ABUJA — The National Peace Committee, headed by former Head of State, Gen. AbdulSalam Abubakar, has traced the recent spate of ethnic agitations to politicians who failed to deliver on their election promises and what it described as failure of governance in the country. Nigeria Economy The committee, domiciled in the Matthew Hassan Kukah Centre, made its position public in a statement released in Abuja, yesterday, by its Secretary, Dr. Arthur-Martins Aginam.
The committee, comprising some of the country’s leading statesmen and personalities from industry, media and religion, helped in steering the transition from the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. The assertion by the committee was, however, contradicted by politicians, with the notable exception of Second Republic firebrand legislator, Dr. Junaid Mohammed. Others like Dr. Fredrick Fasehun and some members of the House of Representatives strongly disagreed with the committee, saying the problems of the country were traceable to the actions of past regimes. The committee in a joint statement by Gen. AbdulSalam Abubakar (retd), who is the National Chairman and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Convener of the group, however, commended Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for the prompt steps he had taken to douse tension in the country. Apart from Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Kukah, other members are Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Vanguard Publisher, Sam Amuka, former Foreign Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, and a former deputy vice-chancellor of Nasarawa State University, Professor Zaynab Alkali. Others are Primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, former NBA president, Dame Priscilla Kuye, CAN President, Rev. Sam Ayokunle, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, APC chairman, John Oyegun, and former Deputy Scretary-General of the United Nations, prof. Ibrahim Gambari. Poor governance stoking division But it noted that the manifestation of rising discontent among the populace was an indication that there was bad governance in Nigeria today. The committee said: “In this regard, the National Peace Committee acknowledges that the drums of rising division also reflect the perceptions by our citizens that there is poor governance in Nigeria today. “Politicians, who have failed in delivering on the mandate of the electorate for better livelihoods and neighbourhoods, have, instead, found common cause with advocates of division and hate. “In many parts of the country, young people who have been left without means of livelihood or hope in their future have become converts to radicalisation preached by demagogues in various guises, including ethnicity and religion. “We cannot afford at this or any other time to stoke the fires of hate and divisiveness in our body politic, especially when ordinary Nigerians are engaged in difficult struggles to secure their livelihood, amidst rising insecurity and increasing fear. “We have lost too many of our citizens to random and diverse acts of violence, have much more maimed for life or living in displacement. Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by conflict, and millions of our fellow citizens now face threats of starvation in the face of rising food insecurity. “In many parts of the country, mass killings go unpunished and unresolved, inter-communal clashes have become chronic, economic deprivations and growing social exclusion and feelings of alienation, particularly among the youths are being exploited by segments of the elite with potentially dangerous and painful consequences for us all. “These developments are sources of serious concern for the Nigeria Peace Committee. We know, of course that we are not alone in our worries and would like to commend the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbanjo, for engaging with leaders of influence across the South-East and North in a bid to check the rise of mutual hostility and tension that have been stoked by elements from parts of the country. “Nonetheless, the National Peace Committee appeals to further voices of leadership, reason, and moderation from all communities in the country to reinforce the message of the Acting President. “At this time in Nigeria, more than ever before, we need government at all levels, which work for the people, with commitment to respect for the rule of law and to the security and well wellbeing of persons and communities in the country. “We also need credible institutions, an economy that guarantees a fair deal and outcome for hardworking people, better physical infrastructure and an enabling environment in which citizens can thrive. “The National Peace Committee, therefore, calls on State governments to commit to developing their own people more and relying less on Abuja to fund their consumption through monthly allocations. “We also encourage the Acting President and the Federal Government to remain steadfast in the steps they are taking to reassure all communities and citizens of equal stake holding in the Nigerian project. In brief, Nigerians need an effective state that we can all call our own.” To ensure the strengthening of national peace and cohesion, the peace group urged that on-going efforts to reach out to leaders from various parts of the country should be broadened into honest dialogue with all segments of the Nigerian population to ensure that ordinary citizens get the opportunity to convey their views to government at the highest levels and get carried along in the formulation and implementation of government policies. The group also underscored the need for government to urgently work with the private and voluntary sectors to put in place measures to address the crisis of skills and jobs as key vectors of radicalisation. It equally recommended to the Federal Government to review, update and enforce all laws relating to citizenship in Nigeria to ensure the equality of all under the law. The committee urged government to consult on the possibility of examining the reports of the Political Reforms Conference of 2005 and other National Conferences as bases for further and continuing dialogue on co-existence among communities in Nigeria. The body asked politicians to deny support to groups that harbour or express disdain for peaceful coexistence among Nigerians and supported the position of Government on the need to ensure effective enforcement of laws that prohibit hate and divisive speeches that constitute a threat to the constitutional and collective right to live in a democracy founded on free expression. They’ve done great injustice — Junaid Mohammed Reacting yesterday, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said failed politicians had done great injustice to Nigeria, adding that nevertheless, some members of the Armed Forces were also involved in bringing the country into disrepute. He said: “I agree to an extent (with) the submission of Abdusalam Peace Committee that quite a number of politicians are doing this country no good and they have done great injustice to our democracy. “However, it will not be good to blame only failed politicians. What about members of the armed forces who are also playing politics? Are they different from our normal politicians? I can say without fear of contradiction that the armed forces are also involved in the destruction of Nigeria.” Past leaders responsible for current tension — Fasehun Speaking on the issue, founder of Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, said: “I don’t think politicians are the people to blame. Should we blame politicians for being responsible for the mistakes of past rulers? I don’t think politicians have done more than past rulers. “The past leaders are responsible for misgovernance and insecurity in the country because they created the conditions for the current tension in the country. When did the politicians come to power? Past rulers laid the foundation for the present crisis.” According to a member of the House of Representatives, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Obio Akpor Federal Constituency, Rivers State), the assertion by the Abubakar Committee is reflective of the discontentment in the polity which can only be hinged on the grave injustice that is not only apparent but also palpable in the country at present. “The proper thing to do is to be responsive to curb the injustice or injustices in the system and ensure there’s peace. And once there’s justice, there will be peace,’’ he said. Speaking in the same vein, Abiodun Famurewa (APC Osun), pointed out that many people fanning the embers of war in Nigeria are not even politicians. He said: “I don’t want to agree with him as those causing crisis in different parts of the country are not necessarily politicians but Nigerians who thrive when there’s crisis. “They are the people singing the discordant songs across the country to further wreak more havoc in the country.”