Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
As the nation goes through a difficult phase of sectional tension, a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) has admonished Nigerians to show love for each other and shun divisive actions and utterances.
Gowon, who led Nigeria to fight the three-year civil war against the secession of Biafra between 1967 and 1970, urged leaders in all sectors â€“ religious and secular â€“ to embrace the fear of God if the nation must attain national development.
The one-time military leader, in an address he presented at the 2017 annual seminar of the Knights of St. Johnâ€™s International Commandery 574, Abuja, with the theme, â€œThe Role of the Fear of God in Nation Building,â€ expressed concern over the current developments in the country.
Gowon, who commended the organisers of the seminar, said this was because â€œthe current trend in our beloved country, where other factors other than the fear of God are trying to influence our actions and behaviour to disintegrate and destroy our beloved country, Nigeriaâ€.
â€œWe really then need to have a serious appraisal of our actions and prayerfully ask God to forgive us and heal our land,â€ he said.
Gowon, whose address was delivered by Mr. Barnabas Atiyele of the Nigeria Prays group, observed that the role of the fear of God in nation building was of paramount importance today in view of the glaring aberration of human beings from the ways of God and the emerging erosion of virtues and esteemed standards of living and behaviour.
â€œI believe too that under God, we shall leave this meeting with resolutions which will lead our nation back to the path of brotherliness, love, unity, faith, trust and confidence in God and one another as well as reenacting the cherished virtues that have made nations great to make Nigeria recover her place of pride in that comity of nations.
â€œThere is no gainsaying that the church and the people of God are the last hope of the crises-ridden world. To fear God and reverence God is critical to human survival and prosperity. Where there is no fear, there will be no order, anarchy, oppression and poverty would reign. We must guard against all these agents of national destruction,â€ he said.
The former Nigerian leader noted that indeed, as given by the word of God, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, adding that the first ingredient of nation building is wisdom.
Nigerians, he added, in their intention to develop the land mass given to them by God gave themselves a constitution whose opening statement is â€œWe the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God… for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on principles of freedom, equality, and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our peopleâ€.
According to him, the building blocks for achieving the above declaration were enunciated in the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which are: â€œUnity and Faith, Peace and Progress.â€
â€œThese laudable objectives can only be achieved through the fear of God. Our leaders in all sectors must really have the fear of God, be it political leaders, traditional leaders or religious leaders–all Nigerians, without exception must have the fear of God if this nation must achieve national development.
â€œWe must realise that God created us and therefore must fear and reverence Him,â€ Gowon submitted.
He admonished that as leaders, â€œwe should not be found with unguarded statements (even if provoked) which do not make for peace and development of the societyâ€.
Peace, he stressed, is the basis of any development, adding that no nation can develop without peace. â€œEvery pronouncement must be seasoned with the capacity to encourage and uplift men to work hard towards the unity, peace and growth of the nation.
â€œWe must show love for each other, shun any divisive actions and utterances. This is the mark of godliness and the fear of God that can make our nation great,â€ he stressed.
He observed that the nation is waiting and depending on leaders with the fear of God to develop â€œour great country Nigeriaâ€.
In his keynote address, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Prof. Godfrey Onah regretted that apart from the civil war, at no other time has the country descended to the level of the current threat of disintegration.
He recalled that the nation got to a boiling point during the 2015 general elections and disappointed doomsday apostles who predicted disintegration, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged with a promise to tackle the myriad of socio-political and economic problems of the country.
He regretted that Nigerians are today wondering as to what became of the dreams of two years ago?
According to Onah, terrorists who were said to have been defeated; kidnappers, armed robbers and herdsmen, among others, have continued to make life miserable for Nigerians.
He lamented that there is palpable tension everywhere, with provocative utterances and sectional antics holding sway, asking rhetorically whether the end of the nation is around the corner?
He warned that if the nation continues the way it is currently, all talk about one Nigeria is an exercise in self-deceit.
Onah said the same powerful forces generating the tension are usually the ultimate beneficiaries, as they would continue to take charge of affairs.