A two-day summit has challenged key leaders of ethnic-based and cultural groups in Lagos States to combat ethno-religious violence and overcome sectarian divide in Nigeria.
The summit, organized by Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) with the Ford Foundation’s West Africa Regional Office, is aimed toward promoting peace, conflict prevention and sustainable development.
In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of JODER, Comrade Wale Adeoye, painted a gloomy picture of the realities of ethnic violence in Nigeria today, stating that “a deep mutual distrust continues to dominate the country’s landscape and these grievances continue to find expressions in violent forms, sometimes resulting in mass killings of innocent people including women and children.”
The keynote address by Dr. Banji Akintoye, leader of the Oodua Foundation and former Action Group senator, traced the history of black nations from the foundational weaknesses authored by the colonial rulers to the inter-ethnic conflicts in Nigeria today.
“The people in control of federal power in Nigeria tend to view people of some parts of the country as potential enemies and threats. Policies, actions and body language aimed at marginalizing or subduing such enemies and threats are a constant feature of the behavior of federal government leadership in Nigeria,” Dr. Akintoye said.
He cited certain policies that are subtly designed to gradually weaken and destroy certain nationalities, like “the discouraging of the teaching of history to children.”
Dr. Akintoye challenged the youth to give their strength to truths that benefit their people and all peoples of Nigeria by respecting our differences.
Chief Ayo Opadokun, convener of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER), articulated the fact that the “task of sustainable livelihood rests on the collaborative efforts of the people and the governments to do their parts.”
Mr. Opadokun demanded that the government “needs to be faithful to the constitutional provisions as contained in Chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.”
Other speakers at the event included Ambassador Olu Otunla, former Nigerian ambassador to Ethiopia, Ghana and Zimbabwe, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku, representing the Lagos State Governor, Chief Werinipre Digifa, Chairman Supreme of the Egbesu Assembly, Otunba Gani Adams, National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress, HRM Oba Olusola Olatunde, Onikun of Ikun Ekiti, Ekiti State and Fatima Bako, Representative of the Northern Youth Coalition.