Concerns about Nigeria’s future legitimate, but… – Amaechi
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has said that concerns about Nigeria’s future from different parts of the country were legitimate, but added that the current difficulties were transient and could be resolved through active engagement of all stakeholders.
He also stated that these concerns could only be tackled successfully if Nigerians stand united as one nation, in spite of all the challenges.
Amaechi stated this while delivering the 34th Convocation Lecture of the University of Calabar, titled, ‘Beyond our Imperfect Union: The National Question and Nigeria’s Future’.
He noted: “In recent days, we have begun to hear loud voices of disunity from various sections of the country. In response to current economic difficulties and the problem of insecurity, some have insisted on the now familiar argument for restructuring of the federation. Others have advocated increased regional autonomy. Some extremists are calling for secession of parts of the country from the federation.
“None of these divisive options would serve the urgent needs of this nation or the long-term aspiration of all our people for a better life in a happier nation.”
“Let me say without any fear that the concerns being raised by Nigerians about the future of our country are legitimate; they are indications of great patriotism and love. We all treasure this country and are anxious that it transforms into a better place for all of us. This overwhelming wish for a better Nigeria far outweighs the doomsday predictions of a few pessimists.”
The minister said ethnicity and class, poverty and inequality were major parts of the problem, describing poverty as one of the greatest threats to the country’s national unity and survival.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the desperate poverty that we have today has its roots in dispensations that came before the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Specifically, our epidemic of mass poverty dates back to the return of civil rule in our country. It is unfair to heap the responsibility for the prevalence of poverty and inequality on this or any one administration in the history of the country.
“I have a personal conviction that of all the challenges facing our nation’s actualisation, none is more urgent than the scourge of increasing poverty and the threat of massive inequality. We must attack and conquer inequality and extreme poverty or the poor will overrun Nigeria,” the Minister said.
He added: “I believe that the destiny of Nigeria can only be best actualised in the context of one indivisible and united nation. What is required is for us to continue to work towards a nation in which the doors of opportunity are open to all our citizens, irrespective of ethnicity, creed, class or circumstance.”
The former governor of Rivers State noted that tackling insecurity and criminality must also be on the front burner to avoid an escalation leading to ungovernability, cautioning the political elite against actions that contribute to insecurity in the nation.
“I agree with those patriotic voices who have cautioned that we need to do everything to arrest the general drift towards ungovernability and state failure. Nigeria should not queue up behind nations that have allowed these nascent forces to threaten their very existence or overwhelm them.
“We should instead face up to the challenges with maximum will. It is in this context that we need to appreciate the valiant efforts being made by the Buhari administration to ensure our national survival through the restoration of security, rehabilitation and expansion of national infrastructure and alleviation of desperate poverty.
“Challenges like Boko Haram, sporadic terrorism, banditry and other insurgent flare-ups are active national defence challenges of a grave strategic and military nature that have continued to engage the energies of the military. I believe that with time, these challenges will be overcome by the undisputed and tested professionalism of our military.
“On the other hand, we now have a plethora of criminal infractions, ranging from transactional kidnapping and mass school abductions, armed robbery, cultism, rape to urban gang warfare. I believe the correct cure to criminality is stout law enforcement and crime fighting predicated on accurate intelligence and interdiction.
“We must not fail to recognise the responsibility of our elite in creating the problem of insecurity that we are facing today. In many parts of the country, the political elite failed in their responsibility to educate the majority of children of the lower classes.
“These children who were denied the right to education and a better life have grown up to find themselves with no other choice than to enroll in criminal undertakings, such as banditry and terrorism,” Amaechi said
He lamented that politics has become weaponised, as desperate political actors now patronise armed gangs of criminal thugs for political purposes, while hate has become an instrument for political mobilisation, enhanced by the emergence of the social media as a force of public opinion and information deployment.
“This is why we now have these calls for restructuring, backed by increasingly militant regional and ethnic nationalism. The rhetoric of anger usually drips of hate and divisiveness. The politics of desperation plays up ethnic, regional, religious and other primordial instincts to advance its cause.
“This, in my view, is the background to the current wave of insecurity, hate rhetoric and divisive politicking in the nation.”
He called for justice for all citizens who seek justice and feel left out in a land they call home, saying: “We must give meaning to democracy, so that every Nigerian can find a place and a voice in a land of free men and women.
“We must deploy our diversity to increase our strength. We must make our streets and highways, and now forests and farmlands, safe again for all Nigerians to fulfill their individual dreams of a good life, so that together, we can actualise the manifest destiny of this blessed land.”
Amaechi admonished Nigerians and aspiring leaders on the need for government to function in a continuum, especially toeing the developmental path of the Buhari administration that has set the motion for growth in the right direction for effective handling of the country’s challenges.
“We must acknowledge that no single administration solves all the problems of any nation. National development is an incremental and cumulative process. It would be unfair for our elite and aspiring leaders to expect Buhari to eliminate all the accumulated burdens and contradictions of the National Question in Nigeria.
“I believe that our current difficulties are transient and can be resolved through an active engagement of all our stake holders,” Amaechi said.