Tony Ailemen, Abuja
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has declared that balkanizing Nigeria cannot solve the Biafra agitations.
Obasanjo who chaired a discussion roundtable tagged “Development Discourse” put together by NectierAdvisory on Biafra in Abuja, Friday, cited the examples of several African countries that had undergone similar process such as Eritrea, Southern Sudan, to buttress his position.
He declared that such options had ended up making those countries worst and making the people more pauperized than they were in their previous countries.
” Look at countries in Africa, where there had been breakaways. The latest is South Sudan and South Sudan is not at peace with Sudan and is not at peace inside itself. I have just completed an assignment as Chairman of an African Union of Enquiry into what has happened inside South Sudan. It is lamentable for a young country that would have get up and move, it is lamentable”
” You see, it depends on where you want to begin. If you begin from progrom, you would have left a few things out. There is none of us who did not lose during the last civil war. That was why in my earlier statements, I said we were all losers.
“There is no family who did not in one way or the other, lost something across that country.”
The former President who made case for debates and discussions, however added that such debates and discussions must be geared towards making the county stronger and cohesive
Let us have debates, let us have discussions, but to achieve what? Cohesion, of course yes.”
Obasanjo, while also responding to the question of whether the issue can be solved through referendum, said such referendum must include contiguous states such Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom.
” If Biafra had succeeded, what would have happened to these states, what would have happened to the boundary between Nigeria and Biafra. I would have been worst than the boundary between India and Pakistan”
” For me, yes, we are debating. So, let us find out what to do to make our country stronger, make our cohesion stronger. But if you want to use agitation as a means of getting more, it is not right”. If the aim of of the dialogue is to break up Nigeria, I will not be part of it”
” This is because by my training, by my upbringing and by what this country has done for me, I can never be part of any action Or any discussion on breaking of Nigeria”
Obasanjo while also noting that the nation may not be where it ought to be, warned that countries do not develop by pulling itself down.
” We are not where we want to be, yes, We have a long way to go, yes. But you don’t get anywhere you want to get by pulling down”adding ” I do not want Nigeria as my country to start disappearing during my lifetime”
A member of the panel, Chief Simon Okeke, Former Chairman, Police Service Commission and author of the book “Just As I Am”, in his remarks, noted that although he was not in support of creating a Biafra State, the cry of the people of the region must be addressed.
He blamed the current situation on the failure of the federal government to fulfill its promises to the people of South East, made after the civil war including the promise to embark on the three Rs of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
” Was there any reconstruction, if you ask me, the answer is no”
He noted that some war ravage buildings are still noticeable in the south east which were yet to be reconstructed because the families of the owners were completely wiped out.
Another member of the panel, Kadaria Ahmed, Former Editor, NEXT, and Host, “Straight Talk with Kadaria”, chided Nigerian leaders for their self centeredness and failure to evolve Programmes that address the issues of poverty and youth empowerment.
She also cautioned against blinded agitation even as she noted that most of the agitations that centered on ethnic and primordial issues were generated by the political elites to divert attention and ensure the success of their divide and rule policies.
She urged the youths to unit and hold their leaders accountable for lack of development noticeable across the country, adding that issues of exclusion and marginalization are not limited to any section of the country
She also made case for the teaching of history as a subject in secondary schools as a deliberate policy to educate the youth on issues of national development.
The session was moderated by Patrick O, Okigbo III, Principal Partner, Nextier Advisory; and Convener, development discourse.