Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has said that various political, economic and social problems afflicting Nigeria can be overcome if leaders and followers share a unity of purpose to get them solved.
Dr Fayemi who said a well-structured dialogue remains a major pathway to peace and progress said there was nothing heroic in dying for a cause that dialogue and negotiations can help resolve.
Speaking on Tuesday as the Guest Lecturer at the combined ninth and tenth anniversary of the Zik Lecture Series held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State southeast of Nigeria, Dr Fayemi admonished Nigerians to bury their differences to achieve a greater and fulfilled country.
The Ekiti Governor who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) stressed the need to develop a democratic system in Nigeria that meets the expectations of Nigerians and restore people’s trust in the government they voted into office.
Dr Fayemi whose lecture was entitled “Nation-Building: Between Restructuring and Autonomy” pointed out that Nigerians must learn to manage their differences and do so to achieve the goal of a more perfect union.
According to him, “the indestructibility of Nigeria, as envisaged by Zik is indeed best assured when the majority of Nigerians are emotionally connected to Nigeria because of what Nigeria can do for them and in the quality of life it provides for its citizens.”
Dr Fayemi paid glowing tributes to the late political sage, Dr Azikiwe, who had served as the Premier of the old Eastern Region, former Governor-General of Nigeria and first President of post-independent Nigeria in whose memory the lecture is held annually on November 16, his birthday, to interrogate issues affecting Nigeria, Africa and the world at large and to proffer solutions to key problems confronting humanity.
“In his time, Nnamdi Azikiwe scored many firsts that can only be recalled with awe and admiration. He was among the pioneering University-educated Africans who sojourned to the United States in their quest for knowledge and send-improvement. He was also a pioneering sportsman, public intellectual, journalist, newspaper proprietor – with 12 daily titles in his stable at one point in time-, owner of a pan-Nigeria athletic club, and author.
While arguing for the preservation of the unity of Nigeria amidst agitations of groups like MASSOB and IPOB, Dr Fayemi enjoined Nigerians to learn from the experience of a smaller African country, South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011only for a fresh civil war to break out within the new nation two years after achieving self-determination which led to the death of about 400,000 people with over 4 million people displaced.
Contending further that the Nigerian situation no matter how dire it looks is not irredeemable, Dr Fayemi advocated the need to strengthen those pillars that unite Nigerians together rather than fanning the embers of disunity and disintegration which he said negated the ideals of nationalists like Dr Azikiwe.
Dr Fayemi said: “I am convinced that the problems that we are called upon to address and redress in building a better country are not beyond our grasp to tackle. With good faith and a generous dose of goodwill, we can, as we have done on various occasions in our history, summon that Nigerian genius to build on the things we have successfully erected together.
“We must strive to do so in the spirit of the kinds of noble values and principles that inflamed the spirit of a youthful Azikiwe to enrol at Lincoln University in a quest to discover the innate goodness in the human species to build a better and freer world. We must never abandon the spirit of inquiry and discovery that led Azikiwe to join other nationalists to seek to create a nation-state founded on the best ideals of citizenship anchored on freedom and justice.
“We, the people of Nigeria,” must truly mean that our considered aspirations have fed into the document that would form the fundamental organising principle of our nationhood. The opportunities are there.
“The question of how to develop a democratic system that meets the expectations of our people and restore people’s trust in government; how to bring ethical principles, empathy and efficiency into the heart of government and leadership at all levels; how to harness our demographic advantage and translate our youth population into an asset rather than a time bomb; how to build a society that is governed by the rule of law; how to build an electoral system that is reliable and efficient; or how to build a trusted, dependable and efficient judiciary.
“All these are at the very heart of what I see as the broad package of restructuring that we need to work towards. It is a package around which we can forge a broad consensus. And I believe that we don’t need to go through another war or tear down our country to arrive at such a consensus.
“For me, this encapsulates the idea of nation-building at its best. A contract must be founded on cohesion – a covenant to stay true to the agreed contract. All parties must agree to avoid contestations.
“Achieving a sense of common identity, strong institutions and shared values as a nation is a process of building trust and finding unity indifference. This is how we build the sort of national relationship that is not an exploitative social contract but a moral commitment that combines individual and state obligations.
“Permit me to conclude with this admonition. Regardless of how long it takes and whatever we do in-between, war or violence is never an option. I hold a Doctorate in War Studies. Therefore, I feel adequately qualified to speak about the futility of war and violence.
“There is absolutely nothing heroic about dying foolishly for a cause for which dialogue and negotiation can provide pathways to workable solutions.
“Whatever is worth fighting for, is worth staying alive for. I can very much hear this refrain flowing from the life experience and legacy of Nnamdi Azikiwe. And if the Great Zik were alive, this is precisely what he would be telling this august gathering. Let us hearken to his words of wisdom.” He added.
The event which, has representatives of the five Governors of the South Eastern States in attendance as well as the widow of the late Zik, Prof Uche Azikiwe and the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Nnameka Ugochukwu Achebe and the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi in attendance, was preceded with the turning of the sod for the Zik Centre within the University Campus.
Senator Ben Obi, who is the visioner of the annual Zik lecture series, said the Zik Centre would be committed to research and teaching on the ideals of the late former President, noting that a major bane of the country’s development is the low level of importance attached to the teaching of history in schools.
He hailed Dr Fayemi as a highly detribalized Nigerian, an intellectual who brings his rich intellectual and civil society backgrounds to bear on his public service.