Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo sounded a warning Monday, declaring that Nigeria is fast losing its identity over what he termed “poor management of the nation’s diversity.”
Obasanjo, who spoke at the international conference organised at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, equally declared that many citizens were unhappy with Nigeria that they wish to walk away from the country.
He noted that Nigeria could have ceased to exist if not for God’s grace and kindness.
The conference which had in attendance the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, had the theme: “Religion, the state and global politics.”
While Osinbajo expressed concern that religion has been employed as one of the divisive factors to spread hate and unleash violence in the country, Abiodun called on policymakers, scholars and stakeholders to come up with more practical approaches in dealing with diverse religious ideologies so that religion will be a unifying factor to provide impetus to the nation’s socio-economic development.
In his speech titled “Towards a reunification of the sacred and secular religious intervention in politics,” Obasanjo submitted that both religion and politics affect the welfare and wellbeing of the people.
The former president, however, expressed dismay over the mismanagement of diversity and identity of the nation, saying such had been done with impunity.
According to him, religion, politics, and ethnicity are part of Nigeria’s diversity that must be jealously protected.
“We are badly handling our diversity that we are losing our identity. And for as long as we are doing that, we are not going to get far even if we get anywhere at all. The management of our diversity must be right.
“Religion is part of our diversity. Politics is part of our diversity. Ethnicity is part of our diversity. We must manage our diversity properly. But when you mismanage diversity with impunity, it is particularly annoying. It may lead to what we may not want it to lead to.
“I don’t know of any Nigerian who doesn’t wish Nigeria well. But I know of many Nigerians who are so unhappy with Nigeria that they may walk away from Nigeria. However, I am an incurable optimist about Nigeria.
“I used to say God is a Nigerian. What we have gone through and what we are going through, Nigeria should not be on the map of the world. God has been kind to us; if not, the country would have ceased to exist,” the former president stated.
Speaking further, Osinbajo, who was represented at the event by the Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Ishaq Oloyede, said religion, state and politics are institutions that must be employed to promote peace, harmony and development.
The vice president expressed the commitment of the Federal government to continue to strive and utilise the mandate of Nigerians to promote the best interest of all citizens.
The VP said: “The occasional and even persistent misuse by some religious or political actors require the attention of all promoters of peace, freedom and development to converge in Nigeria.
“The goal of religion, the state, international or global politics is the welfare of all creatures, particularly human beings. It is therefore expected that this conference will make its recommendations available to the Federal government of for the improvement of the welfare of all.”
On his part, Governor Abiodun said if the country has to talk about security, peace, co-existence and even socio-economic development, it cannot divorce religion.
The governor condemned acts of violence perpetrated under the guise of religion in the country, stressing the need to bring the perpetrators and sponsors to book.
“In Nigeria, we have had more than our own fair share of acts of violence which some quarters have tied to religion, and even the state.
“We have the Boko Haram issue in the northern part of the country, which has been linked to a religious terrorist movement, ISIS; there are also the rampaging security threats of herdsmen-farmers clashes and kidnap which some people have linked to a grand plan by a particular tribe to take over the rest of the country.
“I find these acts condemnable and no efforts should be spared to bring the perpetrators to book. If you ask me, these are common criminals and should be treated as such.
“It is also not out of place to state that all these developments within a nation also determine its global perception.”
The guest speaker and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, said failure to manage Nigeria’s diversity has resulted in lack of loyalty by its citizens.
“Our country will continue to underperform until all of us, Christians, Muslims, figure out how to manage our diversity,” the cleric submitted.