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#BIAFRA50 | Osinbajo, Obasanjo, Ohanaeze Call For New Nigeria

The imperative of creation of a new Nigerian state formed a major consensus of prominent Nigerians when the 50th anniversary of Biafran seces­sion was marked yesterday at the Shehu Yar’Adua Center, Abuja.
 
In his keynote speech at the event, titled “Greater Togeth­er than Apart,” Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, stated that the Ni­gerian Dream should pivot on – “the enthusiasm to create a coun­try that provides reasons for its citizens to believe in it, a coun­try that does not discriminate, or marginalize in any way.”
 
Conceding that Nigerians are not there yet, he stated that, “I be­lieve we have a strong chance to advance in that direction. But that will not happen if we allow our frustrations and grievances to transmute into hatred.
 
 “It will not happen if we see the media – television and radio and print and especially social me­dia – as platforms for the propaga­tion of hateful and divisive rhet­oric.
 
“No one stands to benefit from a stance like that; we will all emerge as losers.”
 
Turning philosophical the Acting President said that, “The ability to learn from history is perhaps the greatest defense from the avoidable pain of learning from experience, when history is a much gentler and kinder teacher.”
 
Stressing that freedom of ex­pression was fundamental, he stat­ed, “Let me make it clear that I ful­ly believe that Nigerians should exercise to the fullest extent the right to discuss or debate the terms of our existence.
“Debate and disagreement are fundamental aspects of democra­cy. 
 
We recognize and acknowledge that necessity. And today’s event is along those lines – an opportunity not merely to commemorate the past but also to dissect and de­bate it, ask ourselves tough ques­tions about the path that has led us here, and how we might transform yesterday’s actions into tomorrow’s wisdom.”
 
On his part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo stated that the country’s fundamental prob­lem was that it had lacked a na­tional leader.
 
According to him, “We never had a national leader. Our leaders at the beginning were mindful of their regions. That is our problem till today.”
 
“I have maintained that the young officers who struck in 1966 were naive but there were some el­ement of nationalism in some of them. Be that as it may, it set us back.”
 
Obasanjo also called for dia­logue with Biafran agitators, say­ing “We should beg those agitat­ing for Biafra that there is enough cake to share and that Nigerians must treat the country with care.
 
“We should massage Nigeria just like in a love relationship.”
According to him, “We thought we would end the civil war in three months, but it took us 30 months, and the feder­al side nearly lost it. Civil war is more difficult than fighting in a foreign land because we are fight­ing to unite.”
“Some of the people agitat­ing for Biafra today were not even born then. They don’t know what it entails. But I think, we should even appeal to those saying they want to go, we should not tell them to go.”
The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo Jnr, in his speech at the event titled – “50 Years After: Biafra Reflec­tions,” noted that “it would seem to me that we have made very elabo­rate efforts: constitutional, politi­cal and administrative to ensure a united Nigeria.”
 
He held that “Unity is not an end in itself; and ultimately, the best way to sustain our unity is to apply it to achieve a higher objec­tive; namely, nation building.”
 
Going gown history’s lane, Nwodo recalled that “At the end of the war, in spite of a policy of no victor no vanquished by the Government of General Yakubu Gowon, an unconscionable poli­cy of impoverishment of Biafrans was unleashed by the federal gov­ernment.
 
“Every bank deposit of Bi­afrans that had encountered a transaction whether by deposit or withdrawal was reduced to £20. Massive savings were completely wiped out. Capacity for invest­ment and recovery from the war was shattered.
 
“Whilst this poverty pervad­ed, the Indigenisation Decree was promulgated enabling other Nige­rians, except Biafrans to acquire commanding heights in the in­digenised companies which held at that time the critical and com­manding heights of Nigeria’s pri­vate economy.”
 
Taking a hard look at the cur­rent Nigerian condition, the Oha­naeze president observed that “Our political system is jaun­diced, unfair, exploitative and un­sustainable. Since attainment of independence the civilians have not been able to agree on a politi­cal structure.
 
“Our present constitution and the previous 1979 constitution were impositions of the military – an unrepresentative and dictato­rial corps whose decrees were se­riously influenced by the lop-sid­edness of their composition.
 
“The economic and develop­ment data from Nigeria is unen­couraging in many sectors. Our law and order system including the police, the court system and the penal system has been char­acterised by impunity, incompe­tence and indiscipline.”
 
“On the global Terrorism In­dex Nigeria ranks 3rd after Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of Pa­kistan and Syria. The World Eco­nomic Forum ranks Nigeria 127 out of 138 on the Global Compet­itiveness Index.
 
“The UNESCO ranks Nigeria with Chad, Pakistan and Ethiopia as the worst educational system in the world. Nigeria, according to the report, has the highest num­ber of children out of school and one of the world’s worst education systems due to a combination of corruption, conflict and lack of in­vestment.
 
“In the Human Development Index of the United Nations De­velopment Program, Nigeria ranks 152 out of 188 countries and is the lowest among OPEC countries.
 
“The data points to a bleak fu­ture as we march to post-oil world without a coherent plan to reduce conflict and build a new national consensus.
 
However he noted some pos­itives. According to him, “On the positive side, there is a global con­sensus that Nigeria is highly po­tentiated. 
 
With a population of about 182 million people, by cur­rent estimates; and with our vast mineral and material resources; a well-organized Nigeria should be a land of plenty that supports its people and a leader in the comi­ty of nations. Sadly, this is not the case.”
 
“Biafra, 50 Years After,” was organized by the Shehu Musa Yar Adua Foundation, Ford Founda­tion and OSIWA.
 
In attendance were also many important personalities, includ­ing Alhaji Ahmed Joda, former Perm. Sec., Information, Educa­tion & Industry.

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