Former heads of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida have expressed concern over the growing insecurity in the country, saying “Nigeria is currently under fear and uncertainty.”
In a joint statement obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, they warned that the consequences were capable of affecting the unity of the country.
They said the loss of innocent lives being experienced across the country was no longer bearable.
The two leaders said, “The loss of innocent lives by the day across the nation is simply unbearable.
“Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day-to-day activities with great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
They said unfolding events had posed threats to the labour of the nation’s founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful country that can accommodate and cater for the needs and aspirations of our diverse communities.
Obasanjo and Babangida also lamented the untold hardship in the country.
They claimed that a deeply worrying trend that was emerging from this terrible situation was that a pervasive cynicism was beginning to set in, so much so that millions of true Nigerian patriots were starting to question the platform upon which the unity of the country rests.
However, they appealed to Nigerians not to allow frustration, fear and despair to supersede their hope for a collective destiny, which lies in their continued existence as a nation.
Both leaders declared that as for them, and some millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of Nigeria was not only priceless but non-negotiable.
Their statement reads in part, “While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive.
“In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances; they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement.
“We therefore urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels, including elders, youth organisations, trade union and associations, women bodies, clerics and other community stakeholders.
“We also call on the Federal and state governments not only to encourage these grass roots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement.”
They said that in all these efforts, it was important to emphasise that Nigeria’s diversity should be a course for celebration and not a cause for lamentations.
Both leaders, who recently abused each other on the pages of newspapers, however appealed to Nigerians to use the holy month of Ramadan to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred.
They also appealed to religious leaders, in particular, to have an even greater challenge to use the immense virtues of this holy period to inculcate among the millions of citizens, the spirit of mutual respect, humility and forgiveness.
They furthermore revealed that ample opportunities were at hand to bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for Nigerians’ future.
Obasanjo and Babangida added that no meaningful development could ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred.
History, they said, had shown that any society built on the structures of violence and intolerance would not prosper.
While they said that God has blessed Nigeria with abundant resources and talents, they however said there must be peace and harmony to harness them.
They also said they were ready to do whatever was possible to promote the quest for peace and harmony in the country.
OLUSOLA FABIYI | PUNCH
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