Former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday, urged political leaders to unite in order to save Nigeria from imminent disintegration.
He spoke at the 2nd Igbo Nsukka Zik Annual Merit Award in Abuja with the theme: ‘Preserving Zik’s Legacies for National Unity’.
While extolling late nationalist, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, for placing premium on a united Nigeria during his lifetime, Jonathan said: “I believe that the ideals, philosophy, and wisdom of the late Zik are very relevant now, as we seek to chart a way forward for our beloved country at this particular moment in our nationhood.
“While most political pundits insist that the potential for Nigeria’s greatness remains potent, our nation has continued to grapple with the consequences of poor management of our diversity and differences.
“When I convened the 2014 National Conference as President, my intention was to create an environment that would enable our citizens to dispassionately address these issues that are pushing us towards divisive politics and sowing seeds of discord in our polity.
“I believe that, in a complex and divisive country like ours, the journey of nationhood and march to greatness is not a sprint but a marathon.
However, to get it right, we need to do much more to unite our people and integrate our society, in order to build a nation of selfless patriots.
That is the kind of country envisioned by our nationalists; that is the only way to turn our huge population, rich diversity, and outstanding resourcefulness of our people into a positive force that would transform and enhance the greatness of our dear country.
“I have no doubt in my mind that God Almighty has deposited in our land and in our citizens, the indefatigable spirit and creativity to unite, work and relate in a harmonious way and make our country great”.
The former president stressed the need for Nigerians to come together and agree on how to strengthen mechanisms and institutions that would promote the harmonization and functionality of their diverse people.
Jonathan said that would ensure equitable distribution of resources and opportunities and inspire harmony, patriotism, justice, peace and sustainable development.
Speaking also, former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said Nigeria had the potential to be the greatest black nation on earth, but lamented that the country was on the verge of failure because of the parochial tendencies of some political leaders.
He said: “Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to leave Nigeria, because he was well-concerned about a united Nigeria, and saw the country as a nation that will make all black men proud. If the late Zik were to come back to life today, he cannot recognise Nigeria. He will see the country as a colossal and monumental failure.
“But do we continue in failure? I think God has prepared a new Nigeria. Very soon, the Almighty will send someone who will make us happy again. We will do it, and when we are dead our children will make Nigeria so great.”
In his remarks, Senator Rochas Okorocha posited that the late Zik of Africa would never have supported the separatist agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Nonetheless, he urged the Federal Government to dialogue with and forgive the youths for what he described as their ‘misplaced demand’.
In urging Nigerians to vote for a detribalised leader as President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, the ex-Imo State governor said: “In choosing your leaders for 2023, don’t vote any politician on the basis of what they said they will do but on the track record of what they have done in the past.
“The tribe or religion of who governs is immaterial. If a man has not shown a sign of peace in the past, he will not show it as the president of Nigeria.
“It is disheartening that we don’t see the frontiers of our brotherhood in this country today, rather we see separations. I am sure Zik will condemn in its entirety any call for secession.
“I am wondering what Zik will say to IPOB. I am certain he will say: ‘My sons and daughters, the Biafra agitation is an ill-wind which will blow nobody any good. So, let us embrace one another and ensure that peace will reign.’
“I am equally sure Zik will say to the Federal Government to embrace the youths and forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The highlight of the event was the presentation of awards of excellence to some notable Nigerians for following the footsteps of the late Azikiwe in seeking the oneness of all Nigerians and also improving on the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.
Some of the Zik award recipients include ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; the Etsu Nupe, HRH Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar; the Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi; Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello; former Minister of Women Affairs, Chief Mrs. Josephine Anenih; former State House CSO, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (rtd), amongst others.