As Nigerians reflect on 50 years after the civil war, hundreds of Nigerians living in the United Kingdom, Europe and America (UK) have called on the Nigerian authorities to follow up with recent calls for a National Dialogue by the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF).
The group noted that Nigeria is currently plagued with violent extremism in the face of festering ethnic suspicion, an affliction, which it said has plagued the former British colony since independence in 1960 and led to a 30-month devastating war which ended in 1970.
It added that as the country marks half a century memorial of the civil war, the scars appear to have continued to be oiled by corruption and poor leadership which have combined to stifle unity and mutual trust.
The Chairman of the Nigerian professionals under the aegis of Fatherland, Mr. Dele Ogun, a UK-based lawyer said in a statement that it was time Nigerians came together for constructive national dialogue to deal with the growing ethnic suspicion and other socio-political problems afflicting in the country.
Fatherland is a network of Nigerian professionals largely living abroad.
The group said it welcomed the call by a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF), Dr. Usman Bugaje, a leading intellectual in the North who late last year called for a National Dialogue on the future of the country.
“In our view it is always good to talk. We share Bugaje’s view on the urgent need for us to find a way forward out of the present morass for the benefit of all of our peoples and so we are pleased to accept his call. However, there are some errors and misconceptions in the lecture that he delivered which need to be corrected. When making the call he identified three things which he said “becloud our vision” and which, he says, we must unshackle ourselves from “before we can arrive at a national consensus,” Ogun explained.
Ogun, on behalf of the group said Fatherland supports Bugaje’s argument, but however pointed out some misconceptions in his theory.
The group said Bugaje had cited Somalia as an example of a failed state despite being people of the same language, faith and culture.
Fatherland, however, argued that it was not the whole story, adding that he must also be aware of the peace and prosperity that multi-ethnic Switzerland has enjoyed despite the nationalities of which is made up having fought each other in two bloody World Wars.
“This feat has been possible because the country faces up to and embraces its diversity in its constitutional arrangements. The post-Apartheid, Rainbow Nation of South Africa offers even better example in how diversity should be embraced,” Fatherland said. Ogun said the focal points of Dr Bugaje were Demystification of Ethnicity, Knowledge Driven Discourse and Appreciation of the Future.
The group said in relation to the “Demystification of Ethnicity” Bugaje complained that “we seem to have allowed the ignorant to lead the national discourse on ethnicity or better still those who know better looked the other way when the ignorant and the manipulators were using the ethnic card to score their cheap points”. He is wrong in this. Far from the discourse on the need for constitutional arrangements to take account of the reality of our differences having been led by the ignorant it has, in fact, been led by those who have refused to play the Ostrich by burying their heads in the sands of denial. These are the ones who have opened their eyes and minds to the obvious fact that skin colour alone does not make us one.