From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi has given a damning verdict on the state of the nation, saying that Nigeria is not in its most healthy state.
Fayemi who spoke in his capacity as the chairman of the occasion of ThisNigeria Annual Lecture and Gold Prize in Abuja, also said the country is in the doldrums.
In attendance were the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu; the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Revd Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah; immediate past British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Ishaq Oloyede, amongst others.
Fayemi noted that the country is going through enormous challenges, disclosing that when he received the invitation from the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of ThisNigeria Newspaper, Eric Osagie, his point to him was how to wake up a sleeping giant.
“First we have to agree that indeed, Nigeria is sleeping and also agree that it is a giant. And when you have a giant, you can approach that giant from all sides. It is like an elephant. And I believe that is only the perspective from which many of us will approach the Nigerian state.
“But the Nigerian state is not in its most healthy state. There is no debate about that regardless of political persuasion, regardless of ethnic consideration, regardless of economic opportunities available or unavailable to individuals, our country is in the doldrums,” Fayemi said.
Fayemi however said in every adversity, there is always an opportunity, adding that it is the ability of Nigerians to identify what those opportunities are that will take Nigerians further in the nation-building journey.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum also said nation-building anywhere in the world does not happen by happenstance, saying that it is a long, tortuous and arduous process.
“And it is not a 60-year process. Many countries have been at it for centuries and they are still in search of a more perfect union as the American constitution will put it.
“And that search must continue. However, we must see sights of progress along the way; we must be able to identify those shoots, those little incomes that will become tall oaks sooner, rather than later because, for those of us who still at least saw that good Nigeria relatively speaking, we have a sense of what that country should be. We have a sense of what is expected of the largest country with black people in the world. And we also have a sense of the expectation that the world has of us which we clearly have not lived up to,” Fayemi also said.
Fayemi further said he was sure that there was something in the mind of the writer of the lines in the second stanza of the national anthem when he put them together.
He stated that Nigerians can talk about unity as much as they liked, talk about national integration as much as they wanted and can lionise patriotism, but cannot build a country on the basis of iniquity, on the basis of injustice, on the lack of fairness and expect unity to prevail.
Speaking further, Fayemi said Nigerians see possibilities all the time even when they are on the verge of hopelessness.
He stated that what recently took place in Anambra was a miracle because many Nigerians already had come to the conclusion that Anambra was going to be a bloodbath, but turned out the other way round.
He gave kudos to the National Peace Committee convened by Kukah and chaired by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, including the people of Anambra and INEC.
Delivering the lecture titled ‘National Cohesion for Growth and Progress: The Nigeria Dilemma,’ Kukah said the conversation was not about the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but to achieve national cohesion.
Kukah said to achieve national cohesion, Nigerians needed to have a reliable Constitution which is encompassing.
“Nigerians are angrier now more than before, but we get nostalgic about the past, thinking Nigeria was better before now. But the truth is, we were less educated or exposed before now,” Kukah said.
While decrying the decline in the quality of leadership in the country, Kukah added that patriotism was not a product of exchange.
“We have never suffered from psychological trauma than now. I have a moral duty to know what is right and wrong. It has never been this bad in Nigeria,” Kukah stated.
Kukah also said going by happenings in the country, it was more important to be a Muslim than to be a northerner in terms of appointment.
“We want peace. Even criminals want peace. But we are in despair in Nigeria. Something is wrong with Nigeria,” Kukah also said.
On his part, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said Nigerians can’t achieve national cohesion where there is injustice and where a certain set of people believe that they are born to rule.
“We don’t tolerate religion and diversity. We need strong leadership, a strong populace, and CSOs.
“Nigeria is sick and gasping for breath. We have to pull out Nigeria via egalitarianism to achieve Nigeria’s national cohesion,” Ozekhome said.
Also speaking, the Director-General of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Comrade Issa Aremu, called for inclusive narratives about Nigeria in order to build the nation.
Aremu who disagreed with the presentations of Kukah and Ozekhome also called for the need to amplify the nation’s successes.
“We should organise ourselves to build Nigeria of our dream. We are Nigerians and we should focus more on that.
“The nation can work. Let us stop antagonizing, let us organize ourselves to build Nigeria,” Aremu said.
In his remarks, Osagie said ThisNigeria Newspaper was set up to tell Nigerians the truth and at the end of the day, give Nigerians a platform to express their views.
“We are not partisan, we are neither north nor south, we believe in Nigeria passionately, we believe Nigeria should be run very well, we don’t believe in ethnicity, we don’t believe in any tribal sentiments, we are a newspaper for the people, by the people and for the people. That is why we are called ThisNigeria,” Osagie said.
At the event, Wike, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, Yakubu and Oloyede were recognised by ThisNigeria for their exceptional services to their States and the country.