KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER OF THE 8TH ASSEMBLY ON THE THEME: PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA:THE PRAGMATIC APPROACH, AT A TWO-DAY PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT SUBMIT ORGANIZED BY SULTAN MACCIDO INSTITUTE FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 8TH NOV. 2021
I count it great honour and privilege to be invited to deliver this keynote address. I commend the Sultan Maccido Institute for Peace, Leadership and Development Studies and the leadership of the University of Abuja for this vision and for keeping faith with its core mandate since its inception over a decade ago.
Indeed, this summit and its theme for this year is timely as our nation is faced with unprecedented level of insecurity since our independence in,1960. Society, is of course, organic and as a consequence, conflicts will always arise. That is why the search for peace must also be a continuous process. Therefore, this Institute will no doubt out last all of us and it must never lose its vision. We pray for God’s blessings upon this endeavor as the survival of our civilization depends on our capacity to conquer violence and malignant evil. Peace attracts development while violence does not only repels but destroys already achieved development. That is why no society has ever lost its fight against violence and still kept its civilization.
I must therefore commend this Institute for the rallying call to gather here and interrogate the most topical subject in Nigeria today. This is a meeting of Political and academic elites; most of whom have seen it all. As they say, we all know where the proverbial bodies are buried. As a consequence, no attempt is made to analyze the issues in detail but just to highlight them as agenda for exhaustive deliberations and action.
Today, Nigeria is faced with unprecedented crisis so much so that nothing in our history prepares us for such a time as this. We seem to have accepted killings and mass murder as our new normal and so many cold blooded murder of our brothers and sisters do no longer make the headlines in the media. As students, lecturers and political leaders, some of us are complicit while the few who have dared to speak up are already outrage – fatigued and have surrendered to fatalism- a feeling that nothing matters anymore. It is like Nigeria seems to be suffering from some kind of God ordained ineluctable fate. What we have done before doesn’t matter, all that matters is our present station. As long as we are not actively engaged in seeking for solutions to these intractable issues we are actually, wittingly or unwittingly, actively promoting it.
I have made the point before that Nigeria cannot survive if our peoples merely tolerate each other. Our happiness cannot be the other groups’ unhappiness. Our strength is not and will never be in our numbers but in our unity. When we are United, we ll be strong and when we strive to keep our bond and remain undivided, we will be invincible. This is what should concern every patriotic Nigerian at the moment not schemings for future elections. All efforts of patriotic citizens must be geared towards stopping our dear country from the ongoing death by a thousand cuts.
Like I said earlier, our most immediate problem is the dangerous drift of Nigeria into chaos and anarchy.
Apart from the rabid insecurity plaguing the nation, there are real or imagined charges of ethnic cleansing and domination of some sections by a certain section. Attacks are unrelenting and there appears to be no end in sight. The situation has clearly gotten out of hand, following the repeated overrun of military formations by Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, wanton killings and kidnap for ransom and mass abduction of school children in different parts of the Country.
For instance, we all know that the North bears nearly 90% of the insecurity brunt of the country. If estimates are anything to go by, not less than 50,000 northerners have been killed while over 3 million have been displaced in the Northeast alone. No one has the record of Northern lives lost to rural banditry, the famer-harder clashes and ethno-religious conflicts. The number grows exponentially when we add to this, death occasioned by urban violence unleashed by an increasing army of mostly jobless youths suffering from substance use disorder.
Added to the above, is the threat posed by school dropouts and out -of -School children. A survey in 2015 put the number of out-of-school children in the country at 13.2 million. The latests MlCS data tells us that 69 per cent (9.1m)of out-of-school children in Nigeria are in northern states. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the North just like other parts of Nigeria is in a demographic transition. The consequence of the “youth bulge” is that there are so many young people competing for limited number of career opportunities. Those who lose out and failed to secure a place in society have become frustrated, angry and violent as predicted. This set of young people easily surrender themselves for radicalization, as the timeless adage goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”.
Instead of the “youth bulge” to be a blessing, it is fast leading to swapping of roles of our youths from productive Labourers to disaffected rebels. What is left for us is to work out how to productively channel this restive energy. How do we warehouse this demography now and in the future? If we cannot find a place for them in the society, how will they view us and the society they will live in? The situation is such that even the most incurable Nigerian optimist cannot sleep well in the face of these grim statistics. I hope this submit does not miss this point.
There is no hiding place for us any more because Nigeria is no longer the same. Structural injustices, Mass illiteracy, mass poverty, mass unemployment and under- employment have all combined to pull out those we had pushed to the fringes of society to our streets and villages with heavy tolls on Nigerian lives and devastations at all levels. We now have a small percentage of highly educated Nigerian youths who are prepared to question everything including questioning the questions themselves.
The ongoing war must be understood as a battle between the Oppressed Nigeria and the Oppressor Nigeria. We succeeded in the past in decapitating oppressed Nigeria partly because they were largely illiterates and religion was used to keep them in check. Now we have seen that the frustration we fed them has reached a tipping point, the illiterates won’t take it anymore much less the educated youths who have freed themselves from fictional constraints and are asking questions like never before.
It is a pity that many are calling for the disintegration of Nigeria; saying that Nigeria cannot work. Unfortunately, they are emboldened by what they see but the real threats are buried in what they have failed to see. For instance, it is doubtful that if Nigeria were to break into pieces, the process will be peaceful. If a disintegration war breaks out now, the Western World had long predicted this and developed tools to secure their interest which is ensuring that the war does not distort their markets.
No need to emphasize that the West have no interest in Nigeria. None! They are not bothered about our lives or future. As a matter of fact they think our population as it is today is already a liability to them. We may just turn Nigeria into a killing field and another ground for proxy warfare; like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. Calls for a National divorce is tantamount to adopting a permanent solution to an ephemeral problem. How can the solution to our myriads of problems be a collective national suicide? It baffles me that even smart people think in these terms. We must therefore proceed with caution. Yes, our national challenges are great but the promise of Nigeria is greater. As disconcerting as our National challenges are, I dare say that there is nothing happening now that is huge enough to annul the promise of Nigeria. That is why we have to strive like there is no tomorrow, to make visible the promise of a reconciled, crisis free and prosperous Nigeria for all to see. This can be achieved in our lifetime if we go to work .
In conclusion it is obvious that unless we rise at different levels of leadership to halt the present trajectory, Nigeria will no doubt head for final implosion and eventual extinction. As is it, we don’t have to do anything for this to happen. All we need is not to do anything at all. Our hope must be rooted in the story of China, Rwanda, UAE, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, etc, which all prove the point that we can turn our ashes into glory and that nothing is impossible. If we don’t give in or give up, something must give in.
The stories of those countries are a validation of the saying that every problem comes with its own solution but it takes only those looking for the solution to find it. No doubt, it will take leadership for us to replicate those stories and I am happy that so many of us here are stepping up to provide that leadership. The hosting of this submit is a positive indicator that we are prepared, in line with our civic duties, to be up in arms against problems stultifying our development and advancement as a nation.
It will take the kind of leadership that recognizes that compassion is not tossing a coin at a beggar, it is pulling down the system that produces beggars; leadership that knows that the real problem is what we demand and what we do not demand; Leadership that believes history does not just happen to us, we make history happen; Leadership that knows that not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
I had warned before that in tackling unbridled violence, we must realise that guns do not kill and killing the violent does not necessarily bring peace except the peace of the graveyard. We kill with our minds and peace settles first in the mind before it is expressed. So the battle to build a peaceful Nigeria must be a battle for the minds of our people.
We must start doing something and speaking up. They may not listen to us but just because they won’t listen to us is no enough reason to quit. We cannot continue to remain mum and aloof and hope that somehow, someday, these radical events and voices will miraculously quieten and not grow louder. Our silence is no longer golden.
Every generation in history has had its moment to fight. This is our own moment. This is our Pharaoh and our Red Sea. The odds are stacked against us but we are born and raised for such a time as this. It is our time. Let us stop crying and go to work. We may lose some privileges but we will win history: for fortune itself favours only the brave.
Thank you and may God bless Nigeria.
Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara
Speaker of the 8th Assembly.