From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General, All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh Lukman, has said that the ruling party’s Committee on True Federalism is the panacea for lasting peace in the country.
Reacting to rising ethnic tensions across Nigeria over the activities of bandits and murderous herdsmen, the PGF DG took a swipe at presidential spokespersons for their unguarded utterances, which he said are heightening the ethnic tensions in the country.
Writing under the title, “Ethnic and Religious Hatred and the Deceitful Campaigns in Nigeria”, Lukman suggested the initiation of processes to implement the recommendations contained in the APC True Federalism report.
He noted that considering the delicate nature of the issues, a strategic approach should have been for the presidency to allow the Minister of Information to manage the responsibility of communicating positions of the Federal Government since the issue is not just about the position of the President.
‘It is very painful that as Nigerians we are highly blinded and deafened by our anger against each other. Notwithstanding our anger, we want one of our tribesmen and women to rule the country in a democracy whereby such a person must win votes from every part of the country, including from groups we hate and also encourage them to reciprocate the hate,’ he said.
‘There has to be a way out of this mess. Our political leaders and our party need to assert their authority in mobilising alternative responses, which should inspire Nigerians to rise above the current high wave of ethnic and religious hatred in the country that is weakening our capacity to arrest and prevent criminal activities.
‘No doubt every Nigerian must be worried about what is going on. Much more troubling is the fact that pronouncements of Mallam Garba Shehu on these issues tend to, unfortunately, accentuate our polarisation. While recognising that it is necessary for the government to make some public responses to most of these developments, should it come from the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President? Being a matter that may require clarifications bordering on both issues of interpretations of the law and policy of the government, one would have thought it is better handled at ministerial level.
‘Besides, given the nature of such issues, a strategic approach should have been to allow for instance the Minister of Information to continue to manage the responsibility of communicating positions of the Federal Government, since the issue is not just about the position of the President. It also involves the need to engage state governments.
‘The way things are, it is difficult not to conclude that mandated agencies of government are unable to discharge their statutory responsibility as required because once the President spokesperson makes public statements, the capacity to initiate any response may be obstructed. At this point, as APC members and as Nigerians, it is important to appeal for moderation in the way this issue is being managed.
‘With the level of polarisation in the country, crazy responses from people such as Sunday Igboho and their likes in every part of the country are further worsening the situation. That can never be the goal of the government,’ he noted.
Reacting further, he suggested that the situation may require political parties intervening when problems of polarisation get activated to the level of manifesting as threats to peace.
‘The other issue is also the need to strengthen our politics to be able to manage this kind of difficult realities. So long as we are going to remain as a country with all our diversities, there will always be this kind of difficult challenges requiring skilful and careful handling.
‘This may require that our political parties are able to intervene when problems of our polarisation get activated to the level of manifesting as a threat to our peaceful co-existence as a nation. As a party, APC has a good experience when it comes to managing problems created by ethnic polarisation in the country.
‘This is because in 2017 when the madness of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB and the so-called Arewa Youth got heightened so much that there was the senseless ultimatum to Igbos to vacate the North and national debate on restructuring was producing all manner of proposals including maps of break-away parts of Nigeria, the APC National Working Committee under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun initiated internal consultations leading to the appointment of the Mallam Nasir El-Rufai led APC Committee on True Federalism.
‘Although yet to be implemented, the report of the Mallam Nasir Committee on True Federalism provides a standard template of how a party in government should handle difficult challenges of polarisation.
‘Certainly, if the party was able to move recommendations contained in the report of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai Committee to the level of implementation, the current levels of misplaced anger against the APC and the Federal Government in the country would have been moderated. The challenge we have today presents a golden opportunity for APC to be able to initiate processes of implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism.
‘What may be required in the circumstances is for the APC Caretaker Committee led by Governor Mai Mala Buni to initiate internal processes of consultations both within the party and across the executive and legislative arms of government.
‘Given that there already exist APC tripartite consultative committee, chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo with both the party Chairman, HE Mai Mala Buni, Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiala and PGF Chairman, HE Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Gida Mustapha and Chief of Staff to President, Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari serving as members, the initiative to commence processes of implementation can be started,’ he said.
Commenting further, he pleaded that: ‘We need to appeal to our leaders and our party to rise to the occasion of this challenge facing our dear nation beyond the current public anger. Our leaders should be reminded about the words of Malcolm Gladwell in the book, David and Goliath to the effect that ‘much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of … lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.
‘And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are.
‘The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the source of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors. And create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable. We need a better guide to facing giants,’ he noted in the statement.
The PGF DG also stated that: ‘While it is tempting to continue to interpret our current disagreements based on our deep momentary anger and hatred for one another, it may be the true catalyst for our attainment of greatness. That can only happen if our leaders are able to insulate themselves from being among the drivers of public anger and hate based on which they are able to painstakingly lead the country in a new direction of unity and national co-existence.
‘May God guide our leaders to lead us in a new direction that can guarantee peaceful co-existence founded on love for each other across all our ethnic and religious divides.’