By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Henry Umoru
LAGOS— Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida have made a joint appeal for peace in the land, saying that the daily loss of innocent lives in the country was an unbearable burden that could inevitably shatter the fabrics of the nation’s existence.
The appeal contained in a joint statement issued by the two former leaders, yesterday, noted with regret what they described as the increasing cynicism clouding the thinking of many Nigerians who are hounded by fear, frustration and the failure of government across all levels to protect them.
The statement from the two former leaders followed a meeting between the two in Abuja last week. The two former leaders who were locked in an unprecedented public spat nearly a year ago, in the statement, said they were prepared to join hands with other patriots towards resolving the crisis.
While noting ongoing moves by governments across all levels to shore up security, the former leaders appealed for a strategic engagement by the authorities in the 774 local governments in the country with community stakeholders as a way towards identifying and resolving the issues at the centre of the present crises in the country.
The former leaders also appealed to religious leaders to use the opportunity offered by the Ramadan month of fasting to engage those with grievances and bring them to the dialogue table.
The statement by the duo reads thus:
“Unfolding events in our dear motherland, Nigeria, over the last few years are threatening to unravel the nearly a century-old labour of our founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful nation that can accommodate and cater for the needs and aspirations of our diverse communities. Internecine crises are raging across the land unabated with damaging consequences on the social, political and economic life of the nation. And in the process untold hardships are being visited on all citizens in one form or another on a daily basis. The loss of innocent lives being experienced by the day across the nation is simply unbearable. Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day to day lives without great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue!
“A deeply worrying trend that is emerging from this terrible situation is that a pervasive cynicism is beginning to set in, so much so that millions of true Nigerian patriots are starting to question the platform upon which the unity of this country rests. This is simply untenable. The people of this country must not allow whatever sense of frustration, fear and despair we are experiencing now to supersede our hopes for a collective destiny which lies in our continued existence as a nation. For us, and we believe for millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable.
“While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive. In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances, they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement. We, therefore, urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including elders, youth organisations, trade unions and associations, women bodies, the clergy and other community stakeholders. We also call on the Federal and states governments not only to encourage these grassroots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement. In all these efforts it is important to emphasise that our diversity is a cause for celebration not a cause for lamentations.
“As the Holy Month of Ramadan commences, Nigerians wherever they are and whatever religion they profess are accorded a great opportunity to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred. Religious leaders, in particular, have an even greater challenge to use the immense virtues of this holy period to inculcate among the millions of citizens the spirit of mutual respect, humility and forgiveness. Ample opportunities are therefore at hand to bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
“Finally, we need to reiterate that no meaningful development can ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred. History has shown that any society that is built on the structures of violence and intolerance cannot prosper. We need to appreciate that, God in His infinite mercy, has blessed our country with abundant resources and talents, but we need peace and harmony to harness them not just for our own well being but also that of our children and grandchildren. We owe this future generations of Nigerians this much.
“On our part, we are ready to do whatever is possible to promote the quest for peace and harmony, a ready to join hands with all patriots to sustain and further enhance the unity and progress of this country. Thank you.”