Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
A 2019 presidential candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, has urged Nigerians to tone down divisive action and speeches for the collective survival of the nation.
Reacting to rising ethnic tension in the country, Olawepo-Hashim warned that pitching one ethnic group against the other and pushing for attacks and reprisal attacks are ill wind that can only assure mutual destruction.
In a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, Olawepo-Hashim, who expressed deep anxiety over the development, said age-long farmers-herders’ conflict exacerbated by other security challenges must never be a justification for ethnic stereotyping capable of provoking ethnic pogroms.
“All patriotic Nigerians should be worried. I am worried. We all have roles to play, community leaders and social organizations must tone down divisive rhetoric.
“Now is the time to motivate and encourage various security agencies to step up their games. Now is the time for government leaders to act like statesmen. We must unite to save the nation,” he said.
The business mogul said public officers at all levels must avoid statements and actions that show support for any party to the conflict as it has a tendency to undermine national cohesion and security.
On clashes between herders and farmers all over Nigeria, he explained that it is well agreed by all reasonable citizens and leaders that a pastoral practice that ruins the legitimate businesses of others must immediately give way to a more acceptable and modern arrangement.
He added: “We need a transition to a system that accommodates the aspirations of poor farmers and herders who have long been neglected by successive governments. This is the most urgent task of public policy at both state and federal levels.”
He said that it is time again to renew the earlier call for devolution of power to the states in policing and other critical areas, in order to lessen the burden of the federal government in policing.
He reiterated that states and local policing may help reduce tension as security questions requiring prompt attention would be taken at state levels before they fester into broader national crisis, providing incentives for diverse centrifugal forces to jump in.
Olawepo-Hashim had in a recent interview admonished Nigerians to agree on things that are agreeable, and continue to discuss things that are not clear but may become clearer in the future, saying Nigeria must move forward together in peace and harmony.
While observing that Nation building will not be completed in one day, the business mogul had expressed optimism that there will still be life after 2023 and Nigeria will survive.
Other issues could be looked into after 2023 elections by the grace of God, he said.
He had noted that from ongoing public debate, it was obvious that consensus has been built around issues such as the desirability of state police to deal with insecurity, devolution of powers to states to control resources in their inland basins to pay taxes to the centre.
He said some of the areas where there exists clear national consensus are the creation of state and local government police, to exist side by side with the federal police to make policing more efficient and to bolster National Security among others.