By Olusegun Obasanjo
Let me welcome all of you to this initiative of rubbing minds among the key socio-cultural political organisations with a view to harmonising our thoughts on Nigeria, the only country we have for now. I crave your indulgence for taking the liberty to invite you for this mini-dialogue because I know that you are all concerned patriots and nationalists. I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state, economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country. And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.
It would appear that anybody not dancing to the drum beat nor joining in chorus singing would be earmarked as ethnically unpatriotic or enemy of its tribe or geographical area. In short, the country is fast moving to the precipice. But happily, I observed that the five socio-cultural political groups gathered here have been getting together to find common ground, areas of agreement or accord for moving Nigeria away from tipping over. Before continuing, let me say that we must remind those who are beating the drums of disintegration and singing choruses of bitterness, anger and separation that if even Nigeria is broken up, the separated parts will still be neighbours. And they will have to find accommodation as neighbours or they will be ever at war. And those who prevent justice to be done, invite violence to reign.
With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration. If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness while engendering sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption. We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc, from outside. Today, that is a sure threat dangling over the heads of all of us, no matter our tribe, religion, geographical location, social standing, age or gender.
That ray of hope was somewhat manifested in the last ten days or so, when the Northern Elders Forum and Yoruba Summit Group complemented each other in their separate press releases on the Senate idea of inviting submissions from Nigerian public for Constitution amendment which had been regular money-gulping activity by every National Assembly Session since 1999, a veritable source of waste without end. I believe one of our major problems in the past was that we did not dialogue enough, we talk at ourselves and selfishly, keep old prejudices and biases. If we show understanding, give-and-take, love of one another and commitment and love of the country, we will do what is right and stand firmly together for the good of all.
In the process of consultation and informing people about this initiative, in spite of general disenchantment with what is going on as far as the performance of the present administration is concerned, most people still give Nigeria a chance of puling through to a united and wholesome, fast-developing and progress-making country provided we take care of what some term as restructuring and others term as devolution of power, responsibilities and resources. And even those that may be called hardliners maintain that self-determination, disintegration, separation is a last resort when other measures have been prevented or other measures have failed to materialise. Frustration leads to desperation and nobody can be sure of what desperation can lead to.
We are here to start the process of putting those other measures together and to continue to enlarge the circle from this mini-dialogue group bit by bit until a national dialogue that can save Nigeria from disintegration is reached and when that is done, this initiative will come to an end. I believe Nigeria is worthy saving on the basis of mutuality and reciprocity and I also believe it can be done through the process of dialogues rather than talking at each other or resorting to violence. It will amount to dangerous and destructive self-delusion for anybody to claim that all is well in Nigeria today. Fixing Nigeria is the duty of all Nigerians and even the duty of friends of Nigeria. Some people are obsessed with 2023, I believe that with death, destruction, debt, disease, deceit, disbelief, disenchantment, doubt and suspicion around, we need to see our way through to 2023 and beyond in some form of unity of purpose, reasonable security, shared values, true democratic practice, inclusiveness and shared society. That is why we are here. No constitution is even permanent, it is dynamic with time and experience.
We may not need to re-invent the wheel. If 2023 is critical, I believe that there are sufficient documents in the confabs of 2005, 2014, the works of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and other works by other groups on fundamental way of Nigerians living together as good brothers and sisters in love, mutual understanding and respect, equity and fast development and growth in security, safety, cooperation and healthy competition.
Our plurality and diversity are meant to give us all strength, courage and power to excel and to go forward and go far together. When we mismanage plurality and diversity which is the creation of God, we act against the purpose and will of God which, to me, is sin. We weaken ourselves rather than use the power of our number for the good of all of us. We are here to begin the process of finding the best mechanism to manage our plurality and diversity for unity of purpose, love of one another and love and fear of God. We must make each of us one another’s keeper.
Our objective should be to make 2023 a watershed. 2023 should be the beginning of a true and genuine new Nigeria. After over sixty years of independence, we should be able to settle for a united country where nobody would feel oppressed nor have a sense of alienation and where our youth are truth to know, in love and honesty grow, and living just and true, great lofty heights attain, to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. It is long overdue and we should leave no stone unturned to achieve this. Over the present democratic dispensation which is the longest in the history of independent Nigeria, we have gained some experiences and learned some lessons which should stand us in good stead as we move along the process of establishing the fundamental ways of Nigerians living together in peace, security and harmony to satisfy the yearnings of all its population and particularly the youth and to make the necessary impact subregionally, continentally and globally. The time is right and the experience has been acquired over sixty years of independence and almost twenty years of the present democratic dispensation to get it right. Let me say again that the dialogue will continue to be expanded with consultation and information sharing with every sector of our society. No sector will be left out.
Once again, you are all welcome for frank deliberation, and exchange of views