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Nigeria Lacks National Cohesion, says Ekwueme


FORMER Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, has lamented that nearly half a century after Nigeria gained its independence, Nigerians have not forged a strong sense of nationhood that would transcend ethnic cleavages and transform the country into a Nation-State. Ekwueme spoke yesterday in Lagos at the Nigerian Youth Summit organised by the World Igbo Youth Assembly (WIYA). The theme of the summit was “The Labour Of Our heroes Past.”

He argued that if Nigeria were a Nation-State, the crises in different parts of the country like the Niger Delta, Jos, Plateau State and Bauchi would not have occurred.

Quoting from Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution, the former vice president, who is also a member, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), enjoined the current crop of Nigerian leaders to purse national integration with renewed fervour, especially by discouraging ethno-religious discrimination nationwide and promoting inter-marriages among the nation’s ethnic groups.

Ekwueme especially charged the youths to shun ethnic bigotry and inter-marry among themselves, stressing that “the youths have great things to do in order to transform Nigeria into a Nation-State.”

At the event, Protem Chairman, Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), Prof. Pat Utomi, also charged the nation’s youths to take their destinies in their own hands by voting out the PDP from power.

He particularly upbraided the PDP governors over their frequent trip to Abuja to peddle influence and waste their state meager resources.

His words: “The chief culprits of these unacceptable conducts are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors whom every well meaning Nigerian must join hands with the youths to vote out of the office in the 2011 elections.”

Utomi submitted that the youths were in the best position to effect a positive change in the country, stressing that they must constrain their leaders to sit down in their offices and develop strategic plans to improve their states and the living standard of those they govern.

Dignitaries at the event included former Heads of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen Muhammudu Buhari, who were represented by Ambassador Moses Ihonde and Aghanya Dennis in that order, Imo State Commissioner for Special duties, Dr. Kelechukwu Okpaleke, who represented Governor Ikedi Ohakim; Prof. Greene Nwankwo; famous musician, Onyeka Onwuenu; and rights activist, Barrister Mike Igini.

Utomi said stressed: “Nigerian youths are not leaders of tomorrow but that of today. They are more educated, and more exposed than those who took over the control of the country 30 years age and still hang on to it, they have energy, time and can take risks.”

Speaking on the appropriateness of the event’s theme, Utomi said: “The knowledge of our heroes past is diminishing because we no longer teach history in schools. The simplicity of power and the connectivity to the people is almost lost to the youths of this generation.

“When Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mike Okpara, and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello chose Ikeja, Aba, and Kaduna respectively as hubs of industrialisation in the country, they were not selfish but were in competition to bring development and progress to the people.”

Gen Gowon also said that he found the theme of the conference stimulating. According to him, “the labour of our heroes past presupposes a plan to leverage the good works of the past leaders to chart a new direction for our country. What it means is that today’s youth needs to gain direction from the experience of the old, as the young cannot do it alone.”

The key issue, the former Head of State added, is that the youth must be given a chance to act and perform.

He stated: “I got that chance because God made it possible for me to be Head of State and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at age 31 going to 32, and I invited experienced public service officers and politicians to join me in the running of the government of the country.”

In a statement presented by Ihonde on behalf of Gen. Buhari, the former Head of State argued that care must be taken when celebrating the nation’s past heroes.

According to him, “our country today is passing through great challenges and most of the problems were as a result of the contribution of our past heroes. Nigeria is a country that we should be very proud of, but today, it has not been easy. This boils down to the integrity of our past leaders and that is why we must be very careful of the leaders we choose in 2011 general elections.

On his part, Ohakim said: “I vowed that I will not accept or regard our youths as wasted generation. To accept that is to condemn our future. I prefer to always embrace them with love.”

On the event’s theme, Ohakim said: “For me, it is not a question whether we have allowed the labour of our leaders past to be in vain which is contrary to our national anthem. But if we cannot maintain true federalism in today’s Nigeria which was won for us by our heroes past in 1952, then what they fought for is almost in vain.

“It is within the ability of youths of Nigerian and Igbo land to help to enthrone genuine democracy and true federalism in Nigeria. It is within the power of the Nigerian youths to arrest election rigging in Nigeria. All they need to do is to carefully identify and partner with those who are trying to change the old embarrassing order by changing the quasi-federalist Constitution of 1999 as our heroes in the pat changed the Macpherson Constitution in 1954.”

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