Former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday attributed Nigeria’s failure to properly manage its diversity and continuing inability to give ethnic and religious minorities their proper place in the country as part of the reasons for disenchantment in the polity.
The former president, in his address at the 13th Joe-Kyari Gadzama Public Lecture said aside from the South-west, no other area in the country has been able to balance religion and development.
“That is the only part of Nigeria where we feel has been able to manage religion and development very well. So, we must look at our own unique circumstances and come up with the right form of government,” he said.
His address during the event, which held both virtually and physically in Abuja, was titled: “Redefining Democracy: Yearnings of the Minority in a Democratic Setting.”
Jonathan stated that he decided to honour the invitation to speak on the state of the nation, despite the likely misinterpretation of his treatise, out of his respect for the host, Mr. Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), and because a society that does not respect the rule of law would breed anarchy where life becomes nasty, brutish and short, making real progress difficult.
According to him, in Nigeria, the complications associated with the marginalisation of minority groups and tribes were identified many years ago and efforts have been made across generations to solve the problems, including the Willinks Commission set up during the colonial era.
He added that although the Federal Character Commission (FCC) is a product of such efforts, it has not fully rectified the anomalies, having been tailored to deal with mainly the civil service.
Jonathan said: “The Federal Character Commission over many decades may have been doing its best to give everyone fair representation and a fair sense of belonging, but there are still many who feel that this agency of government has not fully addressed the challenges of accommodating minorities.
“This is because it has managed to pursue with varying degrees of success emphasis on the civil service. However, many are of the opinion that it does not really go far enough, since it currently does not address inequalities in political appointments into sensitive areas such as the military and public sector appointments.”
He stated that Nigeria now faces the challenge of managing diversity and minority interests, and even in the parliament, it has been struggling with the task of accommodating disadvantaged groups like women and people with disability.
He traced the country’s problems to its foundation, saying that the growing dissent cannot be divorced from the country’s failure to manage its differences and play down on its fault lines.
“From the independence and post-independence crisis, the coups and the counter-coups and the different republics to date, the swelling disenchantment is the fallout of our inability to manage our diversity and downplay our differences. It is obvious that calls for fragmentation seem to be getting louder among some segments of our nation.
“This is because we have not been able to positively harness and harmonise our enviable size and the ingenuity of our people and project our greatness,” he stated.