By Chimezie Godfrey
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu has said that Nigeria will continue to exist as one indibisible country despite present challenges.
Shehu made the assertion on at the Kwararafa Reporters Lecture and Awards Ceremony on Thursday in Abuja.
Sharing opinion on the argument if Nigeria should disintegrate or continue to remain as one nation, the Presidential Spokesperson said that nobody should go anywhere and that Nigeria will not break.
Shehu who commended Kwararafa Reporters on the positive impact they are making in the society, advised that there is no small newspaper and that people should not make the mistake of degrading any media organizations especially at this digital age.
He said,”Do not make the mistake of calling kwararafa a small newspaper because in today’s digital world, there is no small newspaper because even in Japan and all over the world, they are seeing what Kwararafa is doing so we have to respect that.
“We cherish what you people are doing and we hope that however we can support Kwararafa, we will continue to do so.
“On the controversy of whether there should be Nigeria or not, my view is that nobody should go anywhere, we will continue to be here.”
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode in his remark preached peace saying that war is not the best way forward for the country.
He advised that no matter what the differences have been in the past, peace is the only way Nigeria can move forward.
“I have a lot of views of the country and they are very strongly held views and opinions which have been formed over a period of time based on what I’ve experienced and based on what I have seen but the conclusion I have come to after many years speaking and talking is that at the end of the day war is not the best, it is not way forward.
“Peace is the way forward, not war and I have had the privilege of interaction with many people in this country who have different views; diametrically opposed views, I never deny my friends; through thick and thin. No matter what they are accused of doing, no matter what they have done, I never deny them and I have friends across the board. Some are close to the government, some are opposed to government but I will never deny them.
“Yes, Nnamdi Kanu is my friend. We may not agree on everything, we have disagreed on many things but he has always been my friend since I met him in Kuje Prison.
“Sunday Igboho is my friend. I’ve interacted with him closely and we have worked together with various governors in this country to keep the peace and to ensure that ‘the food embargo’ was lifted, life was saved when we were in a situation that could have led to many deaths and I to commend the initiative of President Mohammed Buhari at that time ..
“I have friends across the board, friends like Dr Abdullahi, president of the Nothern Consensus forum who believes and has a very strong view about the north. He spoke about the north determining the future of the country forever which upset a lot of people in the South; but he’s still my friend, a very good friend at that, I will not deny him. He believes in what he believes in but we remain friends.
“The bottom line is this, no matter what our differences has been in the past, no matter how much we have killed one another in this country, if you want to talk about injustice, it goes both ways depending on how far back in history.
“Some have suffered more than others. I have always spoken about the suffering of the people of the East and I have no regrets for that.
“I have also spoken about the suffering of the so called minorities in the north. Others in the north who are being slaughtered in their hundreds and thousands by foreigners who come through our borders for no good course, they are suffering.”
On what is the challenge of the country, Fani-Kayode said that Nigerians should find a common ground, seek value for peace and build bridges.
“What is the challenge today?
It is very simple, seek your brother out – those that share your values for humanity, your value for peace, understanding of bridge building.
“Many have attacked me and called me names for constantly talking about bride building. But if I don’t talk about it I don’t know who will.
“I have spoken about what is the truth, but when I see that the truth is being mistaken as license for killing, division then we have to stop and start from the standing that there are two sides to every story and I have no apology for that.
“The message is simple – peace! That is the message, understanding and the future of the country, regardless of what has happened in the past, what matters is what will happen from 2023.
“The only way that we can make this country work is to have a man who will emerge as president who has the respect and trust of not just Fulani people or Yoruba people or Igbo people or people from the middle belt, but has respect for every single Nigerian, a bridge builder who believes in the unity of Nigeria, who believes in equity, in fairness, peace and somebody that is prepared to risk all to ensure that justice is done to all,” Fani-Kayode stressed.
He further took a strong stand against disintegration saying those that are calling for it should desist.
“To those that say the country must break and the country is already broken, I’ll say this; Nigeria as we speak today is one, and if we can get it right: correct leadership, perhaps some restructuring, understanding and bridge building, if we can do just that and ensure that the injustice in the past are addressed, then Nigeria will continue to be one and that has to be the prayer and the way forward.
“We do not break simply for the sake of breaking, breaking will be a matter of war.
Yes people suffered, 3 million people were killed during the war, but also hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the Nigerian side which is hardly ever talked about.
“We killed each other, we hurt each other, we maim each other but how long will this go on for? Let us come together, let’s say, that as brothers, as lovers of this country, of the green-white-green, that we can make this country work, indeed we must make this country work, go forward together and be our brother’s keeper,” he said.
The Keynote speaker of the occasion, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Kogi State, Dr Mrs Folashade Ayoade spoke on what he titled”One Nigeria, a Critical Work,” saying that to keep Nigeria one demands critical work by people in leadership positions.
He charged leaders to do more in the area of infrastructure and building human capacity aimed at building a great future for the country.
Bello urged leaders to have vision for the country and to endeavor to prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders who will have even stronger desires to safeguard national interest.
He said,”Any worthwhile vision must be so huge that it will always remain an ongoing project. The one term or two terms which we have as political leaders is to serve the existing public vision if any as extremely as we can. More importantly, it is for us to prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders who will have even stronger desires to safeguard national interest.
“Achieving this will be our greatest stride in office – mentoring leaders that will take us to the level that we aspire.
“I cannot speak for other leaders, but I and my people always see a bright and colorful future for Nigeria every time I cast a critical look into the future.”
Bello said that one Nigeria should guarantee security and peace of all citizens, and that it should be built on equity which will allow everyone to thrive on their own.
“My concept of one Nigeria is a nation which must guarantee all citizens security, unity and peace. It must be equitable, and allow everyone to strive on their own merit. Tribe, religion and class must not be used to discriminate against or marginalise anyone. It must encourage cooperation as a cardinal tenet of citizenship.
“We have to start substituting place of residence for state of origin and find ways to punish corruption in the private and public sphere.
“Our politics and leadership must transform into ensuring that the quality of life, social status, high essential goods and services are affordable. Local job markets must deliver jobs to people at their levels of learning, skills and experience.
“The nation must acknowledge stability and be a family friendly place where parents can raise the next generation well.
“We will require income equality especially across the genders. A one Nigeria will thrive one political stability and social security if we have the women and the units come along with us.
“It also goes without saying that quality of the public and private educational systems must be high; both must deliver free education and good services,” Bello stressed.
He acknowledged that there is no easy road to freedom but said that unity will guarantee success as no one acting alone can achieve success.
Bello called on all Nigerians to therefore act together as a united people for national reconciliation, for national building and for the birth of a new Nigeria.
Awards were also presented to dignatries including Engr Saleh Mamman – Minister of the year; Senator Bwacha – Senator of the year; Chief Femi Fani-Kayode – Distinguished Nigerian of the year; Amb Dr Oti Jonathan Idowu – Young entrepreneur of the year; and Prof Chris Nwakobia Jnr – Voice of conscience, amongst others.