Biafra @ 50: Let us debate the terms of our existence – Osinbajo

*Let’s ask ourselves tough questions

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, has said that Nigeria is greater together than being apart.

He also underscored the need for Nigerian leaders to give the younger generation the vision on a pathway to unity in diversity.

However, the Acting President believes as Nigerians, we should debate terms of our existence.
Prof. Osinbajo made the statement on Thursday in Abuja at the colloquium on “Biafra: 50 years after’’ organised by the Yar’ Adua Foundation at the Shehu Musa Yar’ adua Centre, Abuja.

Present at the event are political leaders which include former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. John Nwodo, leader of Ohaneze, the Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation and Ahmed Joda amongst other dignitaries that graced the occasion.

He said, “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.

Prof Osinbajo welcoming Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Prof Osinbajo welcoming Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

“We recognise 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.

“Let’s ask ourselves tough questions about the path that has led us here, and how we might transform yesterday’s actions into tomorrow’s wisdom.

“We should also be careful that we do not focus exclusively on the narratives of division, at the expense of the uplifting and inspiring ones.”

Osinbajo lauded the conveners of the event, the Yar’ Adua Memorial Centre, the Ford foundation and the Open Society initiative West Africa, saying “have done us an enormous favour by offering us the platform for this profoundly important conversation.”

Talking about the Biafra War, Osinbajo said, “The truth is that the spilling of blood in dispute is hardly ever worth the losses. Of the fallouts of bitter wars is the anger that can so easily be rekindled by those who for good or ill want to resuscitate the fire.

“Today some are suggesting that we must go back to the ethnic nationalities from which Nigeria was formed. They say that secession is the answer to the charges of marginalization. They argue that separation from the Nigerian State will ultimately result in successful smaller States. They argue eloquently, I might add that Nigeria is a colonial contraption that cannot endure.

“This is also the sum and substance of the agitation for Biafra. The campaign is often bitter and vitriolic, and has sometimes degenerated to fatal violence. Brothers and sisters permit me to differ and to suggest that we’re greater together than apart.”

The Acting President posited that “No country is perfect; around the world we have seen and continue to see expressions of intra-national discontent. Indeed, not many Nigerians seem to know that the oft-quoted line about Nigeria being a “mere geographical expression” originally applied to Italy.

“It was the German statesman Klemens von Metternich who dismissively summed up Italy as a mere geographical expression exactly a century before Nigeria came into being as a country. From Spain to Belgium to the United Kingdom and even the United States of America, you will find many today who will venture to make similar arguments about their countries. But they have remained together.

“Let me say that there is a solid body of research that shows that groups that score high on diversity turn out to be more innovative than less diverse ones. There’s also research showing that companies that place a premium on creating diverse workplaces do better financially than those who do not. This applies to countries just as much as it does to companies.

“The United States is a great example, bringing together an impressively diverse cast of people together to consistently accomplish world-conquering economic, military and scientific feats.

“It is possible in Nigeria as well. Instead of trying to flee into the lazy comfort of homogeneity every time we’re faced with the frustrations of living together as countrymen and women, the more beneficial way for us individually and collectively is actually to apply the effort and the patience to understand one another and to progressively aspire to create one nation bound in freedom, in peace and in unity.

“That, in a sense, should be the Nigerian Dream – the enthusiasm to create a country that provides reasons for its citizens to believe in it, a country that does not discriminate, or marginalise in any way. We are not there yet, but 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,” Osinbajo warned.

Osinbajo lauded the conveners of the event, the Yar’ Adua Memorial Centre, the Ford foundation and the Open Society initiative West Africa, saying “have done us an enormous favour by offering us the platform for this profoundly important conversation.”


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