Unity in Diversity
BEING A SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR, WAZIRIN ADAMAWA AND FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON UNITY IN DIVERSITY AT AREWA HOUSE ON THURSDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER 2021.
Unity in Diversity
Unity in diversity is living in peace despite the differences among people. It is about acceptance, not even tolerance. Because when you tolerate something, you endure it, you don’t embrace it.
We have to move from enduring each other to accepting each other. We may tolerate what we may not accept, but we cannot accept what we cannot tolerate.
The unity of Nigeria should be about acceptance; accepting that we are one and united people for a common purpose — Nigeria.
The unity we aspire cannot be without acceptance. We have to accept that it is okay for someone to speak, believe, live, act and associate differently from us.
Acceptance and peaceful coexistence are just the plants, but justice is the seed.
There is no way we can have security and patriotism, and achieve our development potentials without justice and equity. If people are led fairly, they will embrace each other and imbue patriotism.
When we no longer reward competence and hard work, and when we elect and appoint based on ethnicity and kinship, then we are doomed to disintegrate.
Nepotism is the number one destroyer of national unity. I know a lot of capable Nigerians who migrated to other developed countries and excel very well out there, and they never regretted leaving Nigeria, because they believed there was no level playing ground for them to excel here. Would you blame them?
No, we cannot blame them. But I have a message for them, and likewise for all Nigerians. I promise you all that Nigeria can get better and this sad situation can be overturned. We only need the right leadership that sees everyone as equal. The right leadership that recognizes only competence and hard work. Not the leadership that sees and recognizes only friends and families.
Throughout my life, I have never looked at Nigerians as diverse people. In my eyes, all Nigerians are the same. When I see you, I don’t see Yoruba, or Hausa, or Igbo or Fulani, or a northerner or southerner, when I see you I only see a Nigerian, and I expect the best from you.
That’s why I did not preselect who or from where I should marry. I married women from diverse backgrounds because I don’t look at their backgrounds, I only see them as wonderful Nigerian women.
My children have brothers and sisters from many diverse backgrounds. That is why I am confident to promise you that a strongly united Nigeria is possible because I made it happen in my family.
All Nigerians are equal and should be seen and treated equally.
Therefore, unity is not about homogeneity or tolerance, it is about accepting the diversity and differences between us, not using these differences as a yardstick for judging others.
This kind of unity cannot be achieved by accident, there have to be strategic efforts to promote unity.
A sample of the Nigerian population was selected for national unity research, and it was found out that the participants easily accept and socialize with those that they share a common faith, and then with those that speak their language or come from their states.
As you can see, this research has already pointed out the three primary sources of lack of unity in Nigeria. For religious differences, we have to accept that it is not possible for the whole world to embrace one faith, and it is not our choice the faith we practice. The only thing we can do is to accept that others have different faiths and that is how God designed the world to be, and beliefs are personal affairs and should not be the basis for our socialization and politics.
Language is another primary source of disunity. That is why I recommend that we should enforce a national law to mandate every Nigerian to speak at least one more language from another region in the country so that we can connect and appreciate more of the things we share in common.
People easily associate and like others that speak their language. Language is one of the strongest tools for unity. We should have the policy to mandate public servants, youth corps members, and members of the federal cabinet to learn one more Nigerian language from a region other than the one they come from. That way we can strengthen our unity.
It is only through unity that we can survive and overcome our challenges. We all face a common enemy, let us unite and fight this common enemy. Because this enemy will not spare any of us.
Our common enemy does not recognize who is from the north or south, or who is a Muslim or Christian. If we stand divided or try to escape individually, we will get trapped and killed by the enemy. We can only escape if we work together.
It is just like the story of the pigeons in the ancient world.
A long time ago, there was a flock of pigeons in a forest, and among them was a wise and respected pigeon. Every day, the pigeons will go out and search for food and return before nightfall.
One day, as they were searching for food, they saw rice grains spread on the ground. All the pigeons descended on the rice grains and started eating.
The wise pigeon refused to descend onto the grains. He wondered what would bring a rice grain in the middle of a forest? He warned the pigeons, “don’t go there, it might be a trap”, they refused to listen to him.
After eating the grains, the pigeons tried to fly, then they realized it was a trap. The bird-catcher was happy this time around he captured many pigeons, and he will sell them all in the market.
The wise pigeon saw the trapped pigeons doing their best to escape. They struggled to escape from the net trap, but they could not. Nothing could help them escape.
The pigeons asked the wise pigeon, could you help us with an idea? The wise pigeon advised them, “stop pulling the net in your directions, instead, try to fly up together and carry the net with you”
They listened to him and started to flap their wings together and in no time started to fly away together with the net still stuck to their feet. The bird-catcher was amazed by the act of unity of the pigeons.
Then the wise pigeon took the entire flock to the house of his friend, a mouse. The mouse cut the net and freed all the pigeons.
The wise pigeon said, “Unity is your strength. As long as you all stay united, no harm can come upon you. It is your act of unity that saved your lives today.”
Just like the pigeons, we are all trapped in the net trap of poverty, insecurity, backwardness, and bad governance, and the only thing that can save us from these traps is unity. So, I invite all Nigerians to flap our wings together and fly away from the danger zone and get rid of these traps.
This can only happen if we can vote for that kind of wise leader who can see our potential and direct us away from danger. The choice is in our hands.