Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday said the biggest challenge the nation was facing today was on national unity.
Mr Osinbajo stated this at a one-day National Unity Conference organised by the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, AANI, in Abuja.
The theme of the conference is “Nigeria’s National Unity in the build-up to the 2023 General Elections”.
The Vice President, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, commended the alumni for always coming in to intervene whenever the nation was facing challenges.
He said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank the alumni of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) for always coming in to intervene when the nation is facing challenges and difficulties.
“And they always get it right. Today there’s no doubt that the biggest challenge the country is facing is that of national unity.
“If one listens to the cacophony of voices from the East, to the West, from the North to the South, whether you are talking about challenges, of the disorders, Boko Haram insurgents or the bandits.
“So, bringing us together here to discuss this very, very important matter, especially with regard to the 2023 elections, is timely.”
On his keynote address, the Former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Agwai, said Nigeria’s unity has been over-centralised to the extent that it reflected more of a unitary arrangement than a federal one.
He added that Nigerians needed to take conscious steps towards enthroning responsive leadership and demanding action against insecurity through every means permissible in a democracy.
“We should start finding a method of selecting who becomes our leader. We should select leaders that we can hold accountable for tomorrow.
“And must we practice democracy in the way it is today? Let us see how we can have an inclusive democracy, and how we can select our leaders that we are comfortable.
“For a nation to have stability and development, it must transform and reduce the threats to its national security,” he said.
On his part, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola said, “there is a gap in our assessment of the country’s situation.
“Because of the disproportionate distribution of our resources, Nigeria is assumed to be very rich.
“I understand the need for leaders to direct the harnessing of potentials, but the citizens must challenge ourselves to what is necessary.”
Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, in his speech, urged Nigerians to separate politics from governance.
Mr Zulum, who was represented by Dr Bulama Gubio, added that “as long as we don’t separate politics from governance, we will continue to have problems in this country.
“Elders should play good roles in the affairs of this country because Nigeria is a youth population of about 70 per cent.
“There is need for us to work towards ensuring unity of this country.”
He urged Christians and Islamic leaders to preach peace and eschew violence.
One of the panelists, Prof. Patrick Utomi, Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership in an interview with newsmen, said politicians needed to have clear agenda on how to make lives better for the people.
“When the politicians don’t have enough consciousness and divide people to acquire power, they weaken the country.
“This is why politicians have to learn to focus on issues, have a clear agenda on how to make lives better for people and how they can be held accountable for it.
“That’s what elections should be about. That is what is referred to as moral tribes. We can create these emotional, you know, tensions that don’t serve us well.
“It’s a global phenomenon, but not Nigeria problem alone, and the usage of moral tribes is not even original from me.
“So, we have to recognise that emotions can do damage, and we want to focus on rational public conversation,” he said.