Permit me to start with my experience as a Special Adviser to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Civil Society Organisations. I was appointed, the first of such, in June 2003 after being FCT Minister for two years. I did this job for about three years during which I would say that I learnt a lot even, as an engineer, about the importance of the civil society in the present world set up. Civil society organisations, community based organisations, faith based organisations, etc are sometimes better or more suitable in handling certain developmental and good governance issues than the government departments, agencies and even conventional political parties.
This experience is the basis for my enthusiasm when I was requested by Professor Bernard Onuegbu to be Chairman of this Peace and Unity Committee as I am seeing it as another opportunity to bring the relevance of civil society organisations into play in the task of making our great country work properly and efficiently. Of course, no patriotic and right thinking citizen of this country will refuse to work for the peace and unity of his or her country. And so, I am here with you as first among equals.
Now, it is a fact that people of all countries always demand progress and prosperity from their leaders and governments. But nowhere in the whole world is this desire for progress and prosperity achieved without the people, first and foremost, living in peace. As the saying goes, united, we stand, divided we fall.
Personally, I consider it a big shame, a big disappointment and very worrisome that after all these years of independence and of living together, peace and unity and harmony are not sustained at the levels required or desirable. This is a manifestation of the fact that quite a number of important or right things were not done at the right times for the good of all the peoples over the years past. It is also a painful truth that the right things which were left undone so many years ago cannot now be done or redressed with immediate effect because, again, as the saying goes, time and tide waits for no one.
However, there is no good reason or excuse for those of us who are on the stage now to abandon the good people of this beautiful and great country because of the missed opportunities of the years gone by. No force can stop an idea whose time has come. The time to develop Nigeria has come. Accordingly, we must be prayerful and start to work hard, innovate, re-engineer, fast tract and modernize in order to bring sustainable peace and unity, prosperity and progress to all our people.
I very sincerely believe that all the diverse peoples of this country need each other as no ethnic group is really all that self sufficient in this naturally inter dependent world. After all, there is safety in numbers and we must never lose sight of the power in us by being such a huge market on account of our equally huge population. We are the largest market in Africa, unchallenged.
Our unity in diversity is attainable and it is within reach. For a start, let us all be our brothers’ keepers in practice as well as love our nieghbours practically. These prescriptions came from God, our creator and sustainer. And we should take note of the fact that all religions teach people to be good and none taught us the opposite. So, let us all moderate and re-examine our ways and manners.
Right now, we cannot deny that there is some anger, bitterness, frustration and hostilities in some sections of the country and there is urgent need to look into the causes and sources of all these and to address them appropriately by the relevant stakeholders and authorities.
I would like to conclude with this analogy. What is good health for a human being is what is peace and unity for a nation or country and its people. If a sick person is not and cannot be productive, so is also a country without peace and unity. It cannot witness prosperity. So, working hard for and ensuring peace and unity is really a fundamental issue because, without peace and unity, this country with all its potentials will stagnate and degenerate. This must not be allowed to happen. Therefore, no effort should be spared; nothing should be left undone by all stakeholders in this onerous task of bringing and ensuring peace and unity to our country.
The National Council on Peace and Unity should, like former Head of State, General Gowon’s “Nigeria Prays” become the vanguard of peace and unity in Nigeria. This task has been neglected for long but has become crucial because of the dark clouds dangerously hovering over the national skyline. We must bring the silver lining which is peace and unity. Peace and unity are not supposed to be controversial or contentious matters because they are never too much. We can never have too much of peace because peace is never too much. But when they are too little or not sufficient, nations and civilizations stagnate, degenerate and continue to decline, unavoidably.
May all knowing and Almighty God, therefore, show us the ways and means of bringing and ensuring peace and unity in our Nigeria, Amen!
Engineer Abba-Gana’s intervention as Chairman of the National Council on Peace and Unity during its inauguration recently at Abuja