Some eminent Nigerians including former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, among others, on Monday, cautioned the nation, especially its political class against following the path that could possibly lead the nation to another civil war.
Speaking at a conference to mark 50 years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, tagged ‘Never Again’ put together Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos in conjunction with Civil Society Organisations, held at the Muson Centre in Lagos, Gen Gowon noted that though the civil war ended 50 years earlier, “it has continued to be a veritable reference point in our nation’s political discourse for the past fifty years.”
The former Head of State, who sent his recorded intervention at the event, because according to him he had “some other prior engagements abroad by the date,” appealed to Nigerians to learn from the history of the war, which followed an unexpected coup by the military against the civil rule, and know that care must be taken to avoid conflicts.
Quoting portions of his speech at the end of the war on January 15, 1970, Gowon said: “We must do all in our power as responsible leaders and citizens of this great country and nation to create enabling platforms to dialogue and proffer ideas on how we can live together in peace and harmony for the good of all Nigerians and the black race as a whole, thus ensuring political, economic, security and development of the country.
“I urge all Nigerians to ensure that we avert another civil war in Nigeria.
“Our commitment to Nigeria must be total and patriotic. To me, our Nigeria of today of over 500 ethnic groups of diverse socio-cultural and religious colorations and spread across 774 local governments areas and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is worthy of your support and defence.”
While cautioning Nigeria to learn from its history and that of other nations in Africa that has gone into war, Nobel Leaurate, Prof. Wole Soyinka said it will be a huge error after going into a civil war in which over two million lives were lost to go down that road again and plunge the nation into another war.
Soyinka, who was one of the keynote Speakers, urged those in charge of the nation’s political life and other political actors to allow democracy to thrive in the country.
He also spoke on security, declaring his support for the Western Nigeria Security Network, popularly known as ‘Amotekun’.
He described the security outfit as a pleasant New Year gift, saying it has shown that the yearnings of Nigerians prevailed.
Professor of Political Economy, Prof. Pat Utomi in his keynote address titled, “Harvest of Paradoxes, missed lesson from Nigerian Civil War,” noted that it is only love for humanity that will motivate those holding political offices to work in the interest of the people.
Utomi noted that any nation led by people that lack virtue and value is a nation in crisis, urging the political leadership of the country to retrace their steps, arguing that after surviving the civil war, those that removed the Shagari government ended up throwing away the baby with the bath water. He noted that things have not be better since then, “As Nigeria in essence has become at best the democratisation of mediocrity.”
According to him, the political party system in Nigeria as it is today is completely flawed and a huge failure and cannot help in moving the country forward.
He appealed to Nigerians to learn to tolerate each other and allow love be at the centre of any of their decision, even though he said the present political system does not seem to benefit the people as contrary to its definition, that democracy in Nigeria today seem to be a government of politicians, by politicians for politicians.
Also speaking, pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Professor Anya O. Anya, called on Nigerians to eschew violence as a nation and work collaboratively to make Nigeria great.
Anya noted that: “Nigeria situation is not unique. Other countries have gone through same. We as a country must learn from other countries that have survived from the horror of war.
“Germany fought a war and lost, same as Japan. But 30 years after, Germany became one of the best economy in the world, same as Japan, until the advent of China. Losing does not make you a failure.
“We as a country must eschew violence, as it will not provide the answer to our current situation. There is a saying which goes like this, those who live by the sword, die by the sword. This is a new year and a new opportunity for Nigeria to make this right once again.”
One of the organisers of the event, Major General Obi Umahi (rtd), said history must be brought back into the nation’s education and school syllabus.
He explained that the aim of the conference was to sensitise Nigerians on the need for forgiveness, healing, and national cohesion.
General Umahi urged Nigerians to see the present situation in the country as a moment for national reflection, stressing that there was an urgent need to build bridges of unity and peace.
Other speakers at the event include Prof. Banji Akintoye, who was a co-chairman at the event, Director-General of Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Yima Sen, Onyeka Onwenu, and Akin Osuntokun among others.