The indivisibility of Nigeria has again been affirmed by ex-military president Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) and former head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. They agreed that, for Nigeria to enjoy sustainable peace, its leaders must change the course of the current unsavoury national events.
The lessons of the 1967-1970 civil war have shown that the country is an indivisible entity, they said.
Gen. Abdulsalami particularly said the present state of bloodletting in the country was no longer acceptable while Babangida asked the country's leaders not to be aloof while the nation sagged deeper into all sorts of social vices and political ineptitude.
They spoke in Minna yesterday at the graduation and award ceremony of Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development Studies of the Niger State College of Education.
Babangida, who was the father of the day, noted that it was the prayer of everybody not to be confronted with a conflict situation, but added that, when confronted with it, education comes handy to help in its resolution.
He said that he was impressed with the efforts being made by some state governors to move their states and Nigerians forward. "I admire talking to them and spending time with them as younger leaders. We need leaders who can change events and make history."
Babangida commended Gen. Abdulsalami for establishing the institute, noting that "since we were growing up, he has always been passionate about peace, and I am happy he has sustained it up to date".
In his speech, Gen. Abdulsalami said the circle of blood-letting, the brutal termination of life of innocent and defenceless Nigerians should not be tolerated. "No nation can experience rapid sustainable development without durable and sustainable peace," he said, adding that the present security challenges have threatened the peaceful co- existence of the people.
Also speaking at the event, Etsu Nupe Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar emphasised the need for love for our neighbours to achieve sustainable peace in the country.
At the graduation, 35 eminent persons received professional diplomas in peace and sustainable development studies while the governors of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi; Benue, Gabriel Suswam; Imo, Owelle Rochas Okorocha; and Niger, Mua'zu Babangida Aliyu, got the "eminent ambassador of peace award".
Amaechi, who is the chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), said that if Nigerian leaders want peace they must strive for sustainable development and equitable distribution of resources.
The governor, who was the guest speaker at the maiden graduation ceremony of the institute, noted that "peace in Nigeria is ideologically and class-oriented".
He posited that the elite often conceptualised peace to suit their purposes even as the political class was oblivious of the economic reality of the country.
Amaechi said that religious differences come to play when the political class has differences in their sharing formula, declaring that "when you see difference in religion there is a particular political undertone. I was in Jigawa State for the governor's child's wedding. I was in the mosque and my former leader here was also in the church for a wedding. Nobody sees religious differences."
The governor said the situation has been made worse by the mono-product status of the country's economy which has pitted the various regions and states against one other. Aliyu advocated an intervention fund to tackle education and other socio-economic challenges in the north.
The governor, who is the chairman of the Northern States Governors' Forum, supported Amaechi's suggestion but noted that, to tackle the problems in the north, poverty and other socio-economic challenges must be faced squarely.