University of Lagos Muslim Alumni (UMA) has urged Nigerians to shun the idea of prioritizing ethnicity, tribalism, and religion over competency, which is a threat to national development.
Speaking during the 26th Pre-Ramadan Lecture of the alumni themed: ‘Though Tribe and Tongue May Differ: Interrogating Nigeria’s Nationhood’, the former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Usman Bugaje, stated that competency in governance is the only driving force that can take Nigeria to a greater height.
He said that national consensus is very key as a panacea to the issues arising from the conflict.
Bugaje urged the ruling class and elite to focus attention on the next generation as statesmen think of their next generation.
“The issues ahead of us are that of food, education, employment, infrastructure. How can we be competitive in all of these to grow our economy?”
“We need to put policies in place to help us reorientate Nigerians through the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to change people’s mindsets of hatred and animosity.
He enjoined the elite to unite and create a national consensus of moving the country to greater heights because conflicts are not coming from our diversity but lack of understanding and good leadership.
The Chairman of the occasion, former Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing, Alhaji Lateef Okunnu (SAN), said the country has never been this divided into ethnicity lines as has been witnessed today in the country.
Okunnu said there was no case of ethnicity in the history of Nigeria, but today it has been injected into the politics of the country by some elements for their personal gains and attempt to break up the country.
While citing examples of leaders who have governed the country in different capacities, Okunnu said, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikwe became influential in the country without promoting ethnicity.
He said, “We knew nothing about ethnicity when I was born, regardless of our origin. When I was growing up as a schoolboy, I followed politics before I clocked ten. I read newspapers in the restroom.
“Ethnicity could not divide us. In fairness to Awolowo, he did not use Egbe Omo Odudduwa to govern the Southwest. Nnamdi did not use Igbo Union to govern when he was the premier.
“There is still a debate on who won the election in 1954. The debate still continues. Whatever the side you take, the two leaders did not use religion to govern the country. The then Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello, held conferences in Ibadan.
“The Nigeria I grew up in prioritised unity. We must not allow ethnicity to divide us.”
Also speaking at the event, a Political Economist and Founder, Centre for Value in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi reminded Nigerians that permanent crisis stalls development and that there’s no action without theory.
“There cannot be development if we are not thinking things through. It makes us make a mountain out of molehill. In our country, we seem unable to have a rational public conversation because we are captives of emotions. And we have a moral duty to elevate our country beyond what we have currently.
“As it is, Nigeria is travelling in the wrong direction and leadership will determine the commitment we give to education. Knowledge and sense of service are required to have quality leadership as the Nigerian state is captured. We must rethink our democracy.” He advised.
The Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Prof. Afiz Oladosu identified the various challenges confronting the nation and called for a guided restructuring.
In his welcome address, UMA’s President, Alhaji Shuaib Salis reminded everyone of the fact that Nigeria has been a blessing to humanity. “In solving South Africa’s apartheid and other nations’ crises, we are always there to play positive roles; though we have issues that we need to fix but not to break up but fix the gaps.”
He said that lessons of Ramadan must go beyond the spiritual but make the people embrace one another across the various divides to build a Nigeria of citizens’ collective great dream together.
The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, commended the leadership of UMA and all members for the great initiative and impact.
He promised to continue to support every move to take the University forward while praying for peace in Unilag and the whole country.
By Shakirah Adunola