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VIEWPOINT: HEALING THE NATION BY JEROME UTOMI

I learned a valuable lesson on Sunday 3rd March 2019 during my participation at the holy mass as a Catholic Christian in one of the parishes in Lagos.

On that day, it was time for prayer of the faithful- a major high point of the mass when the congregants pray for various intentions. The church as both human and angelic, among other intentions, raised a prayer point that read thus; ‘that we will not passively accept as our enemies those people our government tells us are our enemies, let us pray to the Lord’

Though, I echoed; Lord hear our prayers, I, however, appreciated more the significance of the petition for two reasons; First, the prayer in my view validates the time-honored saying that any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic condition that strangles them and the sociopolitical conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial’.

Second and most radical, the prayer point impels me to believe that the government by choice or accident has a capacity to tag any of her citizens an enemy.

Indeed, there is no partial explanation to this fact using the present political instinct in the country as a dashboard.

Let’s begin with reality. NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY AND THE FADING LIGHT OF INTEGRITY

Aside from Mr. President’s verbal cautionary of his supporters to be magnanimous in victory, the aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows an electoral campaign still pervades our political geography. Today, mutual friendship based on complete equality no longer exists.

This is even made worse by the departure from our shores one of the ‘glories’ associated with party politics variously referred to as ideology or manifesto.  Resulting in ‘harsh hatred’ among gladiators, and turned electioneering to a platform for hate speech while allowing political parties, powerful individuals and government officials to create both real and imaginary enemies.

Against this backdrop, it becomes antithetical and a sad mistake for Mr. President to contemplate accelerating economic growth and bringing social progress without working out effective strategies that will first mend national political fractures, correct sharp divisions and other injuries the pre and post-electoral activities inflicted on our nationhood.

Similarly, as someone that is sufficiently interested in seeing Nigeria turn to a ‘zone of peace’, I am again concerned about his ability to develop sufficient scopes to embracing this objective of uniting the country as the actions and inactions of his supporters towards opposition parties may collaborate to make such project a mere ‘affirmation of a principle without the substance’.

Take for instance, while President Buhari mouths his determination to preserve the union, recent reports on the national dailies have it that some of his handlers openly mocked members of the opposition for recent electoral woes. And the current brouhaha between the Yorubas and the Igbos in Lagos further supports the assertion.

Yet, there is something else.

A random sampling of the opinion of pro-Biafra supporters indicates that they have a rock-solid belief in their cause and are even prepared to give their lives to actualize it.

It is a living reality.

However, I will go on to say that while those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with Kanu’s campaign or campaign of any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria, the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness, whether in the Southeast, South-South, North or Southwest, and resurgence demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stem from mindless exclusion, injustice, and economic deprivation.

As an incentive, the template to solve these problems is already there: the Report of the 2014 National Conference. The holistic implementation of that report is germane to the survival of Nigerians which is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war.

I believe that the likes of Kanu would instantly fizzle away and their cause die naturally if Nigeria is restructured to ensure more inclusiveness. But agitations for the death of Nigeria cannot go away when nepotism and sectionalism continue to be evident in the manner of political patronage and distribution of our common patrimony as currently obtained.

To win, Nigerians should allow sanity prevail over emotion.

Our duty as a people is to resist every attempt to further the divisions in our country and to work to uphold the basic universal values of rights from which the right to peace is fundamental.

I hold the opinion that if by omission or commission this agitation is allowed to sail through, Kanu may not be the messiah they lost their limbs to looking at the character he exudes.

Very instructive also, while I commend the effort of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate in the last presidential election, I must add that judging from the volume of followership he enjoyed at the polls, he may not be as bad as was portrayed.

In the same token, as he enjoys the constitutional rights to challenge the outcome of the presidential election in court, one point I must, however, stress in the interest of peace and growth of our democracy is that democracy can only work in a ‘peaceful environment, where the people have the culture of accommodation and tolerance which makes a minority accept a majority’s right to have its way until next election, and wait patiently and peacefully for its turn to become the government by persuading more voters to support its views’

To completely heal our nation, Buhari must in this second coming adopt human rights approach to governance that will guarantee infusion of a principle of participation, accountability, transparency, and non-discrimination, as well as foster the attainment of equity and justice. Government at all levels must recognize that labeling a citizen an enemy can only bring a temporal fame to the government but can neither bring peace to the nation nor glory to the government.

”The destiny of the ship is not in the harbor but in sailing the high sea” and so shall our collective responsibility be, not to destroy this great nation but join hands to nurture and sustain it.

If we are able to manage this situation and the forthcoming gubernatorial and state house of Assembly elections effectively and navigate out of dangers of disintegration, it will once again, announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace and love shall reign supreme. But, then, no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!

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