I thank the management of the Pace-Setters College, Abuja, for the opportunity to interact with the graduating students and other students of this college.
It is in conversations between generations like this that the young ones benefit from the experience of the aged. And it is said that the old are only wise because they have lived the life of the young. The fraternity of ideas between the generations is, therefore, important in fostering socialisation and imparting values and experience.
I usually feel nostalgic anytime I come across a group of young people like you in an organised place like this. I admire your innocence, the bond among you, the ideas and imagination, and the adventurous mind you have. These combine to make you the most important demography for the society — you are creative, geeky, and energetic and, by virtue of your age, you are going to be the drivers of this country in a near future.
As individuals, you come from different families from around the vast diversity of this country, which is one beauty and the intendment of unity schools like this. You come with the orientation and values of your families and the language you acquired at home. You also have the religion you open your eyes to see your parents practice. With you are also the cultures and idiosyncrasies of your immediate community. You carry the worldview and orientation of those immediate surroundings. That is expected.
However, in your school life, in the years since coming to this place, you have been exposed to other persons, as classmates and persons you share dormitories. A number of them cannot speak in the same mother tongue as you, another sizable number do not profess the same faith as you. If you were to be asked to dress according to your native cultures, the school would have an interesting display of varieties.
Interestingly, the Ahmed who is hostel mate to you, Segun, and Emeka who sits beside you in class are now humans. You have come to associate and look at each other as friends and brothers.
In the days and months and years you have spent here, you have grown from strangers suspicious of each other to acquaintances curious about each other, to friends that cherish each other. You have grown above the markers of your circumstances of birth to humans that only see the inherent good or bad in each other beyond the masks imposed on everyone by fate. Your competition for academic excellence, and your collaboration in curricula and extra-curricular matters recognise no ethnic or religious markers. You succeed because you work and partner dispassionately. By the scenario I have painted, you an ideal Nigeria, the utopia of coexistence that we should aim for as a country of diversity.
You, the graduating students, are now going out to the larger society, a freer environment than here. Your social interaction will change as you are now going to be in direct contact with more adults in your own graduation to adulthood as well. I know you cannot wait for the freedom awaiting you outside the college, the freedom to mingle and interact and a freedom to now own a smart phone permanently that no one will take from you when you are going to school. I know in your minds right now those freedoms you eagerly await. You deserve it!
But while you go out there to start you adult life and bask in the freedom that comes with it, you have to be wary of an ugly virus making the rounds in our larger society. You have to take the lessons you leaned in diversity, love and peaceful coexistence to the larger society. We need that lesson from you and how you live among yourselves.
When you leave here into the society, you need to be extra careful and a notch wiser than you are. Importantly, you have to learn through the follies of folks out there and sift from that which your new freedom offers you.
You have to close your eyes, ears and minds to merchants of hate now walking dangerously in our spaces.
They go about everywhere, from the social network in your mobile phones, to political and social gatherings, to, most unfortunately, some pulpits and sacred spaces. They try, in devilish desperation, to pit you against Emeka and his like, Ahmed, and his people or against Segun and his stock. They say all manner of things, often fabrication and likes to make the other an enemy.
But why? You may ask. Those merchants of hate do what they do largely for self-promotion, to delude members of their immediate community and portray themselves as champions of their rights and interest, while in reality they are not. They do that so they remain relevant as ethnic or religious champions. They are venomous persons that you should stay away from.
Even from your little experience, I am sure you appreciate the essence of diversity in human society. Just like our fingers are not of the same size, there is no way we can be the same. If it were the wish of God that you should live in this space alone, the other wouldn’t have been created. The fact that God has created you and him and her means that you are willed to live together.
Throughout history, no one human stock was able to wipe off another, no matter the extensity of the hate or the ferocity of wars. So, if you cannot do anything about the other’s existence, why then would you not learn to accommodate each other? We must!
You must have also come to the consciousness that no human stock is inherently good or bad. Every stock has its share of the good, the bad and the ugly. I am sure you also realise that you speak the same language or worship together with someone does not necessarily mean that person will be good to you. Quite often, our saviours are persons from a different background as ourselves.
To blame the other for your challenges is an escapist narrative often promoted by failed leaders who should otherwise be held accountable for those failings. We must resist their ploy and attempt to divide us in furtherance of their parochial agenda. There is nowhere that such divisive campaign led to anything meaningful. It won’t lead us to anywhere good too.
But some individuals have taken careers in Twitter and other social media platforms to promote hate, some have taken that as a tool for political prosperity. We must say no to them! The government and security agencies owe us a duty to tame those hate mongers from us and especially you that are coming behind.
You must be allowed to carry on the good heart and brotherhood you have imbibed from your beautiful innocence and early interactions. You, as the heirs to this country, and drivers of its tomorrow, should be totally free from hate. You should resist prophets of hate. You need to be free and liberated from the virus of hate, it is the only guarantee that you will be the future we dream of.
I thank you!
•Ribadu, pioneer executive chairman of the EFCC, delivered this address at the graduation of Pacesetters Schools, Abuja, on Saturday, July 13, 2019