The issues that threaten the unity of Nigeria are sources of major concern to people bearing the future of the country at heart. It is not uncommon to hear media houses and other stake holders spreading the necessary gospel of unity among Nigeria’s diverse ethno-religious groups. However, the prevalence of some trend has made it quite necessary to adopt other possible measures for achieving the much desired unity of Nigerians.
The country is by all means one of the most blessed in the world with an abundant human and natural resources. Nonetheless, the many challenges prevailing in the country have caused it to be comparable only to countries where abject poverty is the dominant reality.
Yet, Nigeria and indeed, Nigerians have a responsibility to remain focused. To think positively and to understand that unless God had intended it (Which obviously cannot be the case), nothing will break the beautiful tie that binds the people of this truly great country. Nigerians have in recent times seen the need for collective and affirmative action to attain the bedrock of Nigeria’s development which is wrapped in one word; “Unity”.
It is for this reason that the members of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) came together to organise a peace seminar and indoctrination program to educate Nigerians on other steps or more pragmatic measures that can lead to the attainment of the country’s much desired unity.
The Universal peace Federation, (UPF) Nigeria’s branch, is an association with membership across the world having an approval of the United Nations to do its best in bringing about Universal peace. The first week of February, is the international peace week. The UPF recently, organised a program in line with its set objectives.
During the occasion, a director of the UPF, Dr Judge Egbot, said the forum, during which peace ambassadors were inaugurated, was the first of its kind. “In Nigeria, all we see are cases where civil society organisations bring people together to talk about peace”. He therefore urged the newly inaugurated peace ambassadors to do their best in ensuring that peace talks become an issue of national importance.
In the words of the UPF Secretary General, Dr Raphael Ogah “We are all from one God. A people under the same God, irrespective of the way and manner we worship. This goes further to tell how big God is because he can shield all of us under one roof.
Similarly, a traditional ruler and new Ambassador of peace, Dallhatu Abubakar Lawal, who is also the Dallatun Kauran Katsina; said, “Nigeria is one irrespective of tribe or religion. What we should look out for is ensuring that all of us, both youths and leaders earn what we work for instead of dwelling on issues of state of origin or religion.
However, as stated by Dr Egbot: “There are national issues that ambassadors for peace should not close their eyes on; there are issues that we should be involved in, in proffering solutions to, and this is a very good example of such. The struggle for peace in Nigeria is one that requires the involvement of credible people such as those who have successfully passed through the UPF screening to become ambassadors. Also I want to remind you that this award is not the end of your commitment, it should mark the beginning because the purpose for which it has been given to you is not to celebrate an end to peace but to indicate the need to struggle for peace”.
Dr Raphel noted that the problems our country faces can be classified into three; namely “Religion; resources and region. These three ‘R’s have been the major constituents of Nigeria’s problem in ages. Hundred years ago; Lord Lugard and his friends, put the North and South together, but they failed to put Islam and Christianity together. Yet we all know that if the body is bounded without the binding of the spirit, then there is bound to be lack of trust”.
He contended that one of the major problems of the amalgamation is that it did not do much to put the people together beyond amalgamating the North and the south, without paying regard to the principles of religious union.
The UPF Secretary General gave an example to buttress the point of love and togetherness. For instance, “I can go to Transcorp Hilton hotel with N10; 000 and buy a bottle of water for myself. Yet another friend of mine goes out there and buys ten bags of pure water and gives to about ten people. That person’s ten bags of pure water are more valuable than my one bottle of water which I drank alone.
What this means is that the value of money lies not in the quantity but in the level of impact it is able to make in the lives of other people”.
One of the new ambassadors of the UPF, Ibrahim Umaru, explained that the UPF helps people understand the value of brotherly living. “Before I was nominated for this award, I had been screened on various grounds, all having to do with my personality, level of integrity and ability to correlate peacefully with my neighbours”.
One principle of UPF deals with inter-religious harmony. It states that there is an urgent need for labour and other groups to come together and establish institutions to further strengthen inter-religious harmony. The UPF called on the National Assembly to act fast in that regard. “We use this opportunity to call on the National Assembly, federal and state governments and interreligious leaders to do the needful by creating the federal ministry on religious affairs, as well as the creation of a special committee on religious affairs in the National Assembly. This is in order to ensure that when religious issues come up, we will have a ministry that deals with it.
The organization also canvassed for inter religious education to be thought in schools. All through the history of Nigeria; those who are Christians teach Christian religious studies, while those who are Muslims teach Islamic Religious studies. Although this is quite a good development, both adherents need to study each other’s religion for the betterment of the country rather than for the purposes of criticism.
The UPF then appealed to the federal government to ensure the exclusion of the state indigene certificate, as a yardstick for any public activity. The organization pointed out that part of the goal of the UPF is to encourage inter-tribal marriage as a way of ensuring that Nigerians begin to see themselves as Nigerians, rather than as indigenes of the various states they emanate from. The UPF, he noted is therefore doing its best to support couples willing to marry from across geo-political settings with the aim of ensuring true unification of the country.
It was also a period to celebrate some Elder Statesmen in the country, like General Yakubu Gowon, who have made tremendous efforts to promote peace in Nigeria, as well as some of our founding fathers. Nicknamed Go On With One Nigeria (GOWON), General Yakubu Gowon, Rtd, did everything in his power to ensure the unity of Nigeria when the country’s oneness came face to face with trial.
A man of great principle, founding father of Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo spoke variously about the need for leaders to promote unity through leadership by example, while some thought they would join others in the struggle to separate this country, other founding fathers, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa, all did their best to keep Nigeria one during its early days for the benefit of the future generation.