Former President Olusegun Obasanjo reviewed the state of the country afresh yesterday and declared that Nigeria “is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world.”
“And socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country,” he said at a consultative dialogue held at the Shehu Yar’Adua Center, Abuja.
At the dialogue organised by some socio-cultural political organisations to harmonise their thoughts on Nigeria, Obasanjo said the country “is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state.”
He attributed the situation to what he called “recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country.”
He particularly decried the level of mistrust among the various sections of the country, saying: “Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.
“It would appear that anybody not dancing to the drumbeat nor joining in chorus singing would be earmarked as ethnically unpatriotic or enemy of its tribe or geographical area. In short, the country is fast moving to the precipice.
“But happily, I observed that the five socio-cultural political groups gathered here have been getting together to find common ground, areas of agreement or accord for moving Nigeria away from tipping over,” he said.
But he urged caution on the part of those beating the drums of disintegration and singing choruses of bitterness, anger, and separation, because according to him, “if even Nigeria is broken up, the separated parts will still be neighbours. And they will have to find accommodation as neighbours or they will be ever at war.”
He added: “And those who prevent justice to be done invite violence to reign.”
However, he said Nigeria still stood a good chance of weathering the storm.
His words: “I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration. If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect, and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness while engendering a sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering, and corruption.
“We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc, from outside.
“Today, that is a sure threat dangling over the heads of all of us, no matter our tribe, religion, geographical location, social standing, age, or gender.
“That ray of hope was somewhat manifested in the last ten days or so when the Northern Elders Forum and Yoruba Summit Group complemented each other in their separate press releases on the Senate idea of inviting submissions from the Nigerian public for Constitution amendment which had been regular money-gulping activity by every National Assembly Session since 1999, a veritable source of waste without end.
“I believe one of our major problems in the past was that we did not dialogue enough, we talk at ourselves and selfishly keep old prejudices and biases. If we show understanding, give-and-take, love of one another, and commitment and love of the country, we will do what is right and stand firmly together for the good of all.
“In the process of consultation and informing people about this initiative, in spite of general disenchantment with what is going on as far as the performance of the present administration is concerned, most people still give Nigeria a chance of pulling through to a united and wholesome, fast-developing and progress-making country provided we take care of what some term as restructuring and others term as devolution of power, responsibilities, and resources.
“And even those that may be called hardliners maintain that self-determination, disintegration, separation is a last resort when other measures have been prevented or other measures have failed to materialise.
“Frustration leads to desperation and nobody can be sure of what desperation can lead to. We are here to start the process of putting those other measures together and to continue to enlarge the circle from this mini-dialogue group bit by bit until a national dialogue that can save Nigeria from disintegration is reached and when that is done, this initiative will come to an end.
“I believe Nigeria is worth saving on the basis of mutuality and reciprocity and I also believe it can be done through the process of dialogues rather than talking at each other or resorting to violence. It will amount to dangerous and destructive self-delusion for anybody to claim that all is well in Nigeria today.”
In the 2023 elections, Obasanjo said that year should be a watershed for Nigeria.
“2023 should be the beginning of a true and genuine new Nigeria. After over sixty years of independence, we should be able to settle for a united country where nobody would feel oppressed nor have a sense of alienation and where our youth are truth to know, in love and honesty grow, and living just and true, great lofty heights attained, to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
“It is long overdue and we should leave no stone unturned to achieve this. Over the present democratic dispensation which is the longest in the history of independent Nigeria, we have gained some experiences and learned some lessons which should stand us in good stead as we move along the process of establishing the fundamental ways of Nigerians living together in peace, security and harmony to satisfy the yearnings of all its population and particularly the youth and to make the necessary impact sub-regionally, continentally and globally.
“The time is right and the experience has been acquired over sixty years of independence and almost twenty years of the present democratic dispensation to get it right. Let me say again that the dialogue will continue to be expanded with consultation and information sharing with every sector of our society. No sector will be left out.”
In attendance at the dialogue were Chief Ayo Adebanjo who represented Afenifere, Chief John Nwodo, President of Onanaeze Ndigbo, and a representative of Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark.