Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida
Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, and the former vice-president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Thursday called for the continued unity of the country through the use of the multi-cultural diversity explaining that the idea of integration of the country is not a viable option.
Ekwueme also said that the calls for a conference to discuss issues concerning the country should not be seen as an option or call for disintegration.
The two former leaders spoke at the public presentation of the Blueprint newspapers in Abuja yesterday.
According to Babangida who was the guest lecturer in a paper titled, “Development and Economic Growth in a Multi-cultural Society,” said, “We have no option but to face the fact that our diversity is not going to disappear, our disintegration is not an option that Nigeria and its people can afford.”
He stated further, “In the first place, the historical association between the different communities currently in Nigeria predated the creation of the country. Consequently, we have been for long intertwined by crisscrossing political, cultural and economic ties that cannot be untangled.
“Secondly, the contemporary global trend point to the fact that the future belongs to big nations with large populations that can stand on their own in international community. China and India readily come to mind as good examples of big and diverse nations that are attempting to the twin challenges of development and nation-building successfully in an integrated and systematic manner,” the former military president said.
According to Babangida, the above lies the challenges facing Nigeria, stating, “that is to integrate the twin process of nation building and development into a consolidated national plan”, stating that Nigeria and Nigerians must focus on the evolution of a “truly Nigerian citizen, not in the formal sense of holding the green passport or just inhabiting a given territory, but in the normative sense of feelings of belonging and deeply held sense of allegiance to the nation.
In his comments as chairman of occasion, Ekwueme who was represented by his younger brother, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, urged Nigerians not to see the call for national conference as a call for disintegration.
He said that Nigerians should see strength in the multi-cultural background of the nation.
According to Ekwueme, “while it is a fact that our multi-cultural colouration may serve as a platform for strength, it may turn the country into a nightmare of crises, if our nation’s leaders continue to neglect issues that promote multi-cultural harmony among Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities.”
He therefore challenge the leaders to rise above selfish interest by creating a symphony of mutual trust among the ethnic groups for the continued unity of the country.