The President of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said that agitations across the length and breadth of the country has threatened the existence and unity of Nigeria.
Speaking at the Southern Senators’ forum retreat in Calabar on Friday, Dr Saraki said, “There are agitations across the length and breadth of this country that threaten our unity. And this time round, the threats are multi-faceted, and the vagaries of modern times have made the issues even more challenging than in the early post-independence era.
“This retreat is a very commendable initiative, and the timing is extremely well-judged. As a nation, unity is a prerequisite for development, stability and greatness. Unity is the first focus. Without unity, we can achieve nothing. And yet we know that, since the end of the Nigerian Civil War, our unity has never been more challenged than at the present time.
“However, it must be emphasised that Nigeria is not alone in this predicament. In Africa and the rest of the world, similar agitations are causing governments and those they rule over to question their continued co-existence, amid new and persistent threats to their unity. The ripples of Catalonia’s failed referendum bid are still being felt in Spain.
Consequently, the Senate President noted, “In all of this – the ability to dialogue, to listen to one another, to seek to understand the other person and to accept each other’s differences – is important in this issue of unity. Indeed, unity must exist before you can even talk about restructuring or reform.
Dr Saraki said, “How do we stay together? How do we do this? How do we deliver on the task entrusted in us at this critical time? As I see it, the only way is for us to see ourselves, first and foremost, as Nigerians. Not as a language – or tribe – or religion – or region – or any other consideration out there that serves to deflect our attention from the quest for national unity. We must see ourselves as Nigerians first.
“Firstly, today, there is no group of people better placed than members of the 8th National Assembly to steer the debate on the way forward, because they are political leaders elected by the people. Secondly, by virtue of our constitution, no restructuring can take place without the National Assembly. By the grace of God, lawmakers will define the Nigeria of tomorrow and many generations to come.
“In seeking to carry out any reform or restructuring, it is worth bearing in mind that the founders of our country, in their wisdom, had laid down some guidelines, making clear that it cannot be done by a simple majority, but rather by a two-thirds majority.
“To this end, we must all be on the same page. We cannot bully or browbeat others into accepting our point of view or positioning. Whatever we do, must be by consensus, with the buy-in of all critical stakeholders in the debate.
“To my mind, what stops us from striving for consensus is the fear of the unknown. But we cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by fear; it only drags us backwards, impeding our march towards greatness. If truly we love this country, then we must overcome that crippling fear of the unknown.