It is possible to conquer ethnic, religious prejudices in Nigeria – Osinbajo
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says it is possible for Nigeria to conquer ethnic and religious prejudices as they are crucial issues in building a unified nation.
Osinbajo made this submission on Monday at the maiden Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos.
The title of the lecture was: “Creating a homeland for all: Nation-building in a diverse democracy.”
The vice-president, who was the Guest Lecturer, said no Nigerian should be discriminated against on the basis of his or her tribe or religion.
Osinbajo condemned the “weaponisation’’ of ethnic or religious biases for political purpose, noting that democratic competition was defined by societal sociocultural cleavages.
“Social integration is one of the highest ideals of Nigeria’s Constitution which guarantees citizens the right to traverse the length and breadth of this country without hindrance.
“The Constitution affirms the right of all Nigerians to not be discriminated against on the basis of their identity.
“Above all, the Constitution holds up integration as a priority.
“Framers of the Constitution did not intend to create an apartheid system that distinguishes between natives and settlers, nor did they create one; they sought to create a civic nation.
“Is it possible to conquer ethnic or religious prejudices and build a unified nation? Yes it is, but it is a journey, not an event; and it is perhaps the most important issue in nation-building.
“As humanity seeks to build a more durable, just and sustainable civilisation, our natural prejudices and allied irredentist urges have to be disciplined and sublimated in a mutuality rooted in our shared humanity,’’ he said.
The vice-president noted that there was recognition that sociocultural diversity while being a fact of life was neither a weapon nor a weakness.
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According to him, the most prosperous places are countries that have learned to harness diversity while building ever more inclusive institutions.
Osinbajo cited Singapore and Tanzania as countries that had gone far in conquering prejudice.
“In Singapore, the statesman Lee Kuan Yew promoted policies aimed at establishing social cohesion in the racially and ethnically heterogeneous nation,’’ he said.
He added that Tanzania was another example of a country that had been able to effectively manage its diversity.
Osinbajo said Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere desired to avoid tribal prejudice that had plagued other African countries.
He explained that Tanzania implemented three measures – promoting an overarching national identity by establishing Kiswahili as the national language.
“Secondly, Nyerere promoted a pan-Tanzanian history which he introduced into the primary school curriculum which taught children to regard themselves as Tanzanians,’’ he said.
Osinbajo stressed that he believed that Nigeria was neither unique nor exceptional on account of her diversity.
The vice-president said Nigeria’s diversity was neither a liability nor a curse but a blessing and an asset.
He said noted also that diversity deepened the pool of sociocultural capital available to Nigerians.
“As I have long maintained, in Nigeria what is at issue is not and has never been our diversity, but our capacity to manage it with a sense of fairness, equity and justice.
“There is no denying that diversity can be a harbinger of friction.
“It is natural as different groups from various backgrounds and with different worldviews mingle, their interaction is characterised by a degree of tension and even conflict.
“All diverse nations find their unique ways of managing the tensions which inevitably arise from the co-mingling of an assortment of peoples.
“Inclusion is essential to prosperity as we go forward. There is another reason why divisive politics is completely counterproductive.
He charged that where crimes had been committed, they must be stridently prosecuted.
Osinbajo said also that there was the need to assess the extent to which political actors complied with the peace accord they signed on the eve of the 2023 elections under the auspices of the National Peace Committee.
In his remarks, Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, lauded the vice-president for his contributions toward the growth of the institute.
“Through your actions, you have made it abundantly clear that NIPP’s rating as one of the best 10 think-tanks in the world is your pet project.
“You have done so much in this regard; giving the necessary support; we appreciate your efforts; and we know that to become one of the best 10 think-tanks in the word requires a lot of work,’’ Omotayo said.
Plateau’s Gov. Simon Lalong, the Gbong Gwom of Jos, Jacob Buba, and a representative of the Senior Executive Course 45 participants were among those who spoke at the event.
The event featured an interactive session during which the vice-president fielded questions from participants on a wide range of issues.
Afterwards, Osinbajo unveiled the Directing Staff Quarters constructed by the Nigerian Army and the one constructed by the Nigerian Air Force.
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