NOA calls for unity, tolerance, peaceful co-existence among Nigerians

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…Seeks adoption of Nov 16th as annual National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence Day

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari has called for unity, tolerance and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

Abari made the call Thursday in Abuja, during a pre-event press conference to familiarize the media and the general public on the proposed “National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence (NAFESTAPCOE)” slated for Nov 16, 2023, with the theme, “Team Nigeria – Inclusion of Diversities against Unconscious Biases”

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Recall that the National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence which started last year 2022, is an initiative designed by the National Orientation Agency in collaboration with UNESCO. The Programe duration for the first phase is 5 years (2022 – 2027). It consists of three parts that will run concurrently. These includes; (I) Bill into law; which is the domestication of the resolution of the principles on tolerance ratified by Nigeria as a member state of UNESCO: in all the states of the FGN and the FCT: (ii) Impact-oriented activities- National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence program: and (III) Community Intervention projects.

Abari stressed the need for Nigeria to join other nations to set aside a date to observe an annual “National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence Day” in Nigeria.

He therefore opined that it is only when there is tolerance and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians will there be achievement of great national objectives.

He said,”Today the 25th of May, 2023 marks yet another milestone in the activities and programs of the national orientation agency an agency specifically established by law for the purposes of citizens engagements, creating a society that is principled and disciplined, a society that is in the part of progress, and engendering patriotism, love for nation, integrity and service, selflessness and social justice, on a holistic manner.

“The purpose of the press briefing this afternoon is to acquaint the media men and women here and by extension the Nigerian public on partnership efforts that the NOA, UNESCO, National Council for Climate Change in Nigeria, and Pearl Trade West Africa, for the promotion and implementation of projects under the National Festival for Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria and indeed the world.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that our country cannot be an island unto itself. There is specifically a date set aside to observe the”National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence. Nigeria needs peaceful co-existence.

“This is a big country with a big population, with an expansive lands, with diverse cultures, with diverse conditions, with cuisines that are different, with apparels that are different, with climatic conditions that are different, all these diversities require one thing; basic understanding of the differences that exists and respecting them.

“What we want is naturally, a society that is united despite the diversity, that is focused despite the diversity, that is genuinely integrated despite the diversity, towards the achievement of national objectives.

“We are putting up a clarion call for the adoption of the November 16th as an annual National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence Day. This will be a day set aside each year to celebrate our unity in diversity as a nation of diverse people. It will also be a day to promote awareness of our national ethics which include; discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance and self reliance.”

The NOA chief further called on Nigerians to recognize that there is life after elections, as he commended the media and acknowledged that they have helped in disseminating the message of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in no small measures across the country.

“Only a few months ago, we had ran a Presidential and National Assembly campaigns above the national and sub national levels. You will all agree with me that the campaigns did not go without toxic use of language. You will agree with me that the campaigns did not go without escalated passions. And of course, we all know that politics is essentially a game of passions, and the people really tend to get passionate in terms of their political choices and of course their political preference.

“The elections have come and gone, come and watch our television screens, is just as if the elections are going to take place tomorrow, meaning that politics has not gone away and we are still not out of the elections, and the electoral processes and the procedures.

“Every now and then, you tune on radio stations, you watch on the television screens, you read on the pages of the newspapers, you read on different social media platforms, you read on the online press only issues about the elections as if Nigeria is all about elections, and the language has been divisive, has been sour, and has been very unsavoury. This underscores the need, a compelling need if I must emphasize, for national reconciliation, national peace, national togetherness, tolerance of one another and patience, because it is only when these are achieved will there be progress in the country, will there be achievement of great national objectives.

“The National Orientation Agency has a direct mandate to promote peace, national cohesion and tolerance; and we have been doing this using political programmes, and using very many platforms, and flagships of the agency. Before the elections, we took our message for unity and ones, for political tolerance and for people to understand that all those who are contesting for political offices are doing it for the greater good of the society and one cannot to love the country more than the other. But strategies may differ, styles may differ but without a peaceful atmosphere, full of peace, tolerance and patience even the election will not be successful. We took that message to Kano, we visited the Emir of Kano, we. visited the council of Bulama, we visited the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), we had an assemblage of the media, and we had assemblage of the civil society. So that we can galvanize efforts towards a common goal,; that of achieving an election that is free, fair, and credible.

“We were happy that Nigerians have awoken to the various sensitization and advocacy messages reinforcing what NOA have been doing in this commission, what the civil society organizations have been doing, what the media in their different respects have been doing, and of course, what religious and traditional rulers have equally been doing,” Abari said.

The Secretary-General, National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Dr Olagunju Idowu remarked that tolerance is a pre-requisite for the attainment of peaceful co-existence in any society.

Idowu urged the Federal Government to promulgate laws to fight intolerance, enforce human rights and punish offenders.

He said this can be achieved by educating the public on respect for rights of others, promoting press freedom and press pluralism in order to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.

“Our country can also fight intolerance by organising grassroots network to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance in order to discredit hateful propaganda.

“These will go a long way in enhancing our quest for peace, progress and prosperity in Nigeria,” Idowu said.

He recalled that in 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 52/95 proclaiming November 16 as International Day for Tolerance.

He therefore stated that this action followed the adoption of a Declaration of Principles by UNESCO’s Member State on Nov. 16, 1995.

In her remark, the National Coordinator, NAFESTAPCOE, Ijeoma Akwara noted that the National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence programme presents a unique opportunity for inclusivity of all ethnicities, religious, gender, and social statuses in Nigeria.

She therefore stressed that the festival is essential to prime the minds of Nigerians annually on the need to respect, accept and appreciate our diversities while creating an inclusive system necessary for national development.

“It will remind us of the importance of our diversity, shared history, distinctive cultures, and blessed land of natural resources, the potential of interstate commerce, significant human capital, and national values.

“Future generations will celebrate “Team Nigeria” as a product of the inclusion of diversity as we promote our impact oriented programs and publicly recommend and support policies that provide equal access to opportunities and resources irrespective of tribe, religion, gender, and social status,” she said.

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