By Ebisike Ebube George
Dear President Buhari,
Permit me to call your thoughts back to a two most pertinent lines in one of your most robust but yet to be famous speeches on the national issue of ethnic tolerance and religion delivered at a FERET event:
“But the most pressing problem and one with greater immediacy than all the other problems is the issue of ethnic and religious intolerance.” – President Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerians irrespective of religion, tribe and stock are generally very good people as individuals- nice, friendly and helpful. It is only when they come together as clans, tribes and regions that they begin to become clannish, tribalistic and “nepotic”. And it is here that we fail. We fail our conscience, we fail our people and we fail our God, who created us equal.
– President Muhammadu Buhari
Keynote Address delivered at the Conference on Ethnic and Religious Tolerance Organised by the Foundation for Ethnic and Religious Tolerance at the Ladi Kwali Hall of Abuja Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday, March 26th, 2003.
These shared words and sagely perspectives were scripted between the 7th-10th line in the second paragraph and the second quote on the 29th paragraph, lines 1-7 on page 6 of the paper you delivered at the FERET event. The eminent Fetus Iyayi also shared his views at the same august gathering based on the same theme in a paper titled: “The Pre-Requisite For Ethnic And Religious Tolerance in Nigeria”.
Your Excellence, I will use this medium to call your attention to Dr. Junaid Mohammed’s interview published in the PUNCH of July 23rd, 2016 which pointedly expressed “nepotism” as the centric pivot of your administrations playbook. There is also the article by Shaka Momodu headlined “Is Buhari’s Nepotism, the Worst in Nigeria’s History?” published on Friday August 12th,2016 on the backpage of ThisDay Newspaper. All the above call for a co-ordinated and expedient response from you as they do not tally with the line(s) you towed barely 13 years ago in your quest for the presidency given your shared views at our FERET event. It important to elucidate that there is a witty aphorism by a gentleman and globally famous refugee musician called K’naan who suffered alongside his nation the consequences of ethnic intolerance amongst other ills and the saying is that “Difficulty is an excuse history never accepts”. History will not be kind to you given the abysmal level(s) Nigeria has fallen to firstly on the economic front, further on the socio-political scale, based on the ubiquitous miss observance and disrespect for human rights, the incessant herdsmen and insurgency killings in the light of great expectations, followed by an inability to successfully map out diplomatic strategies and foreign policy directions that substantiates our position as giant in Africa. As well as parading and appointing a lacklustre gerontocratic cabinet in an age where governance and development is driven by vibrant ideating youths with a precise cerebral methodology for proactive thinking and a thirst for technological innovation in the face of diverse global challenges. Your 10 page speech had many applaudable high points and when juxtaposed against the current happens in the country based on decisions made leaves a very empathic and sour taste in our minds and mouths of Nigerians! The monetary policy and currency dwindle of the Naira has been a nightmare for the Nigerian business community.
On the issue of foreign policy and diplomacy, permit us to discuss Morocco’s request to the Africa Union (AU). And this being its key lobby for Nigeria amongst other African country’s support for its return to the continent’s comity of nations and which has been a source of controversy for which Nigerians deserve a vivid explanation. Morocco still perpetrates the despicable and dehumanising act of colonisation in the 21st century of Western Sahara and that was the reason it left the AU in 1984. The Western Sahara is the aftermath of the Spanish inquisition in Africa and Spain left in 1975. At this time Africa’s per capita income grew relatively slowly at 1-2% a year. Western Saharans have continued to economically and roundedly suffer torture and gross human rights abuses from Morocco under our watch and that of the West. The Polisario Front has continued to fight relentlessly for the freedom of its people. The UN’s Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO in its French acronym) has somewhat remained and its purpose has taken more of a dual military monitoring mechanism and civilian function to sustain the 1991 ceasefire and report details of political developments to the UN Security Council. Christopher Ross, the UN secretary-general’s (then) personal envoy had indicated the urgency needed in this stymied standoff. I’m a FERET board member and recent invitee for membership of the prestigious Chatham House, UK and last year I attended the ASUU Conference on Western Saharan held at the Musa Ya’Adua Center, Abuja and I personally met with the besieged nation’s Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Omar. He is the Prime Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, in the framework of the government-in-exile proclaimed by the Polisario Front and I talked with Jalihena Mohamed- Western Sahawari Student Union Leader-University of Jafariti. I also commiserated and pledge support to their cause. You would historically agree that Nigeria and Nigerians have established a globally applauded and recognised reputation for championing peacekeeping and causes for freedom of several nations. Nigeria’s most robust role in the fight for South Africa’s freedom from the demeaning clutches of Apartheid is called to the fore to buttress this point. And this is a responsibility and status that your administration has inherited. Over 210,000 refugees have settled in camps in southern Algeria and Mauritania, living in the most debased situations. Nonetheless Morocco continues to posture that Western Sahara is rightly part of it territory. Therefore it is sad to learn that Morocco has offered to build a fertiliser plant in Nigeria but at what cost? It is well known that Morocco has approached Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta amongst other 24 African leaders for assistance to return to the AU. Have you and the Nigeria state been asked surreptitiously for the same support? Morocco has asked for the pre-conditions of its return to the AU to include a lack of recognition of a “pseudo state” being Western Sahara for it claims the Moroccan people will not accept this! Nigerian’s deserve to know where we stand on this most tangible issue? Do remember that under the AU, Western Sahara had been recognised as having the right to self-determination and has largely recognised the territory in “state” capacity. The News Agency of Nigeria in 1997 in Lagos hosted a media event where the late and illustrious Ambassador Segun Olusola talked exhaustively on this and gave a touching testimony of Algeria’s Tindouf camp. He reiterated the immense cum uber contributions and succour given to the mass of Western Saharawi refugees on its border region and territory. We need to be careful in dealing with this sad and tough scenario for posterity’s sake. And especially due to intelligence reports for a need to nip in the bud a likely spread of ISIS Cells, Al’Quaeda links and violent radicalism so that they do not take root in this region of the Sahel which has seen palpable chaos over the last four decades. It is noteworthy to accentuate that the Kigali AU Summit 2016 ended in a stalemate over this issue.
Furthermore, the coming of BREXIT which is an economic extension and scion of globalisation and has its attendant implications for Nigeria. BREXIT is built on globalisation’s values of individualism, market-driven economy, and democracy all are in tandem with the established four freedom as reiterated by former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and they are those of speech, worship, want and fear! Britain no doubt will retain its ties with the Commonwealth, but surely it will come at a cost even though this is the gem prize of its many years of territorial frontiership and colonisation! BREXIT simply means Britain will rather associate with wealthier nations that can shore up its economic stature than tag with nations that are dead weights! Nigeria in its present state will be left behind if we do not tow the line of growth driven innovation across all spectrum of our nationhood from leadership to apprentice-ship in our quest to sustainably and profitably diversify our economy. This administration needs to re-assess its stewards and re-engineer the direction of its policies. This is needed to palpably cushion the economy. Government must invest in a strategic methodology and culture change that encourages indigenous (R&D) research and development, talent growth, StartUps and all mechanisms that will re-flame a surge of steady industrial boom.
It is also out of priority to undertake prospecting of hydrocarbons in the Chad Basin given the fact that the world is past growth based on this resource and also based on the drop in prices. Alternative energy as biofuels, hydrogen fuel calls, solar energy, wind and hydro/wind turbine energy are the most futurist approach for a country like Nigeria, which continues sadly to remain a sleeping giant on the continent. This continued search for Oil in the North is clearly at loggerheads with the rhetoric to tangibly diversify our economy. Its sad there is a lack of huge investment in the Ministry of Science & Technology and its related agencies. Science as you know is God’s language and template for all we see and is the core driver of all advancement and dominance across nations and the global economy. Take a look at the RIO 2016 Olympics medals table and you will see that the table is dominated by firstly the G20 nations, which is the result of their technological cum infrastructural investments and the excellence in sports is clearly based on their human capital development strategy. A serious Technology blueprint and impact investment in Engineers, Researchers and Innovators is speedily needed to drive every sector of our quest for true development, diversification and competitiveness on the global stage. It is also very important for us to begin to pay more than a lip service commitment to investing in all areas of engineering especially aeronautics, space faring and such technology and pushing for influence or national interest in other world’s like Mars et al. And this is in the light of this governments proclamation to put an astronaut in orbit by 2030. This is a tall order indeed! Our organisation has offered to introduce MARS ONE’s CEO Bas Lansdorp to the current Administration so as to empower the Nigeria Space Agency and the science community with cutting edge technology relationships. I have met twice and sent projects (#9JABOLT Solar car, #SpaceUpAfrica) to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu to make my palpable contributions to nation building, but there has been no response. As of today petroleum and other energy potentials have been identified in huge quantities within and beyond our solar system and this is an agenda we must pursue very vigorously.
The corruption fight begs many questions alongside other topical subject matters that require impact funding as education, power, sports agriculture, environmental mitigation and so on in Nigeria but I will leave it at these.
Many thanks for the opportunity to reach you as I await your most positive and pragmatic update.
Ebisike Ebube George
Ebisike is a Scientist, Consultant, Disruptor, Growth Hacker, Development Economist, Speaker, Future Astronaut & Entrepreneur
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