Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has sounded the alarm bells over the security challenges in the country saying Nigeria is going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment.
“There is anger in the land and the voices of reason are drowning very rapidly,” he noted at the opening of 2-day roundtable put together by Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development.
Present at the roundtable which took place in Minna, the Niger State capital yesterday, were retired generals including two former Chiefs of Defense Staff, General Alani Akirinade and General Martin Luther Agwai.
Others are General Ishola Williams, Major General IBM Haruna, Brigadier General Haliru Akilu and Brigadier General Samuel Ogbemudia.
Also at the event were former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi; former Nigeria’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations Professor Ibrahim Gambari; Professor Auwalu Yadudu and Professor Ango Abdullahi, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, former Military Governor of Rivers State and the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass in Bayelsa State, Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff and Emir of Minna, Alhaji Umar Farouq Bahago.
“This roundtable is the centre’s contribution to the search for solutions to some of the problems we are currently experiencing as a nation, particularly issues and matters around co-existence and security,” the former Head of State said in his opening remarks.
Abdulsalami said the situation in Nigeria today requires that elders who the nation puts so much value on and leaders must stop it from total collapse.
“We are all here as Nigerians who share responsibility for the state of our nation. Therefore, if any forum can help in accurate identification of the problems and solution for a united and peaceful Nigeria, let us be counted as one of such,” he said.
He said the participants are carefully selected, adding that everyone invited is eminently qualified and represents interests and perspectives of the nature of the issues as well as the solutions needed to resolve same.
He said the roundtable is the centre’s contribution to the search for solutions to issues and matters around coexistence and security.
He also informed that the outcome of the meeting would be made available to the federal and state governments as well as other institutions for consideration and action, even as he said that the roundtable was neither a mini national conference nor a forum to review the country’s constitution.
Learn from India, Pakistan -Prof Gambari
In an interview with journalists on the sideline of the roundtable, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who was chairman of the occasion, said there was need for the review of the approach in the fight against insecurity.
According to him, there can hardly be a military solution to the conflict in the magnitude Nigeria is currently experiencing.
He advocated dialogue approach to solve the problem. “Dialogue should not be seen as soft measures but a tough option. Peace building has to be hand-in-hand with conflict resolution,” he said.
“There can be no genuine military solution to conflicts except dialogue. We have to realise the vision of our founding fathers which is a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria,” he said.
He also urged those advocating for the balkanisation of the country to learn from the India and Pakistan experience.
He warned that disintegration would not in solve the country’s problems.
The former Chief of Defense Staff, General Agwai also said, from his experience in the peace keeping operations in Sierra Leone and Darfur, military only created the enabling environment for dialogue to take place.
“I have seen from both sides and I can tell you that the military cannot solely solve the problem especially that it is political.
What we did in Sierra Leone was to bring everybody to the table before disarmament could take place,” he said.
On his part, Professor Akinyemi said the solutions to the current logjam could be found in the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference report, and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a holistic look at the document.
Daily Trust reports that Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello, who was the special guest, was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Matane.
Bello said the challenges confronting Nigeria require the collective efforts of citizens to be addressed, even as he commended the Abdulsalami centre for organising the roundtable to come up with useful suggestions to the government.
Daily Trust also reports that one group earlier billed to attend the roundtable opted out in the last minute. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) said it won’t attend the meeting on the grounds that Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, which it described as a trade organisation, was invited.
Other groups invited to the roundtable included the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).