By Henry Akubuiro

Renowned author, public intellectual and former Permanent Secretary in the Presidency, Dr. Bukar Usman, has called on different segments of the society to put all hands on deck to move the nation forward in the midst of spiraling problems facing Nigeria.

Presenting a keynote speech on “Unity and Nation Building in Nigeria and Africa: Role of Individuals and other Stakeholders” at a two-day conference organised by Stand Tall Africa Initiative (STAI) at A-Class Park & Event, Abuja, which held recently, the elder statesman said Nigeria was faced with a myriad of problems arising from its diversity and desperation of component units to attract government’s attention.

He said: “In view of her great diversity, Nigeria is faced with enormous difficulties in forging unanimity and national consciousness as each and every individual or group strives to maximise their interests.

“It is this disposition and drive that account for misunderstandings among groups, and this presents the greatest challenge in nation building. Stakeholders agitating, without much success, to draw the attention of the government to their plight, in desperation lose patience and resort to violence, thereby becoming a threat to peace and security, and making it even more difficult to achieve their group and individual interests and the common good.”

In emphasising the role of individuals and other stakeholders, he advocated that Nigeria, being a country of great diversity, should have pillars of stability that should be consciously nurtured to insulate them from political partisanship, especially in the face of increasingly unbridled quest for power in our polity.

“Such pillars exist, and they consist of the security agencies, the judiciary, traditional rulers and religious institutions. These pillars must be seen to demonstrate political neutrality in their actions and utterances. It is only then that they would continue to occupy moral high ground and command the respect of all,” he noted.

He called on current efforts to be redoubled to engage the youth and women more productively in nation-building and “avert the adverse effects the continuous neglect of these critical segments of our society would have on our phenomenally growing population.”

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As the land area of Nigeria remained almost the same since 1960, in the face of increasing population and demand for security and welfare, he said it was anticipated that conflicts would continue so long as agriculture remained the main source of livelihood.

“There will be more and more scramble for land, scarce resources and political clout; and poverty, joblessness and corruption, all of which are driving pauperized citizens and extremists to commit horrendous atrocities against fellow citizens, would continue to be major challenges,” he remarked.

Against the backdrop of discordant voices about acceptability of the existing constitution, craving for the creation of more states and local governments, he said this required good governance and sound leadership to avert or mitigate their unwholesome effects on nation building and individual and group appreciation of the realities, and positive contributions towards solving these challenges would be most desirable.

The elder statesman also identified fake news as a big threat to national stability and nation building, “There lies the danger of what is currently described as fake news which, when disseminated through the web with little or no regard to societal sensitivities, cause upheavals liable to jeopardise national stability and nation building.

“For Nigeria, the fault lines are many and easily exploited, thereby making it much more difficult to maintain societal harmony. Thus, disinformation, insinuations, innuendos, misrepresentations and so-called conspiracy theories being spread in social media, whether deliberately or unwittingly, must be guarded against as they have become the tools of modern warfare and social destabilisation. They are now more frequently used than tanks, missiles and battalions.”

Given the enormity and complexity of the problems encountered by Nigeria, he said there was no alternative but to intensify good governance and policy options that involved interactions and consultations with stakeholders and relevant experts, because, to every problem, there was a solution.

“Influences on policies include the organised labour, students, the media, political parties and environmental impact organisations. Not to be discounted are also external interests. Leadership at all levels on the part of operators should be able to meet societal aspirations on a progressive and sustainable basis,” he said.