FIFTY-THREE years after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war that claimed no fewer than three million lives on both sides, the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, has urged Nigerians to avoid situations that would lead to another war.
Obi, who said Ndigbo, who were on Biafran side during the war were committed to the ideals of a just, equitable and inclusive Nigeria.
The former Anambra State governor, who spoke in Lagos before jetting out to London for an appearance at Chatham House, said, reason for some agitations across Nigeria was due to non-functional system and policies, insisting that a new and united Nigeria was possible.
Obi’s address was to mark the 53rd anniversary of the end of the Nigerian civil war and the Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
The Federal Government has set aside January 15 each year to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War and remember the sacrifices made by the Nigerian Armed forces in various theatres of conflict across the globe.
Obi recalled that the end of the civil war, 53 years ago, gave Nigerians an opportunity for a fresh start with the then Military Government declaring “No Victor, no vanquished,” and all Nigerians were encouraged to partake in the reconciliation process.
He said: “Anyone who still harbours a different agenda different from the realisation of a wholesome and unifying people-oriented development vision is doing a terrible disservice to this generation and generations of Nigerians yet unborn.
“I cannot think of any valid reason, except for the deficit of sound socio-economic and political policies and programmes that will unite and propel Nigeria forward.
“From what I know of the South-East, the Igbo Nation, led by Ohaneze, has at every opportunity been unequivocal about its commitment to the unity, oneness, integrity, and progress of Nigeria, based on equity, justice, and an inclusive society.
“And I, Peter Obi, a proud Nigerian of Igbo extraction, I am most truthfully and wholly committed to that stand of one united, secure and progressive Nigeria.”
He described this year’s edition of the annual event as a very special and unique day.
Obi also recalled the role played by the then Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, who handed over the instrument of Biafran surrender to Nigeria’s sovereignty to the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
He declared that all Nigerians have a duty to commit their mental and physical energy to building a secure and inclusive Nigeria that works for all.
Obi also said: “While we regret the immense losses from the war, pray for the repose of souls of the departed and thank God that it ended. We all must join hands with utmost sincerity and commitment to prevent any serious violence in Nigeria, let alone another civil war! Never again.
Obi said: “It is also worth calling a spade a spade. There are youths all over Nigeria, who are frustrated because of injustice, poverty, lack of opportunities, unemployment, and apparent exclusion. Such youths could seize upon and use anything issue or tool to express their frustration and anger.
“I believe that some of those who are agitating, are doing so partly due to our failures in creating an inclusive and progressive Nigeria. A working Nigeria with equity, justice and fairness will also definitely and effectively checkmate such extreme groups such as Boko Haram and ISWAP.
“I personally believe that the best strategy for dealing with these situations manifesting in the guise of unclear nationalism, bigoted patriotism and religious bigotry is a carrot and stick approach.”
Ethnic profiling wrong
Further, he said: “It is also unfair to use the misconduct or position of one person or few persons in an ethnic group to stigmatize the entire group.
“It is a wrong approach and should not be so. I have repeatedly said that I will sit down and discuss with all agitators, believing that we must continue to talk and negotiate with all to achieve positive results.
“Today, marks 53 years since the civil war formally ended. Let us accept that the war has truly ended. To try to continue to ‘fight the civil war’ today, after 53 years, would be a great disservice to Nigeria and Nigerians, particularly our heroes who diligently laboured to secure and unite us.
A new Nigeria is possible
“There are critical junctures and times in which every nation must seize the moment to define or redefine its history. For Nigeria that moment is now. Today marks 53 years of Nigeria’s re-unification after the civil war.
“A new Nigeria is possible; a nation bound in freedom, peace, unity, justice and prosperity is realizable! Let us all join hands in love and brotherhood to build, with God of our creation guiding our noble cause.”