President Goodluck Jonathan has turned to former Nigerian leaders for help in a fresh attempt to halt the raging violence in many parts of the country.
Former Military President General Ibrahim Babangida revealed this yesterday in an interview with Daily Trust in his Minna residence, Niger State.
Babangida spoke a day after he and former President Olusegun Obasanjo issued a joint statement decrying the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria and urged the government to utilise the “ample opportunities” available to dialogue with the insurgents.
He told Daily Trust yesterday that the government had called upon people like him who had once ruled this country to come together toward charting a course for lasting peace.
“The president has called on us who were once head of government to come together toward working out modalities for lasting peace in the country,” he said.
He said the invitation by the government informed his first meeting with former president Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja last week.
He, however, declined to make further comment on the last meeting and the agenda for subsequent meetings, saying doing so was tantamount to pre-emptying the forum.
“I am confident that in no distance future the present security challenge will be an issue of the past, because the federal government has started taking proactive measures towards the restoration of peace in the country”.
Babangida appealed to Nigerians who have meaningful contribution to make for addressing the present security predicament to come forward and do so.
In their joint statement Sunday Babangida and Obasanjo said, “As the Holy Month of Ramadan commences, Nigerians, wherever they are and whatever religion they profess, are accorded a great opportunity to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred.”
The statement released by Babangida pokesman’s Kassim Afegbua, noted that there are “ample opportunities” for government to dialogue with insurgents, in the interest of the future of this generation and its children and grandchildren.
They state their readiness willingness to do “whatever is possible” to achieve the country’s dire need for peace and harmony pointing out that the spate of insecurity, if left unattended to, could defeat the labour of the founding fathers of the nation.
“Unfolding events in our dear motherland, Nigeria, over the last few years are threatening to unravel the nearly-a-century-old labour of our founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful nation that can accommodate and cater to the needs and aspirations of our diverse communities.
“Internecine crises are raging across the land unabated with damaging consequences on the social, political and economic life of the nation. And in the process, untold hardships are being visited on all citizens in one form or another on a daily basis.
“The loss of innocent lives being experienced by the day across the nation is simply unbearable. Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day-to-day lives without great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue!
“A deeply worrying trend that is emerging from this terrible situation is that a pervasive cynicism is beginning to set in, so much so that millions of true Nigerian patriots are starting to question the platform upon which the unity of this country rests. This is simply untenable.
“The people of this country must not allow whatever sense of frustration, fear and despair we are experiencing now to supersede our hopes for a collective destiny, which lies in our continued existence as a nation. For us, and we believe for millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable.
“While we are very much aware of the efforts [that] various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive.
“In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances, must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement.”
“We, therefore, urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils, to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including: elders, youth organisation, trade union and associations, women bodies, the clergy and other community stakeholders,” the statement continued.
“We also call on the federal and state governments not only to encourage these grassroots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but to work out the framework to sustain the engagement. In all these efforts it is important to emphasise that our diversity is a course for celebration not a cause for lamentation.”
Obasanjo and Babangida warned perpetrators of the acts of violence that the country could not record any significant progress in the currently high climate of insecurity.
“Finally, we need to reiterate that no meaningful development can ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred. History has shown that any society that is built on the structures of violence and intolerance cannot prosper,” they said.Daily Trust