What Nigeria’s unity means to the President
President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, in Abuja, told stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the unity, security and prosperity of the country are what matters to him most in the remaining days of his administration.
He thanked the delegation, led by the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, for praising the role he played that led to the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate and his running mate in preparation for the presidential election in February, next year.
The President said that for members of the party, the cohesion and unity of the party is the priority while individual ambition comes second. He said: “I am glad that you all saw the larger picture, rather than narrow, self-serving interests.’’
And, if truly they did, the members, and especially the President, should be commended because we all, as Nigerians, need to see and consider only the “larger picture” in our nation’s quest for development.
And, what is the larger picture? It is an effort to maintain our national unity and ensure our country’s progress. National unity can be seen as a feeling of being united as a country, especially in times of trouble.
In other words, it is the process of coming together to fight against anything that affects the human development of a particular nation. The most important aspect of the development of any country is indisputably the development of human personality. This means that the development of a country is primarily the development of the human dimension, which is the development of the human person.
The most important aspect in the development of human persons is moral development. Morality is a mark of human development, and it is the most important aspect of national development. Thus, for national unity and security to be achieved and democracy to thrive in Nigeria, we must also raise the issue of poverty and economic improvement.
Regrettably, despite its vast endowment, a large number of Nigeria’s population is still living below the poverty line, as one traverses the northern states, the incidences of poverty seem to rise substantially, with some states registering as high as 80%.
These grim economic realities of Nigeria do not augur well for the even development of the Nigerian states. They cannot also be very helpful to the cause of democracy and peacebuilding in the northern states for they only succeed in re-enforcing the cleavages between the modern, western sector and the traditional Muslim society.
To achieve national unity, Nigeria should establish a durable foundation for peace and religious harmony, and properly engage the youth population by providing it with genuine opportunities to learn, imbue it with hope for a better and purposeful future and equip this vital segment of the society to face the enormous challenges of building a robust and dynamic nation.
In fact, to achieve national unity which will lead Nigeria to attain a sustainable democracy, dialogue and tolerance must be encouraged by the various ties of government, institutions and authorities in order to achieve peaceful coexistence.
Moreover, abject poverty and mass unemployment which have been identified as the catalyst for violence in Nigeria should be given serious attention by the Buhari-led administration. In this case, the government should create jobs and make the youths gainfully employed and self-reliant.
Nigeria, it should be noted, is a multicultural society, a conglomerate of nations with different people and cultures, a basket of different religions and world-views and a country with diverse expectations from its people.
As a recipe for Nigerians’ growth and development, and by extension cohesion, therefore, there is the need for especially political leaders to recognise that all ethnic groups, big or small, should be encouraged to share a uniform dream about Nigeria.
Currently, it appears that the ethnic groups, largely due to manipulations by their political leaders, have completely different expectations from their country. Their notion of government, their moral standards, their perceptions and understanding of governance, their ideas of how to live and regulate their lives and their goals and mission as ethnic nationalities all seem different.
Whereas one group would want their children to go to school, others would want theirs to go to the farms. While a group could relate with men of another faith without any friction, another is odiously intolerant; while some are willing to move along with the twenty-first century and be a part of the world, others want to bask in the bliss of the past.
Sadly, development cannot happen under such a situation and until a consensual agreement, such as the type preached by the President is reached by all Nigerians on the future of Nigeria, the development will continue to elude the country.
In the end, to achieve national unity which will give room for sustainable democracy and development in Nigeria, the ideal of unity in diversity should be planted into the minds of Nigerians, particularly the youths and younger children.
Ideally, too, leaders should lead by example and anyone caught engaged in corrupt practices at all levels of government should be summarily dealt with. Crucial to put in place, is a criminal justice system that will punish offenders or criminals proportionate to the offences they commit.
On the planned ban on commercial motorcycle operations
The federal government said that it is considering banning mining activities and the operation of commercial motorcycles, popularly called okada, as part of measures to address the persistent armed banditry and terrorist attacks in some parts of the country.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, disclosed this at the end of the National Security Council meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said that government believes that banning commercial motorcycles and mining activities would cut off bandits and terrorists’ sources of funding.
“Placing a ban on the use of motorcycles and mining activities will cut the supply of logistics to the terrorists,” he said. “This will be done in the national interest. We are Nigerians because Nigeria as a country exists and any issue that will translate into a threat to national security or the corporate existence of the country requires certain sacrifices.”
Rightly, Malami said that the chief responsibility of the government is to protect public interest over individual interest, stressing that the ban being considered by the government will be done in the national interest.
Well, while Malami is right in his own way, in another way he could be wrong. It all depends on how one looks at the issue of banning operations of commercial motorcyclists. Motorcycle, for instance, generates employment for millions of Nigerians who are helpless. These come through the value chain and, without doubt, employment creation is another crucial function of the government.
There are factory plants in Nigeria where motorcycles are assembled after they are imported in completely knocked down mode. Some plastic ware factories also locally manufacture the rubber and plastic components of the motorcycles, using local rubber loaves from Cross River, Delta and Edo states.
They employ many as 12,300 Nigerians and have also invested as much as N100 billion, some with foreign partners, and these places they have put into existence are not what the government should crush overnight.
This contemplated ban, if it comes to past, would further affect the agriculture sector that produces the rubber for the local factories. A good instance is a memorandum of understanding between Innoson Motors and the Edo State government early this year on the supply of rubber loaves to Innoson’s plastic wares factory in Enugu which makes plastic parts for the motorcycles the company assembles.
There are over 500 Nigerians nationwide that import motorcycles from so many distributors. Reportedly, in the cities of Nnewi, Lagos and Kano, there are, at least, 45,000 dealers or sellers of spare parts with each of them employing an average of 10 persons. They also provide employment for not less than 760,000 Nigerians who sustain their families through the business.
Reportedly, in Nigeria, there are at least, 5.2 million citizens who operate okada. Banning bikes on a nationwide scale would have grave repercussions on the economy and the larger society, especially as the government does not yet have any ready alternative for the operators.
Again, in Nigeria, there are no less than one million repairers and spare parts dealers. Cumulatively, the motorbike value chain provides jobs for over 20.2 million Nigerians directly and indirectly with an average investment and gross value of said to be over N200 billion, inclusive of those that use it for courier dispatch services.
And the numbers go on and on to put the claim of the government that few will be affected by the ban into serious doubt. Yet, what is important is for the government to critically look into the issue with a view to ascertaining the exact anticipated consequences of the would-be impact of the contemplated ban and put in place measures to contain them.