Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has urged Nigerians to embrace robust debate, principled disagreement and honest scepticism as part of the critical ingredients essential for a healthy system of governance and national unity.
Speaking at the National Unity Summit held in Abuja on Wednesday, the Ekiti State Governor stated that these ingredients were not bad until they were used purposely to cause “structural divisions and stir up negative emotions”.
He spoke just as former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, who delivered the keynote address and Chairman of the occasion, Gen IBM Haruna gave their perspectives on the future of the country.
Dr Fayemi who warned against turning “any and all disagreements and difference into zero-sum encounters in reckless brinkmanship or irresponsible populism”, urged Nigerians to be charitable with one another at all times and avoid being caught up in the “most sinister motives” of those with whom we find ourselves locked in disagreement.
He stressed that Nigerians must learn to effectively put the thorny matters that confront the nation into better perspective.
“Robust debate, principled disagreement, and honest scepticism are not in and of themselves bad for a polity; in fact, they comprise some of the main ingredients that make for a healthy system of governance and a thriving pluralism.
“What is bad is when divergences in opinion and interest are too hastily and opportunistically loaded with unhelpful baggage that play on structural divisions and stir up negative emotions as to turn any and all disagreements and difference into zero-sum encounters in reckless brinkmanship or irresponsible populism”, he said.
Proffering answers to those who have wondered why the country still remained knitted as one, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) stated that that bond that hold the country together dates back to the pre-amalgamation era as the people were “in interaction with one another through commerce, migrations, diplomacy, religion, and inter-marriages centuries before the onset of colonial rule and the Amalgamation of 1914”.
Dr Fayemi who called for concerted efforts aimed at correcting the tendentious narrative that Nigerians are a “group of incompatible aliens” stated closer attention must be paid to the many factors of cohesion and communion that culminated into nation-building and the construction of a national identity pre and post-independence.
While noting that leaders across the country must embody the ideals of national unity and be seen as active torch bearers of unity at all times, the governor said this is the only way to build popular trust in “our actions and erase doubts about our intentions”.
“Unity cannot endure where injustice, exclusion, inequity and marginalisation are embedded in the practice of governance. That is why as leaders, we must pay attention at all times to ensure that as we work to deliver on our mandate, fairness and equity are made our watchwords at all times”.
“Our commitment to these values must not simply be minimalist – doing only the barest minimum required of us by the constitution – or token – just for the sake of playing to the gallery – or even rhetorical – through the paying of lip service. Our commitment must be robust, consistent, and demonstrable so that citizens have absolutely no doubt about the important place they occupy in our policy and political priorities,” Fayemi added.