* Advises on equity in distribution of political offices
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The main reason for ethnic tension in the country is the failure by the federal, states and local governments in the management of Nigeria’s diversity, the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has said.
Jonathan said the failure to accord ethnic and religious minorities their proper place in the country has remained the major cause of tensions in the country.
The former President who spoke on the occasion of the 13th Joe-Kyari Gadzama Public Lecture in Abuja pointed out that no other area in the country has been able to balance religion and development apart from the South West.
He recalled that the issue of marginalisation of minority groups and tribes was identified many years ago with efforts to address the problem with the establiment of the Willinks Commission in the colonial era.
He added that the Federal Character Commission (FCC) which was set up to also address this problem has not been able to address all the issues as it has faced only appointments in the civil service.
He said the issue with FCC is that it does not address inequalities in political appointments into sensitive positions such as the military and other public sectors.
Jonathan said failure to manage the country’s diversity has had effect on its economic progress being made by other countries such as Singapore or Malaysia.
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.
“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.
“By now, we should be running an advanced economy and the social system and standard services that support that economy just like other nations like Singapore or Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates who share the same political and economic evolution with us. However, we are lagging behind so far away from them.
“The stories of these countries clearly confirm that the journey to the transformation of a nation does not take a lifetime. That Nigeria still remains potentially great after over 60 years of independence shows that there are fundamental lessons in the political evolution of our nation that we have not really learnt.
“I share the sentiments of many political commentators that at the crux of our challenge of national transformation is the problem of our political and governance structures and the inability to harness our diversity towards shared prosperity.
“I believe that from independence, the political evolution of leadership in Nigeria has been too concentrated along tribal and religious lines and that is still haunting us today.
“Where the minority feels that they are not relevant, there’s always the tendency to fulfil their destiny with a different approach. This is the beginning of the unending agitations and resistance movements across the world”.
The former President pointed out that the issue of inequality could be found in both federal, states and local governments, including wards where some minorities cannot dream of becoming leaders because of where they come from.
For a way forward, he advised, “Looking to the future, I can say that our leaders can do a lot more to eliminate ethnic sentiments in our society, enthrone merit and build a system that gives citizens equal opportunities to excel.
“There has to be a united, strong and cohesive Nigerian nation of patriotic citizens for any structure or system to yield the promise of our shared prosperity.
“There has to be a united, strong and cohesive Nigerian nation of patriotic citizens for any structure or system to yield the promise of our shared prosperity.”