The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, says calls around the balkanisation of Nigeria by groups in the country are driven by ignorance and emotions rather than knowledge of what makes a nation.
He spoke on Wednesday in Abuja at the National Unity Summit 2021 organised by the National Prosperity Movement (NPM), with the theme ‘Nigeria: The imperative of Unity’.
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Sultan, represented by the Emir of Keffi, Alhaji Shehu Yamusa III, said: “It would appear that one major problem we have around our national unity and cohesion in this country is that the discourse, even among the educated, is driven more by ignorance and emotions than knowledge.
“We must make the discourse to be an informed one, driven by facts and figures; otherwise we can find ourselves boxed into the dialogue of the deaf, where no one understands the other.”
He urged political commentators to avoid confusing unity with uniformity, saying the latter was not required for a nation to be united.
“Some of us, who attended unity schools and served in the armed forces, find it difficult to understand where the unnecessary hatred is coming from. When did this ignorance take over the mind of the nation?
“I think for the whole of our country, we should ask those who know to speak up and those who don’t know to shut up.”
Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, was the special guest of honour; while a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, delivered the keynote address.
Fayemi debunked the insinuation that the Nigerian Amalgamation of 1914 was a mistake, urging critics to note that most countries in the world were products of involuntary or compelled mergers of peoples who decided to stay together in unity.
“Unity is never given ab initio or permanently; it requires to be nurtured and worked at constantly and on an on-going basis,” he said.
“To be sure, unity cannot endure where injustice, exclusion, inequity and marginalisation are embedded in the practice of governance.
“That’s why as leaders, we must pay attention at all times to ensure that as we work to deliver on our mandate, fairness and equity are made our watchwords at all times,” Fayemi added.
In his keynote address, Jega said the challenges threatening Nigeria’s unity could no longer be ignored.
He said the military had worked more for national integration with their policies; whereas the civilian governments did not go beyond sloganeering.
He said the implementation of federal character in employment into federal service and the quota system of admissions into tertiary institutions bequeathed by the military to address imbalances had created ethnoreligious and regional tensions, and animosities.
He said Nigeria’s unity had been undermined by negative mobilisation of ethnoreligious and other primordial identities, especially in contestations for power in electoral politics.
The Director-General of NPM, Ahmad Sajoh, said the event chaired by an elder statesman, Maj Gen IBM Haruna (retd.), was convened to provide a roadmap towards finding an acceptable means of restoring confidence in the polity.