement, organised by the Bayero University Kano, argued that the politics of state creation had triggered the battle for supremacy and the contest for power to the disadvantage of national unity.
Gowon also argued that the battle for supremacy among contending forces for political power was the major factor militating against efforts to sustain national unity and peaceful co-existence in the country.
He noted that efforts by successive administrations to entrench the culture of peace and harmony had remained a mirage due to ethnic polarization and religious misunderstanding, which he said, were mostly fuelled by those he described as “political charlatans.”
According to him, “politics with the attendant struggle for power in the country has deepened suspicion among Nigerians and poisoned national unity and peaceful coexistence. Many are quick to forget that the national unity they so much seek to undermine was paid for by the blood of patriots, who today would weep at our attitudes. The question asked by many these days is whether our sacrifices to keep Nigeria one were worth? My answer to this question is still yes!”
Gowon stressed that the task of keeping Nigeria a united and indissoluble entity is a task that all Nigerians must endeavour to accomplish, pointing out that ‘we must work to achieve national unity, peaceful coexistence and inter ethnic harmony’.
He called on members of the dreaded Boko Haram Sect and other militant groups in the country to sheath their swords and give peace a chance, as violence is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
The former Head of State said that at no time has the practice of Islam in Nigeria been so challenged by identity crisis as it is now. The former Head of state also called for constitutional amendment to accommodate issues that frustrate peace building efforts.
“I wish to quickly state that our political journey as a nation has tended to play the ostrich over a few issues that have continued to resurface as thorns in our flesh in our efforts at peace building.
“These issues are constitutional in nature and we have the opportunity to address them now that the Justice Belgore Committee is set to look into the issues requiring constitutional amendment.
Eminent Nigerians, religious leaders across the divide, politician and the academics witnessed the one day International conference .