IT has become imperative for all Nigerians to join hands in quickly moving the nation away from the precarious knife-edge on which she is now seemingly placed and rein-in dispositions that are dysfunctional to our well-being. The endless debates and energy-sapping controversies over restructuring, resource control, revenue allocation formula, ethnic nationalities and so on must not be allowed to imperil the posterity of this great nation. Any inadvertent or deliberate recourse to dismember the nation is an option that must be shelved. True, the prevailing situation of inertia, dashed expectations and misapplication of resources are as daunting as they are frustrating. Yet, the solution cannot lie in despair or in a resort to a bellicose option.

Every society seeks to resolve crises and conflicts usually through dialogue. And wherever this fails, or where contesting parties refuse this option, the portents have always been very dire. It led to wars and bloodshed, which have merely served to expose the savagery of the depraved human nature. I have always been intrigued by the action of combatants who eventually revert to the negotiating table, after a needless and clearly avoidable bloodletting.

The rather over–heated debates in our country will challenge anyone’s sensitivity. Except that we have seen this cycle time and again, you might conclude that the nation will evaporate the next day. The re-assuring thing is that the aggressive and seemingly separatist posturing in the media, fly in the face of the relatively peaceful atmosphere, which substantially governs our co-existence across the land. Incontrovertibly, the need to re-structure not just our politics, but indeed our psyche, has been long overdue. I am glad to note that a consensus seems to have emerged from across the nation of the need to re-configure our federal arrangement. As I keenly follow the debate, what has not been resolved, or what might prove knotty to resolve, is the modus operandi for the re-structuring process without jeopardising our peaceful co-existence and without offending the sensibilities of any segment of the federation. I therefore urge for maximum restraint and caution as we all contribute to the discussion on re-structuring or re-jigging the political make-up of the country.

By my background and worldview, I do not always accept negative conclusions about the country. Yes, the country is in a worse state than it should have been, especially viewed alongside other nations with whom we shared same indices of development decades ago but, who ironically, have soared away to measured greatness. Yet, we must never write-off the fortunes of Nigeria. We must accept that it will take a few more years to remedy the dislocations that prolonged military rule caused in every facet of our national life. The obviously skewed political arrangement about which we are all complaining, is a product of elongated military rule. We can say the same in every other aspect of our national life. But our country still enjoys a degree of leverage in the comity of nations. Our human resource is a massive strength if properly utilised. Together with the abundant natural resources, they place us on a higher pedestal, all other things being equal. Even if this is not popular with many, the level of integration in our country across ethnic, regional and religious frontiers is by far higher than many are willing to admit.

We must avoid allowing contemporary irritants in the landscape such as terrorism, intense religious disputes or over-arching political dislocations to imperil our co-existence. Let’s for a moment stretch our imagination to consider a scenario in which we all say as it were, “to thy tents O Israel”. Will that bring to an end the push-pull tendencies of all forces in each ethnic nationality? Will the dialectical differences in each ethnic group not come to an upsurge again? Pray, will the clamour for change and self-determination inherent in the human make-up not come to the fore if even in a minute form? These no doubt, are hypothetical issues to which no one can proffer ready answers. But we must avoid the path of least resistance. We must walk away from the brink of national collapse, unending tension and perennial feuds. There is nothing we have passed through, or nothing we have experienced that cannot be resolved through constructive dialogue.

President Goodluck Jonathan was right when he observed recently that the prevailing instability is worse than the conditions that led to the civil war. Now, that’s the cliff edge overlooking a bottomless abyss! Staying longer at that tip is perilous, and as deadly as plunging into the pit! We must hastily walk away from the brink, considering that our generation has a great chance of erecting the atmosphere for a better and more united, peaceful and just Nigeria. The foremost prerequisite for this is equity and fairness, while striking a better and more enduring balance between the states (and ethnic groups).

To do so, we need the Federal Government to initiate a summit of well-meaning and committed citizens to discuss our future.  I believe strongly that only dispassionate and detached stakeholders must come together to resolve the growing crisis of confidence in our country. Such stakeholders are still available in this country. The time has finally come to address the loose ends of our political environment and produce an enduring solution on how we all can peacefully coexist, our diverse backgrounds notwithstanding.

Our challenges, as they were in the past, have arisen from the reality and demands of our natural diversities. We see them as negative and divisive factors. So we fear them. However, as a pastor with the background of a mathematician, I know there is enormous strength in numbers and their variables! China and India are using their vast human resources to redraw the economic map of the world. Even Brazil from South American has recently displaced Britain in the league of global industrial powers. So, why would Nigeria seek to draw down this potential? Let us hold a national conference or a summit or whatever concept we adopt, to celebrate our coat of many colours, to discuss our strength of diversities and numbers. We are not meeting to weaken our vitality. We should meet to outlaw poverty and corruption, to establish constitutional justice, to give the citizens a feeling of participation in formulation, articulation and execution of their hopes of deprivation and alienation from Nigeria’s common wealth. We should meet to cut off the tendencies that drive our people to acts of self-help, manifesting in murderous violence.   Dialogue will take care of this state of despondency, so that we can, as a famous Chinese writer once said, that to overcome others’ armies without fighting is the best of skills.

What about the modality for choosing those to participate at the conference without attracting the disquiet of the National Assembly or other entrenched interests? Let’s look back and consider what was done at grave periods of Nigeria’s history. Leaders of thought were carefully chosen then to discuss the sensitive challenges of those times. Although a civil war still ensued, yet we cannot forget the contributions of those leaders in stemming the tide of what could have led to the total obliteration of the country.

I urge the Federal Government, therefore, to carefully compile the names of truly distinguished and dispassionate Nigerians who still believe in the Nigerian dream. The main theme should be the re-structuring of our socio-political and economic landscape without subverting our co-existence.

• Pastor Kumuyi is General Superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry.


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