From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General, All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh Lukman, has blamed the heightening ethnic tension across the country on leadership projections ahead of every major elections in Nigeria.
In statement he issued in Abuja on Saturday, titled; ‘Nigeria’s volatile politics and the APC report on True Federalism’, the PGF DG further argued that problems associated with ethnic profiling get compounded by problems of injustice.
He expressed sadness that the inability to address issues of ethnic tension in Nigeria has continued to inflame all manner of political crisis in the country.
“Perhaps, it also needs to be noted that it is not by accident that ethnic tensions are higher around the periods of elections. Once elections are approaching, expected leadership projections will always produce ethnic tension resulting in all manner of ethnically induced interpretative conclusions of every government initiative and decision of political leaders at all levels.
“With hardly any exception, ahead of elections, almost everyone become sucked into the politics of ethnic contests. Every government initiative and almost all actions of political leaders get interpreted in ethnic terms,” he argued.
Cronicling failed attempts to correct injustice as contributor to the rising ethnic tension, he noted that; “problems associated with ethnic profiling get compounded by problems of injustice as a result repressive circumstances especially during periods of military rule.
Recalling all the frustrations associated with failed political transitions of the military, both under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Sani Abacha between 1985 and 1998. Although problems of political tension between our ethnic groups could be said to be less volatile than what obtains today, reckless and brazenly repressive conducts by the military leadership heightened ethnic tension in the country.
“Twice, the political transition programme initiated by the military was disrupted with hardly good justifiable reasons. Even when the process, in June 1993, was leading to the emergence of a President who would have successfully won votes from all sections of the country, notwithstanding the fact that both the candidate, Chief M. K. O. Abiola and his running mate, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, were both Muslims, the military leadership of Gen. Babangida provocatively went ahead to annul the election without any convincing reason.
The annulment of June 12, 1993 election further worsened ethnic relations in the country such that although the elections produced one of best electoral results that confirm there is still a good possibility for national unity and coexistence, campaigns for its actualisation sharpened divisions along ethnic lines.
“The inability to address issues of ethnic tension in the country has continued to inflame all manner of political crisis in the country. Coupled with widespread systematic weakening of governance institutions in the country, especially on matters of guaranteeing the security of lives and property of Nigerians, issues of role of political leaders in addressing the challenge became a major political issue.
The problem of insurgency in the North East and the spate of suicide bombings by Boko Haram terrorists between 2010 and 2015 compounded the task of managing ethnic relations thereby creating serious security challenge in the country. Before 2015, the Boko Haram insurgents were controlling most parts of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. Weak response and excessive politicisation of our national security challenges under the Jonathan administration, including the false accusation that opposition politicians were sponsoring Boko Haram, lower the approval rating of the Jonathan administration in the country, which significantly contributed to its defeat in 2015,” Lukman quipped.
On the way forward, the PFG DG noted that: “recommended governance reform initiatives contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism present a big window of opportunity for the nation and APC leaders in particular to develop the capacity to manage our volatile politics laden with ethnic and religious influences.”
“To be able to manage our volatile politics, we need to strengthen our governance institutions. Inability to proceed to initiate processes of strengthening governance institutions in the country as contained in the recommendations of APC Committee on True Federalism will continue to subject our leaders to often unfair accusations of ethnicity based on wrong perceptions.
“And if care is not taken, no matter the achievement of our leaders, public recognition of the tenure of our leaders may be dictated by perceptive judgements of poor performance based largely on bad management of ethnic relations.
“Therefore, all APC leaders have a responsibility now to protect the achievements of APC leaders and governments, especially the Federal Government and President Buhari. APC leaders need to overcome the current lethargic attitude against initiatives for true federalism or restructuring.
“Although, no matter what any political leader is able to concede, there will always be the strong presence of political demands by ethnic groups, it is important to appeal to our leaders to consider the bigger picture, which is about responding to national challenges and strengthening the capacity of governance institutions in the country to serve Nigerians.
“The recommendations contained in the report of the APC True Federalism Committee have potentials to strengthen the capacity of government institutions at all levels to respond to most of our security challenges, for instance.
“Most of the recommendations will elicit wide range of disagreements from many groups and interests across the country, a debate to consider them will raise hopes and almost everyone will most likely find something appealing as much as there will be cases of strong objections to some of the recommendations.
“It is important to understand that debating the issues doesn’t mean it is a decision for implementation. Debating these issues through our processes of law making as enshrined in our constitution is a fundamental requirement,” the PGF DG noted in the statement.