By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Former Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, has cautioned that recent developments in the country were reminiscent of the antecedent situation of the 1967 civil war.
He lamented that hate speech is growing, ethnic and regional irredentism is increasing, while intolerance is deepening, resulting in seeming not ready and unwillingness to live together in peace. “This nonsense must stop because Nigeria cannot afford it,” cautioned Gambari.
The former envoy, who is also the Chancellor of Kwara State University, Malete, spoke at the 5th Convocation of the eight-year old institution.
He said: “We can’t afford it because it is distractive. At a time when we seek to reposition our country for stronger national cohesion and economic resurgence, to play our destined role in Africa and the world, we do not need this distraction. Governments across the country need a peaceful political and security atmosphere that allows them to concentrate on delivering the promised dividends of democracy to the people.”
“We can’t afford it because it is disruptive and dangerous. Divisive agitations and violent conduct, or call to violent conduct, can result in unexpected and undesirable consequences. The little fires starting to burn across the country must not be allowed to result in a conflagration from which none can escape.
“We can’t afford it because it hurts our image in the region, in Africa and around the world. What investor, donor or ally would confidently associate with a country under threat of disintegration, confusion or instability? None. If we are to leverage on our considerable economic potential and human capital, we have no choice but to demonstrate to the world that we are a viable destination and ally. Our size and diversity should therefore, be taken as advantages that help us to build a great economy with huge political influences”, he noted.
He added: “I seized this opportunity to comment on recent developments in our country, which should be of concern to all well-meaning Nigerians. It worries me that some of our compatriots seem to have forgotten so soon the great prize we paid fighting the civil war; lives were lost, properties were destroyed and nation building was stunted.
“I appeal to our leaders, political, traditional, religious and business, to not only speak out against the negative developments, but also to take immediate positive action to bring an end to them. Otherwise, their actions could be interpreted as collusion with the forces of division and violence”, he added.
He, however, praised governments at all levels as well as individuals for their efforts to calm the situation, saying that such efforts were necessary to prevent a breakdown of law and order,imbue confidence in government by citizens across the country, and , thereby, strengthen national unity .
Gambari who noted that there was clamour for discussions on various national issues including the review of the structures of the nation’s governance, recommended that “the 2014 national conference document is a useful starting point for such review and the federal government should provide enabling environment for such open discussion that will lead to review to commence and reduce tension in the polity.
“In this regard, I must also call on agitators for the review to continue to pursue this objective in the context of dialogue and law and order. I believe that government is presented with a great opportunity to develop a strategy, platform, legislation or policy for kick starting the dialogue”, he said.
On the administration of KWASU, Gambari asked the state government to ensure adequate funding of the institution.
He noted that “the university is, however, presently enmeshed in financial difficulties. I have been constrained to mention this because I believe that an open and honest assessment of the situation is the most helpful way forward.
“KWASU is the pride of Kwara state and to have become an institution borrowing a staggering sum of close to a billion naira just to pay staff salary, at its tender age, is a worrying development and unsustainable.
“If we can only pay staff salaries, how can the university management provide other facilities for teaching and research as well as welfare for students? We must not be reduced to a situation whereby all collections will obviously be diverted to servicing loans. The end result is definitely half- baked graduates.
” While acknowledging that the state government is trying to give the necessary support, this is a clarion call to all stakeholders in this KWASU project to come to the aid of this great citadel of learning that has been making not only Kwara state proud but the country as well”, Gambari noted.
However, the state governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed described KWASU as the emerging world class university, noting that within the space of time of its existence it has been blazing the trail leaving indelible mark on the sand of history.
“No doubt, then, that the university has come of age among the comity of universities worldwide and it is neither by its power nor might but by the grace of God, he noted”.
The visitor to KWASU ,equally acknowledged that” the journey so far in the last one year has not been that particularly rosy, especially with the global economic downturn that has affected the nation’s economy. The unwavering commitment of this administration and indeed individuals to make things better has nonetheless made the difference,”
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof AbdulRasheed Na’Allah said a total of 1,010 students were graduated, with 31 of them bagging first class.