Ethno-religious elite, parochial leaders behind nation’s crisis – Jega

…Says challenges undermining national unity can no longer be ignored


The immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has called on elected leaders at all levels to address the smouldering crisis arising from regional agitations across Nigeria to safeguard the unity of the country.

He specifically enjoined the leaders to consciously promote and uphold the rule of law in order to engender peace and harmony.

According to him, national unity in a diverse country like Nigeria is not easy to attain due to what he called “ethno-linguistic differences, social and religious identities, which ordinarily foster and bolster prejudice and obstinacy, which are susceptible to mobilisation and manipulation by ethno-religious elite.”

Professor Jega spoke in a keynote address at the National Unity Summit 2021, entitled Nigeria: “The Imperative of Unity” organised by the National Prosperity Movement (NPM) Wednesday in Abuja.

The former INEC boss said the tensions that sparked off agitations across the country were linked to crises of inequality, marginalisation and outright denial of citizens’ rights to harmonious co-existence among others.

He also fingered at “incompetent and parochial leaders” for the surge of regional and sectional violence and security challenges across the country, saying “national unity has to be deliberately forged, nurtured and entrenched through citizenship mobilization, sensitisation and education, as well as through policies and programmes for actualising the goal of unity in diversity and national integration.”

The former university vice chancellor highlighted the major threats to national unity to include; negative mobilisation of ethno-religious and other primordial identities, especially in contestations for power in electoral politics, hate speeches targeted at perceived ‘others’, in an ‘us’ versus ‘them’  categorisations, reckless peddling of misinformation, giving primacy to ‘indigenes’ over ‘citizenship’ rights in state and local governance, Boko Haram insurgency, and irredentist militancy in the South-east and South-south among others.

“There is in present day Nigeria evidence of remarkable erosion of national unity and seeming whittling down if not abandonment of yester-years lofty projects of national integration. The resurgence of, and violent activism by, insurgents and irredentist militants with a clear agenda for dismemberment of Nigeria, is indicative of the sorry state of national unity.

“So is the increasingly indifferent and apathetic disposition of teeming youth with regards to serious national affairs, which ordinarily would require their active engagement. Indeed, many young men and women are frustrated that they are diverting their energies to aggressive behaviour and creativity to all sorts of criminality. Some have even given up on Nigeria and are merely looking for opportunities to ‘check-out’.

“This situation needs to be effectively and decisively addressed. The imperative of national unity is of such importance that the challenges undermining it can no longer be ignored, and all hands need to, have to, be on deck to find lasting solutions to them.”

Earlier in his welcome address, Director General of the National Prosperity Movement, Ahmad Sajoh said NPM’s conviction for organising the summit was predicated on the belief that, as a society, Nigerians were greater than the challenges confronting them.

Those who graced the summit included Ekiti state Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi and General IBM Haruna, who was chairman of the occasion, among several others. 

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