“Despite occasional inter-ethnic tensions in our national history, it seems to me that we have all agreed on one point that, notwithstanding our diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion, Nigerians are better together; even stronger together,’’ says President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the 12th Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in Kano.
A statement by Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the President, who participated virtually in the event to mark the 69th birthday of the former two-term Governor of Lagos State, commended the celebrant for always being an advocate of unity and cohesion in Nigeria.
“This has been a constant factor in his outstanding political career, from the time he served in the short-lived senate of the Third Republic to his involvement in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola, to his much-acclaimed period of service as Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007.
“The ranks of Asiwaju’s political collaborators, whether as party members, comrades in the struggle, members of his cabinet, or his advisers, assistants and political associates, have always reflected a pan-Nigeria attitude. I believe all of us here can also confirm that the same outlook of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other like-minded Nigerians eventually made possible the coalition of four political parties into what we now see as our great party, the All Progressives Congress,’’ he said.
President Buhari noted that the objectives of the colloquium, which seeks to provide answers to national issues, further reflect the personal principles of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in promoting the unity and welfare of the country.
“I think this Colloquium is a fitting reflection of the service that Asiwaju has given, not only to Lagos State, but to Nigeria and Africa; as well as his continuing commitment and influence, as one of the great pillars of our party, the All Progressives Congress.
“Equally I salute all those who have kept this Colloquium culture alive and thriving, making it a rich source of wisdom in our common quest for a better world and, of course, a greater Nigeria.
“Today’s event promises an even more relevant and impactful discussion than ever before. The theme for this 12th edition, “Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth: The Imperative of National Cohesion for Growth and Prosperity,” speaks to a very contemporary but potentially ruinous trend, which, in my view, we must all join hands to check at once,’’ he said.
The President said his experience of working in all parts of the country showed possibilities of a strong, united nation.
“I can also relate personally to the ideals of one Nigeria. As a military officer, I have served with great comrades from all the nooks and crannies of our country. I have seen over and over again that their goodness or failings did not depend on ethnicity or religion.
“In the course of my career, I have also been opportune to serve in all parts of Nigeria, seeing first-hand the enticing possibilities of a strong, united nation.
“More importantly, I fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970, and I saw first-hand the unspeakable horrors of war, not just on fellow soldiers on both sides, but on the civilians: innocent children, women and elderly citizens that they left behind. As we all know, the peace-building, recovery and reconstruction that followed could also not have succeeded under an atmosphere of inter-ethnic animosity.
“We must count our blessings in Nigeria and see in them the crucial factors of peace and unity,’’ the President added.
President Buhari also said: “I think the lessons of this Colloquium are clear. Our very best course of conduct, whether as leaders and citizens, is to now ensure that justice and harmony reign in Nigeria; to devote the resources of our country solely to its development and for the benefit of all our citizens; and in the process, to ensure that every Nigerian feels comfortable in every part of Nigeria.
“We all have a stake in the Nigeria project and, while playing our respective parts in its unity, peace and progress, we must constantly keep faith with the promise of a greater Nigeria.’’
The President congratulated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his 69th birthday, extending greetings to his wife, Yeye Asiwaju, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu and the family, while praying “best of health, happiness, strength and wisdom’’ for the celebrant.
“It is a mark of true statesmanship that your birthday should be hosted in Kano and celebrated in this way, with friends and associates from all parts of Nigeria joining in,’’ he added.