Nigeria’s diversity signifies strength, not a call for division

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Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu said on Monday, May 20, that Nigeria’s diversity is not a call for division but a beautiful colouration that signifies the strength and unity of a people in a journey towards nationhood.

He said that though the country is made up of different ethnic groups and religions, the goal is one national objective.

The deputy speaker, spoke while delivering his Keynote Address at the commencement of a 2-Day National Engagement on Addressing Identity-Based Conflict with the theme “Mapping Actors to Reduce Identity Conflict” jointly organized by the International Republican Institutions (IRI) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) at the National Assembly Library, Abuja.

He said: “Let me join others who spoke earlier today to say that our diversity is not is a call to division. It is a beautiful colouration that this nation has been blessed with. We should leverage the varieties that come from the different perspectives with which we view things to bring to the bricks and the walls of nation-building.

“It’s for us to join hands, not leaving one other hand because the colour is brown or black or because the tongue speaks Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. Yoruba is Nigeria. Igbo is Nigeria. Hausa is in Nigeria. Efik is from Nigeria. My brother in the North is still my brother though I am from the South East.

“And my brother in the South West is still my brother. And you should be able to say the same that though we are designed differently with different embroideries on our garment, the garment that we all wear is called Nigeria.”

Kalu said ‘It is common logic at this crucial juncture of Nigeria’s evolution to say that a problem well stated is a problem half solved – and this is why we are all gathered here today toward charting a course to national cohesion by deliberating about how mapping actors can quell the fires of identity-based conflict in this great country of ours”.

He said for too long, the dark flames of identity-based conflict have cast a shadow over the nation, particularly in the North Central, North West, and South East geopolitical zones, adding that “we have witnessed the tragic consequences of ethnic tensions, religious divides, and competition for resources.

“But today, a flicker of hope ignites – the hope that by mapping the actors who fuel these conflicts, we can finally extinguish the flames and forge a path toward a more peaceful, unified Nigeria.

“Let us take, for instance, the herdsmen and farmers in the North Central geopolitical zones. By mapping these actors, we can identify the root causes of their competition for land and water. Perhaps it is a dearth in the adoption of modern animal husbandry techniques, or a decline in rainfall forcing farmers to encroach on traditional grazing areas.

“This knowledge empowers us to address specific issues, like investing in modern animal husbandry techniques and the deployment of modern agricultural extension services to support the herders or investing in irrigation projects.

“Similarly, mapping both civilian security arrangements and bandit groups in the North West could reveal crucial insights. We might discover that civilian security support groups are formed in response to a perceived lack of state security, targeting not only criminal gangs but also innocent herders from

neighbouring regions due to ethnic profiling.

“On the other hand, bandit groups might be fueled by a complex web of factors, ranging from poverty and unemployment to the influence of extremist ideologies”.

The Deputy Speaker said further that “the rise of violent agitations in the South East is another crucial piece of the puzzle. By mapping their motivations, we can determine if they are driven by a genuine desire for involvement and participation in the Nigerian polity or a sense of being neglected by the state.

“This insight allows us to address their grievances on two fronts. Firstly, we can explore avenues for increased political participation, through constitutional reforms and more progressive legislation to incentivize more political participation.

“Secondly, we can invest in targeted development projects within the region, demonstrating the federal government’s commitment to addressing their sense of marginalization.

“This two-pronged approach can foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity, potentially isolating the more radical elements within these groups and paving the way for peaceful dialogue and reconciliation – at least this is the logic behind the establishment of a Peace in South-East Project (PISE-P) masterminded by myself and members of the House of Representatives from the South East geopolitical zone.

“This national engagement is a clarion call to action. It is a call for collaboration – between government, civil society, community leaders, and international partners. It is a call for open communication, for listening to the whispers and the shouts, for recognizing the humanity in every face staring back at us.

“This national engagement represents a critical first step towards a more peaceful Nigeria. By meticulously mapping the actors who shape conflict dynamics, we can move beyond rhetoric and foster evidence-based solutions that address the root causes of division.

“This multi-pronged approach, informed by the knowledge gleaned from actor mapping, holds the potential to create a future where every Nigerian can thrive in an environment of security, dignity, and lasting peace.”

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