Stakeholders highlight importance of peace, unity in nation-building
Countries like Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Libya, Ethiopia, and other African nations are today desperately trying to hold things together, maintain peace and prevent them from falling apart due to certain internal upheavals and self-inflicted pains. While many stakeholders and commentators have pointed out ways to remedy the situations, it would seem those saddled with governance and leadership in the geopolitical spaces either do not listen or do not have the capacity to save their countries from chaos.
However, those who sue for peace in the belief that it is much better than strife, have not ceased from doing so. They maintain that it is only through peace that meaningful development can come to Africa. They argue that Africa’s stunted growth in all indexes is at once in direct proportion to the peace and security the continent enjoys, which is relatively small, because most parts of the continent are at war with themselves.
A recent effort to urge the continent’s leaders and people to embrace peace and unity among their constituent parts for development was made by the Stand Tall Africa Initiative (STAI), as it convened a conference on ‘Peace, Unity and Nation Building’ in Abuja. The conference had as theme, ‘Peace, Unity and Nation Building in Nigeria and Africa: Role of individuals and other stakeholders,’ with focus on vital continental issues in need of attention. Nigeria was a major focus of the conference.
Conference organisers itemised areas for discussion to include ‘development of the Nigerian and African economy via peaceful co-existence and crisis-free society,’ ‘youth empowerment,’ ‘qualities of leadership,’ ‘place of religion in nation building,’ and ‘the role of women and of individuals and other stakeholders.’ The role of women, individuals and other stakeholders appeared to be where emphasis was laid, as it was argued that individuals hold the key to the sustainability of peace and unity within nation states.
The conference featured different speakers and discussants from various parts of the country. While delivering the keynote address, President of The Bukar Usman Foundation, Abuja, Dr. Bukar Usman, said, “I hasten to say that stakeholders in nation building include almost every individual or group, and so are all of us attending this conference. Individuals invariably belong to one group or another. They have their stakes, some of which find expression in the group. Individuals have a role to play in the group, with some assigned positions of leadership to promote both individual and group interests.
“Section 24 (a)-(j) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, like some of the earlier constitutions, provides the duties of the individual citizen. Additional duties of the citizen have been embodied in the National Anthem and the National Pledge. In the National Anthem, the citizen is called upon, among others, to serve our fatherland with love, strength and faith, heart and mind, and build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. These provisions are complemented by the National Pledge, which appeals to the citizen “To be faithful, loyal and honest…To defend (Nigeria’s) unity and uphold her honour and glory.
“But, really, how far does the citizen know and perform all these? It would be safe to say that given the low-level literacy prevalent in the country, the generality of the citizens hardly know and appreciate their role in this regard. Often, we recite those provisions without giving deep thoughts to them, let alone endeavour to respond as expected of us.
“Sections 14 and 15 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 spell out the duties and responsibilities of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers, all of whom are required to conform to and observe the provisions of the constitution.
“The provisions also extend to governance at the state levels, enjoin the states to recognise the diversity of the people and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the federation.”
While addressing the issue of youth empowerment, Catholic Bishop of Abuja Diocese, Archbishop Ignatius Ayou Kaigama, said, “Individual capacity to stand alone or contribute to the group interests could be enhanced by developing oneself. This could come about by the acquisition of the necessary skills for whatever role the individual plays in a traditional or modern setting. Of greater relevance today is the modern setting, which itself is fast changing. The individual must therefore strive to keep up with developments in order to sustain himself and his role.
“Nigeria has grown to become the most populous country and the largest economy in Africa and also one with the largest youth population in the world, next to India and China. This calls for a resetting of her developmental focus to cater for the needs of this big chunk of our population.”
Director Linkages, Nasarawa State College of Education, Dr. Funmilayo Alfa, spoke on women’s involvement in nation building. According to her, “While not playing down the role and needs of other stakeholders, women have been identified as important segments of the society whose needs should be attended to so as to enhance their roles in nation building. It is apparent that current efforts need to be redoubled to engage them more productively in nation-building and avert the adverse effects the continuous neglect of this critical segment of our society would have on our growing population.”
His Majesty, (Amb. Dr.) Appolus Chu, spoke on good governance and policy consultations and how these could improve nation building. He said that, “In dealing with societal problems, Nigeria has experienced both limited and wide policy consultations under civilian and military administrations. Given the enormity and complexity of the problems, there is no alternative but to intensify good governance and policy options that involve interactions and consultations with stakeholders and relevant experts because to every problem there is a solution.
Also, while capping the core achievements of the peace conference, Usman stated, “What must be admitted in the case of Nigeria is that whatever measures governments have so far taken to generate employment in the country require redoubling those actions to quicken the realisation of the objectives. Critical infrastructure such as power supply for public consumption and industrial production, better means of transportation, increased agricultural activities and mass education require immediate attention as we are in serious deficit.
“It is common knowledge though that there are scores of countries on the continent facing serious security challenges, almost all arising from the struggle by individuals and groups to maximise their takes from resources available in their countries. This has led to the creation of several regional and continental organisations to enable them face common problems and borrow a leaf from the successes recorded by one country or another. The challenge here is the need to achieve the desired end within the earliest possible time. Security situations must not be allowed to deteriorate to a stage of despair and helplessness whereby people would resign to divine intervention for salvation.”
In a communique at the end of the conference, the federal government was urged to implement affordable and compulsory formal education, with the provision of basic educational items like textbooks, writing materials and scholarships, particularly at the basic level for all Nigerians. The government was also called upon to provide employment for qualified Nigerian youths, particularly females and mothers. Such employment should mostly be in the areas of their skills and talents.
The conference also canvassed the need for efficient and accessible credit facility system for citizens with minimal conditions, while also stressing the need to fight all forms of corruption within government circle, work places, and organisations.
They also tasked government to work strictly with statistics and research findings and strive to achieve results with policy implementation. This, they said, would assist government in national planning, budgeting and distribution of national resources and other benefits. They urged government and its agencies concerned to pay special attention to environmental and ecological issues in most communities with a view to ameliorating their plight.
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