Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has highlighted the need for Nigerians to fully exercise the right to discuss or debate the terms of citizens’ existence in the nation.

This suggestion is coming 50 years after a civil war was fought in Nigeria triggered by the secession of the Eastern Region from Nigeria announced by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on May 30, 1967.

They wanted a country called the Republic of Biafra and after that civil war, the agitation has not totally ended.

“Biafra: 50 years after” was the theme of a colloquium held in Abuja on Thursday organised by the Yar’Adua Foundation, the Ford foundation and the Open Society Initiative West Africa.

Professor Osinbajo was there to give a speech and he believes in the call for the citizens to discuss terms of their existence as people of the same country.

“Let me make it clear that I fully believe that Nigerians should exercise to the fullest extent the right to discuss or debate the terms of our existence.

“Debate and disagreement are fundamental aspects of democracy.

“We recognise and acknowledge that necessity and today’s event is along those lines – an opportunity not merely to commemorate the past, but also to dissect and debate it.

“Let’s ask ourselves tough questions about the path that has led us here, and how we might transform yesterday’s actions into tomorrow’s wisdom.

“Indeed, our argument is not and will never be that we should ‘forget the past’, or ‘let bygones be bygones’ as some have suggested,” the Acting President said.

'Greater Together Than Apart'

Osinbajo cited the writing of late Chinua Achebe who “repeatedly reminded us of the Igbo saying that a man who cannot tell where the rain began to beat him cannot know where he dried his body”.

“If we lose the past, we will inevitably lose the opportunity to make the best of the present and the future.’’

Osinbajo warned that Nigerians should carefully ensure that they did not focus exclusively on the narratives of division at the expense of the uplifting and inspiring ones.

Yemo Osinbajo on biafra at 50

He noted that “clearly our strength is in our diversity, that we are greater together than apart".

“Our frustrations with some who speak different dialects or belong to different religion must not drive us to forget that many share the same challenges.

“The individual affections and friendships we forge, some even deeper than family ties, must remind us that unity is possible, that brotherhood across tribes and faiths is possible,” he told the gathering.

Journey To Nationhood

The Acting President criticised the use of social media to fan the embers of division.

He said: “And for every young Nigerian who sees the Internet as an avenue for spewing ethnic hatred, there is another young Nigerian who is falling in love or doing business across ethnic and cultural lines.

“They are the stories that remind us that the journey to nationhood is not an event but a process, filled with some bitter and some sweet experiences.

“The most remarkable attribute of that process is that a succeeding generation does not need to bear the prejudices and failures of the past”.

Osinbajo stressed that every new generation could take a different and more ennobling route than its predecessors.

He also pointed out that the greatest responsibility today was on the leadership of the country, not only political leadership.

“The promise of our constitution which we have sworn to uphold is that we would ensure a secure, and safe environment for our people to live and work in peace.

“That we will provide just and fair institutions of justice,” Osinbajo said, asking the citizens to ensure that they do not permit the leaders the easy but dangerous rhetoric of blaming the social and economic conditions on the coming together of the people in unity.

“It is their duty to give us a vision, a pathway to make our unity in diversity even more perfect,’’ he said.

He explained that many countries had suffered the same problems as Nigeria and also were multi ethnic but had placed such differences aside to make their nations great.

According to Osinbajo, every Nigerian should put their differences away and unite for a better and more prosperous nation.