To the surprise of many Nigerians, a call for peace came from two former leaders of the country. What made it more surprising was the fact that the message was contained in a joint statement signed by Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo.
The reasons may not be far-fetched; both former leaders had an exchange of words when Babangida celebrated his 70th birthday with both men describing each other as “fools at 70”.
Issues at hand seem to have however brought them together, as they both decried the state of insecurity in the country. Meanwhile, the statement has continued to generate many unanswered questions like “when did the two of them make peace?”, “why did it take the chaotic situation of the country to bring them together?” and lots more.
Below is the text of the joint statement:
“Unfolding events in our dear motherland, Nigeria, over the last few years are threatening to unravel the nearly a century old labour of our founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful nation that can accommodate and cater for the needs and aspirations of our diverse communities. Internecine crises are raging across the land unabated with damaging consequences on the social, political and economic life of the nation. And in the process untold hardships are being visited on all citizens in one form or another on a daily basis. The loss of innocent lives being experienced by the day across the nation is simply unbearable. Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day to day lives without great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue!
A deeply worrying trend that is emerging from this terrible situation is that a pervasive cynicism is beginning to set in, so much so that millions of true Nigerian patriots are starting to question the platform upon which the unity of this country rests. This is simply untenable. The people of this country must not allow whatever sense of frustration, fear and despair we are experiencing now to supersede our hopes for a collective destiny which lies in our continued existence as a Nation. For us, and we believe for millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable.
While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive. In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances; they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement. We therefore urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including: elders, youth organization, trade union and associations, women bodies, the clergy and other community stakeholders. We also call on the Federal and States governments not only to encourage these grassroots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement. In all these efforts it is important to emphasize that our diversity is a course for celebration not a cause for lamentations.
As the Holy Month of Ramadan commences, Nigerians wherever they are and whatever religion they profess are accorded a great opportunity to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred. Religious leaders, in particular, have an even greater challenge to use the immense virtues of this Holy period to inculcate among the millions of citizens the spirit of mutual respect, humility and forgiveness. Ample opportunities are therefore at hand to bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
Finally, we need to reiterate that no meaningful development can ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred. History has shown that any society that is built on the structures of violence and intolerance cannot prosper. We need to appreciate that, God in His infinite mercy, has blessed our country with abundant resources and talents, but we need peace and harmony to harness them not just for our own wellbeing but also that of our children and grandchildren. We owe this future generations of Nigerians this much.
On our part, we are ready to do whatever is possible to promote the quest for peace and harmony. And are ready to join hands with all patriots to sustain and further enhance the unity and progress of this country. Thank you”.
Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR.
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, GCFR.