Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III
In a pointed rejection of one of the doctrines espoused by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, on Thursday said the degree of backwardness in the northern part of the country has made it compelling for the Federal Government to enforce “western education” in that part of the country.
Boko Haram, which means ‘western education is sinful’, has launched a sustained reign of terror on several states in northern Nigeria since 2009 and has engaged in terrorist activities targeted at the strict enforcement of Sharia law in the country.
Speaking at the 13th session of the Emmanuel Onyechere Anyiam-Osigwe lecture series, which was held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, the Sultan who was represented by the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Ndanusa Yahaya, said the increasing number of youths who aimlessly parade the streets of the North had become a cause for concern for stakeholders.
He observed that their inability to secure good jobs was because a vast majority of them cannot speak English language, a condition not negotiable for any organisation, whether private or public that might be seeking to employ people.
Also, aligning, with the theme of the lecture, ‘Synthesis for Nationhood: Ethnic Policy and National Integration; From Indigenes to Citizens’, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Adaku Onwuliri, said the concept of indigeneship and settler had begun to threaten the nation’s unity and must not be tolerated under any guise.
In the same vein, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, who was equally represented by a former Minister of Foreign Affairs under his regime, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, said the issues of indigeneship and citizenship had dogged the Nigerian polity for many years, adding that if Nigeria must take its place in the comity of nations, it must deal with the issue decisively.
However, in her lecture entitled, ‘Unity in Diversity, Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Peace and Prosperity’, former Prime Minister and President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who was in Nigeria for the first time, said an ideal society is feasible when leaders are governed by high morality.
The Sultan, who canvassed for the institution of western education in the North, said all indications pointed in the direction that the way forward for the North to catch up with the rest of the country was to have quality western education at all levels.
Citing a personal experience, his representative recalled how his biological son - an intelligent young man – whom he said had travelled to Kuwait for Arabic Studies but could not secure a job upon returning to Nigeria because he could not speak the English language.
The situation, he noted, was responsible for the reason many northern children cannot secure good jobs in the ministries and parastatals anymore. He, therefore, insisted that western education must return to the North for a significant change from the present order.
On his part, the President said nation building was the responsibility of all patriots but expressed worry that allegiance to the nation had begun to shift to regional interests and therefore promised that the ongoing constitution review would address some of the problems militating against national unity.
He asserted that the time for change had come and that entrenched systemic discrimination must begin to change, noting that a situation where a woman cannot assume a position on merit because her birthplace conflicted with her marital status must change.
“We will bring about this change; we must build a strong nation,” he said.
Babangida, however, who was chairman of the occasion, started his speech by first clearing the air on insinuations surrounding his choice as chairman of the lecture by some people who had challenged the organisers on their choice.
He said the issue of indigeneship and settler was not peculiar to Nigeria and that even greater democracies of the world like the United States have had to deal with it.
He insisted that Nigeria as a nation must also resolve to deal with it and decisively, adding that “nation building is always work-in-progress. We must never fail to attempt and we must never attempt to fail.
“We must return to the drawing board. Perception is not what we achieve but what we work towards every day. Who is an indigene as opposed to a citizen and how does the transformation take place?” he asked, adding that the leadership of the country must also unravel the effect of such developments on the nation.
But in her well-researched paper, which drew instances from across the globe and especially on the Nigerian state, the former Sri Lankan President noted that poverty and lack of unity constituted great impediments to nation building.
She identified other factors as tribal, religious, political, social and lack of access to good education and knowledge as major drawbacks.
She observed that in most countries with internal unrest, tribal and religious diversity had been exacerbated by the colonial rulers using divide and rule tactics.
She also noted that in such countries, marginalised groups are wont to perceive injustice through social and political inequality while lack of access to education brings about frustration.
While advancing a holistic approach to cohesive and inclusive nation building, Kumaratunga said rulers who are governed by high morality put the nation first before self.
She noted that one of the reasons economic and political turnaround was easy in her country was because leaders in Sri Lanka were not corrupt, adding that to instill morality into public consciousness, “you must catch them young.”
She also suggested that in a plural political state like Nigeria with multi-ethnic groups, the need to devolve power is imperative in order to accommodate growing cases of marginalisation.
She cited Canada and India as countries that had embraced similar initiatives and which had paid off.
“We have to accept and celebrate diversity,” she said, adding that the pre-colonial era witnessed a symbiotic life style of the people until the colonial administration created division and leveraged it for selfish motives and that most flawed democracies came from that background.
Kumaratunga who alluded to Nigeria’s civil war, noted that the Biafran war was caused by discrimination and politics of exclusion after independence and that the separatist tendencies from the minority sought to correct that anomaly.
Concluding, she suggested federalism and politics of inclusion as part of the solution to the minority question, including dialogue. She said leaders required courage to take the right decisions that are both economic and political in redressing the situation.
Earlier in his address on behalf of the Anyiam-Osigwe family and foundation, Michael Anyiam-Osigwe, said the “wounds on the psyche of Africans, caused by the coercive and ruthless methodology applied by the colonial powers in the creation of countries out of diverse ethnic nationalities, have left deep fault lines running along the ethnic seams of the various countries within the continent.”
As a result, he said: “Africans largely remain unable to reconcile themselves with the idea of statehood in which they are compelled to express their citizenship.”
Amongst those at the lecture, were former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia; Commodore Ebitu Ekiwe and former Minister of Industry, Mrs. Nike Akande.