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Nigeria’s Unity Is Negotiable – Atiku

The former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, said at a book launch Thursday that Nigeria’s unity, like any other relationship, is negotiable.
The perennial presidential hopeful said this at the launch of a book, “Remaking Nigeria: sixty years, sixty voices.”
Edited by Chido Onumah and published by Premium Times Books, the book, a compendium of sixty essays written by sixty different authors from different sectors, dived into the various aspects of Nigeria’s existence, while also questioning the values the country has passed through since independence.
Speaking as the chairman of the event – during which he launched the book for N2 million – Mr Abubakar said it was “amusing” to hear people declare Nigeria’s unity as fixed, yet they do everything to “destroy the (nation’s) fragile unity.”
He spoke amidst the rise in the rate of insecurity in the country, one that has bred secessionist sentiments and agitations in some parts of the country.

The agitations are further fuelled by the perception of marginalisation in some parts of the country.
Although, some leaders of the country including President Muhammadu Buhari and recently, former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, have said Nigeria’s unity cannot be debated, Mr Abubakar appears to disagree.
“When we start developing with what we have, more of our people will want to identify with the country, love the country and commit their lives to the country. When that happens, especially with fairness and justice, nation-building accelerates, however imperfectly,” Mr Abubakar said.
“This is why I find it amusing when people declare Nigeria’s unity as fixed and non-negotiable, while doing everything in their power to destroy that fragile unity. Nothing in the relationships among peoples is fixed for eternity.
“You cannot declare your marriage as non-negotiable, while doing everything to sow seeds of discord in that same marriage. Countries can be created by force. You can whip groups of people into forming a country but you cannot whip them into forming a nation.
“Nations are built through conscious or even unconscious agreement by peoples who believe that being together is, on balance, more beneficial than being apart.”

Book launch
The editor of the book, Chido Onumah, said the book was “a product of eleven years of planning” initially conceived in 2010, during the country’s 50th year of independence, but it was published after its “third missionary” journey.
He said the focus was to foster “national dialogue” towards “a viable union.”
“There are Nigerians who think one option open to the country is a revolution; there are those who say the problem of Nigeria is leadership and that if we get our leadership recruitment process right, every other thing will fall in place; yet, there are others who think the fundamentals of nationhood are flawed and nothing will work if we don’t fix it.
“This book is the product of discussion on what needs to be done to rescue Nigeria. The aim is to give an opportunity to young Nigerians — the critical change agents — to help the country understand and sharpen its focus on those issues that hold the key to our collective survival as a people.
“The essays that make up (the book) critically examine Nigeria’s social, economic, and political situation and explore the options open to us, suggest solutions and how to actualise them. They take a critical look at the country’s democratic experiment since independence in 1960, where the country is today and some of the major issues that have dogged the country’s march to genuine democracy and nationhood,” he noted.

Also speaking at the event was the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, who said every nation strives towards getting better, and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
He said it was important to do everything possible in “remaking,” as the title of the book goes, without “unmaking” Nigeria. This he said was possible by upholding the line in the second stanza of the national anthem which says “to build a nation where peace and justice reign.”
“For us as a people, our focus should be about how we can reinvent our nation, work for the prosperity of our people and ensure peace and prosperity,” Mr Fayemi, who doubles as the chairman of the Nigerian Governorsʼ Forum, said in his address.
“Indeed few people will disagree with the view that there is a significant gap between our potential for greatness as a country and the reality of where we are now.
“It is therefore a great duty for all of us, to continue to seek every opportunity to make the dream of a great nation come to pass,’’ he said.
The launch also featured a panel discussion where some of the articles in the book as they relate with the Nigerian reality were discussed.
The discussants were consistent with their calls for redefining Nigeria through systemic and deliberate change in the attitude of Nigerians toward their country.
They panellists included Amina Salihu, Tope Fasua, Dike Chukwumerije, Chris Ngwodo, Mojeed Dahiru and Ahmadu Shehu.
Also present at the event were Mahmud Jega, the Editor-in-chief of 21st Century Chronicle who reviewed the book; Nkoyo Toyo, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Ethiopia and the permanent representative to the African Union.
Others were Alero Ayida-Otobo, the CEO of the School of Politics, Policy and Governance (SPPG), and Pius Anyim, former senate president and secretary to the government of the federation as well as other authors in the book.

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