A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega in Abuja on Wednesday, December 1, revealed the reason for the continued division in the country.
Jega made this call during a summit on national unity organized by a socio-political organisation, the National Prosperity Movement with the theme: ‘Nigeria – The imperative of unity.’
Delivering his keynote address, Jega berated all civilian administrations since 1999 for not doing enough to promote national unity.
He stated, “In any case, the attention paid to the question of national unity and integration by successive military regimes has not been matched by successive civilian administrations. Except for sloganeering in the Third Republic, when Shehu Shagari as NPN’s presidential candidate, and subsequently as President, popularized the slogan of ‘One Nation, One Destiny’, subsequent civilian administrations, especially since 1999 seem to have, more or less, presided over the undermining, if not destruction, of the bases and foundations of national unity and integration in Nigeria.
“National unity can only be predicated on mutual trust and understanding, reciprocal friendly/brotherly/sisterly relations, as well as shared interests, values and aspirations. National unity would only best be promoted through tolerance and accommodation of each other’s differences, opinions, ethnic, religious and communal or even regional identities.
“At the core of national unity are non-discriminatory relations whether at the personal or official levels. The sad thing is that in contemporary Nigeria, all these are in dire short supply.”
Jega listed the current major threats to national unity; as well as national security to include negative mobilization of ethnoreligious and other primordial identities; especially in contestations for power in electoral politics; hate speeches targeted at perceived “others”, in an “us” versus “them” categorizations; reckless peddling of misinformation and fake news to demonize perceived opponents; as well as giving primacy to “indigenes” over “citizenship” rights in state and local governance.
He also noted that the nature of federalism; practised in Nigeria had been faulty, distorted and dysfunctional.
“Nigeria, regrettably, operates a distorted and dysfunctional form of federalism, in which the core principle is undermined, rather than nurtured and entrenched. This negative trend needs to be reversed. But it can only be done; by having elected leaders who are democrats and not ‘militicians’; who understand what the value of operating a functional rather than dysfunctional federal arrangement is; for peace, stability, progress and development of a country; and who have the ability, capacity, competence and integrity to drive good democratic governance for the polity.”