I have attained the ripe age of 74 years, with today being my birthday. Many of us in this age bracket have witnessed many significant events in this nation’s history that have brought us where we are today. Some of these events make us cringe when we think about them and we wish we can obliterate them from our memories. The 1966 military coup that dethroned our democratic progression and cut short the lives of some of our highly revered leaders stands out as most significant; its aftermath typified by mass killings of innocent Nigerians leading to a bloody 30 months civil war. Today, another unpleasant scenario is the six year old insurgency that has swept the northeast part of the country, resulting in the killing, maiming and displacement of millions of innocent Nigerians. The Chibok girls kidnapped nearly 2 years ago are yet to be reunited with their parents, while kidnapping for ransom or ritual purposes are becoming more and more rampant. By the grace of God Almighty, we will once again endure this and the many challenges that may come our way. I am here this afternoon not merely to collect a valuable doctorate degree but to draw your attention to one paramount duty we all must discharge: Love our country as we would love ourselves! In other words, we should not try to kill our country just because we discovered a few things about it we would rather not tolerate.
One issue that has at various times in our nation’s history been a recurring theme is the vexatious issue of marginalisation. Each and every one of our diverse ethnic nationalities has at one time or the other complained bitterly that it was being marginalised. My point here is not to attempt to verify or refute these individual claims but indeed to grant that more than 90 per cent of all Nigerians are marginalized. And to also say that the monster marginalizing Nigerians is not the usual suspect often identified wrongly in the popular press but corruption – accompanied by the evils of bad governance, indiscipline and lawlessness. These evils lie at the root of the agitations for a separate state of Biafra, the militancy in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, the Boko-Haram insurgency and a host of many acts that have compounded the already miserable living conditions of most Nigerians. It is my candid belief that unless we resolve collectively to confront this evil headlong, we will continue to live in an atmosphere of distrusts and always be suspicious of each other. That was the same scenario in the old Sudan that led to the breakup of that country. Today, the new nation referred to as South Sudan that was excised from the Sudan has failed to progress on a sound footing because the same evil of corruption has persisted. South Sudan was engulfed in a civil war a few years after it was created! Will Biafra or any part of Nigeria fare any better under the same circumstance. War is an ugly thing. Apart from the destruction it inflicts on the population, areas that have gone through conflicts take decades to recover. Currently, the new government in Nigeria has picked the gauntlet in this war against corruption. It promises to be a long and messy battle. Already, disclosures emanating from investigations into how Nigeria’s resources were utilised have brought out shocking disclosures which confirm our worst fears. Had these resources been judiciously expended, no part of Nigeria will claim it is being marginalised. The success in this battle against corruption will assuage the feeling of most Nigerians and restore our pride as a nation. Nigeria is a country bestowed with abundant human and material resources, enough to make us one of the leading nations in the world. It is time we appreciate this God-given wealth and utilise it to make this country great. Mr Chancellor, distinguished members of this convocation, permit me to conclude this short remark by urging for greater understanding, cooperation and patience with our governments while they confront on our behalf the huge economic and security challenges facing Nigeria today. The late MKO Abiola’s favourite saying was that “you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence”. Translated, this means that without the cooperation of their followers, leaders are powerless to solve the real problems of society. No one should try to make light of the problems facing Nigeria today especially at the economic and security levels. They are crass difficult. But we have to resolve them quickly. The alternative to success in this endeavour cannot be contemplated. Fortunately, we have in President Buhari a leader who is well matched to the challenge. If experience, integrity and determination are what are needed to enable us survive the current storms and return Nigeria safely to an era of enduring peace and prosperity, President Muhammad Buhari GCFR has them in full measure. Mr Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, members of the Governing Council, members of the Senate, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen thank you very much for your patience. I owe a big debt of gratitude to UNIZIK for their gesture of friendship, a gesture that feels very much like a reaffirmation of the age-old bonds of brotherhood that flourishes between the people of Northern Nigeria and their brothers in the Eastern geopolitical zones of our country. Let me make this point very clear especially for the benefit of those who may not wish that this relationship endures, that, today we re-dedicate ourselves and declare our determination to carry this friendship to the highest level. United, there is hardly anything we cannot do in a number of useful ventures. Divided, there is little we can do. Thank you again for all you have been doing for the sake of the unity and progress of our beloved country. Once again, I say thank you for making me a worthy ambassador of this great institution. Thank you and God bless Nigeria. Being excerpts of speech delivered by Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Ahmadu Coomassie GCON, NPM, psc (+), mni, Sardaunan Katsina/Garkuwan Hausa; Chairman NEC, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) while being conferred with an honorary doctorate degree by the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, 18th March, 2016.
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