Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has said that the solution to the multifaceted challenges of Nigeria lies in the unity of all the ethnic nationalities in the country. 

He therefore called on all ethnic groups to always encourage and promote smooth transition from ethnic nationalism which promotes indignity, to a state where the interest of the people would be the ultimate focus.

Governor Akeredolu, who made the call at the 2018 Democracy Day celebration in Akure, the state capital, expressed the conviction that the citizens hope for national development could only be realized  when unity is promoted by the ethnic groups.

The lecture for this year’s Democracy Day, entitled: “Nigeria unity: The Challenges, Prospects and The Way Forward”, was delivered by a former member of the House of Representatives and past National President, Association of Nigeria Authors, Dr. Wale Okediran. 

The governor recalled that the choice to promote the nations unity was made  long time ago by the nationalists, praised what he described as the uncommon sacrifice of the departed and the living for their contribution to the enthronement of democracy in the country and asked Nigerians not to ignore the lessons which past political experiences had taught. 

He, however, said the task of nation-building might appear arduous; but expressed the hope that the challenges were surmountable.

While allaying the fear over the security challenges confronting the country, Arakunrin Akeredolu said the unpleasant situation was being tackled headlong by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

According to him, the painful but necessary decisions taken by the Buhari-led government is gradually restoring confidence in the citizens. 

He said: “Despondency must yield to hope. Our survival as a people depends, to a large extent, on our collaborative efforts. 

“This choice was made a long time ago by the nationalists who preceded us. They worked at it and faltered. We have risen from the fall to continue the journey to a truly representative government after the military interregnum. We must be prepared to see it through”.

The governor, therefore, said his administration had taken a cue from the purposeful leadership of the Federal Government.

“We are convinced that the only realistic measure for the attainment of the status of a self-reliant society is by production of goods and services. 

“This administration believes that any aspiration towards development must keep the people in focus. We have been able, in spite of paucity of funds, to bridge infrastructural gap considerably

“We encourage our people to embrace agriculture. We advocate a functional educational system which will arrest the embarrassing situation which ensures that our young ones are not engaged productively. We are engaging the youth as partners in the development project”, he said.

Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the event, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, commended Governor Akeredolu for putting together the event, and described the governor as one man who believes in the unity of the country.

While applauding the theme of the lecture, which he said was most appropriate for the season, the Chairman urged Nigerians to work together and ensure the building of a nation in which everyone would see one another as one big family.

Senator Mamora described  unity as essential ingredient for national development said its desirability was severally echoed  in the National Pledge and Anthem. 

“That tells you how important unity is. Unity, to a country like Nigeria with over 400 ethnic groups, becomes very critical and important.

“Democracy Day is to consider the aspect of unity and to answer the question ‘why is it difficult for us, in our 58 year sojourn as a nation, to achieve unity? he said.

Earlier, Guest Speaker of the event, Dr Wale Okediran, in his lecture had noted that the problem of ethnicity was  common to multi-ethnic societies or countries which can manifest to ethnic misunderstanding and lead to ethnic cleansing. 

He said the Nigerian situation shows that the ethnicity factor is a critical  one which had, and still affects the evolution of the country. 

“Like in most other parts of the World, the phenomenon has generated competition, tension 
and conflict in the inter-group relations in the country. 

“While these have sometimes and do seem to threaten national unity and reconciliation, the fact remains that leaders of government and elite of the various ethnic groups have major roles to play in minimizing the negative effects of ethnicity”, he said.

Dr. Okediran, who is the former National President, Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, and former member, House of Representatives, said for Nigeria’s stability and the achievement of national unity and reconciliation, it was imperative for Nigerians to see themselves as belonging to one indivisible country.

He added that the reign of justice, equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law and the rights of all citizens would go a long way in guaranteeing true national reconciliation in Nigeria. 

“Nigerians have shown that they can accommodate themselves and co-exist, what is therefore required, is a conscious pursuit of the relevant policies and programmes that will foster the bonds of unity in the country and help bring down the barriers to reconciliation often created by ethnicity.

“There is no doubt that there are certain structural imbalances in the current Nigerian state, hence the clamour for restructuring. 

“The clamour cannot be wished away and it is imperative that practical and realistic steps should be taken to address causes of the current discontent in the land.

“It is also imperative that national integrative policies, such as the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC,  Federal Character Clause, in terms of admission into Federal Unity Schools and universities should be consolidated and expanded, instead of the retrogressive policy of reducing the catchment area for federal institutions”, he stated. 

The lecturer suggested the adoption of ‘quota’, a policy he said is akin to the US policy of ‘affirmative action’ and targeted at addressing the imbalances among groups, especially those identified as marginalized in the society. 

“It follows that for the sake of addressing the urgent for ethnic harmony and integration in the country, this policy should be conscientiously pursued. 

“Non-ethnic affiliations such as trade unions class and professional affiliations should be encouraged. This latter policy would help to break the boundaries of ethnicity, foster unity and national integration”, he said.

The Guest Lecturer however, hinted that justice, fairness and equity would further engender the peoples’ trust in the system and minimize the ethnic antagonism that have tended to undermine reconciliation in Nigeria. 

“The surest way to achieve this, is through the entrenchment of good governance in the country”, he said. 

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