Sultan of Sokoto

…We don’t have to be uniform to be united, says Sultan

Leaders fast becoming ethnic champions — Fayemi

Military regimes paid more attention to national unity — Jega

By Omeiza Ajayi

Eminent personalities, including the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Saad Abubakar III, Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum NGF, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and former Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday bemoaned the state of the station, saying leaders at all levels must develop effective skills of managing national diversity.

At a summit on national unity organized by a socio-political group, National Prosperity Movement, the Sultan said Nigeria does not have to be uniform to be united.

Represented by the Emir of Keffi, Shehu Chindo Yanmusa, the Sultan said:   “National unity is an essential element of modern governance and requires investment of national resources to scale and promote it.

“Almost every country has had to struggle for national unity. For over 200 years, the US has done that and even though it has achieved some successes, it is still a work in progress.

“Some of the obvious things to have in mind is that the world is designed to be diverse and in diversity, we find sustainability. It is a fortune that needs to be managed well, so we can reap the benefits.

‘’Rather than complain about our diversity, we should strive to learn the skills of management of diversity. Some of the problems of our diversity are as a result of our inability to manage it. We must stop confusing unity with uniformity. We don’t have to be in uniform to be united.”

On his part, Fayemi said:   “To be sure, unity cannot endure where injustice, exclusion, inequity and marginalisation are embedded in the practice of governance.

“I have often shuddered at the spectacle whereby some among us who have been entrusted with leadership responsibility very easily slide into the role of ethno-regional champions, xenophobes, and zealots,” he added.

Fayemi, who was the special guest of honour, advised:  “While it is normal that leaders must have their ears to the ground and feel the pulse of the people who have elected them – imbibing, reproducing, and spilling out raw and crude bile and pushing scorched earth solutions crosses the line of representation to become an exercise in the shirking of responsibility.

“Unlike the bulk of their followers, leaders are positioned and privileged to know that in matters of nation- and state-building, the world is far more complex than the simple and many atimes simplistic binary divisions that are frequently deployed to oppose black and white. ‘’Leaders must truly lead by using the broader, more complex, and better nuanced understanding they have to help moderate and modulate seasons of deep division in the polity, rather than becoming the ones who add fuel to a raging fire.”

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In his keynote address, Jega lambasted all civilian administrations since 1999 for not doing enough to promote national unity.

“In any case, the attention paid to the question of national unity and integration by successive military regimes has not been matched by successive civilian administrations. Except for sloganeering in the Third Republic, when Shehu Shagari as NPN’s presidential candidate, and subsequently as president, popularized the slogan of “One Nation, One Destiny”, subsequent civilian administrations, especially since 1999 seem to have, more or less, presided over the undermining, if not destruction of the bases and foundations of national unity and integration in Nigeria.

“National unity can only be predicated on mutual trust and understanding, reciprocal friendly/brotherly/sisterly relations, as well as shared interests, values and aspirations. “National unity would only best be promoted through tolerance and accommodation of each other’s differences, opinions, ethnic, religious and communal or even regional identities.

“Nigeria, regrettably, operates a distorted and dysfunctional form of federalism, in which the core principle is undermined, rather than nurtured and entrenched. This negative trend needs to be reversed.

‘’But it can only be done by having elected leaders who are democrats and not ‘militicians’, who understand what the value of operating a functional rather than dysfunctional federal arrangement is, for peace, stability, progress and development of a country.”

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