Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Wednesday urged Nigerians to rise above all divisive tendencies for the survival and sustainable development of Nigeria.
Ambode made the call at the 19th Annual Lecture to mark the 73rd birthday of Dr Mike Okonkwo, Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), in Lagos with the theme – “Nigeria’s Unity, Matters Arising”.
According to him, the coming to being of Nigeria in 1914 is not a mistake, but a divine event for a purpose which Nigerians must work together to actualise.
The governor, represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, said that the importance of unity in the development of a nation could not be overemphasised.
“We can achieve little as individuals or groups but we stand to achieve much more together as a nation and as a people united by a common vision.
“At a time in the world when the nations are seeking to break barriers and expand their geographical space to create stronger and more resilient economies, we cannot be moving in the wrong direction by creating barriers of sowing the seed of disunity.
“’It is of essence that we see ourselves first and solely as Nigerians before any other consideration.
“’We need to desist from focusing on our ethnic, religious, political and tribal differences and embrace the Nigerian spirit of being our brother’s keeper, ” he said.
Ambode urged government at all levels to make social justice a relentless pursuit as a way to promote a sense of belonging needed in a multi-ethnic, cultural and religious entity like Nigeria.
In his lecture, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said that restructuring was key to sustaining and protecting the unity of the country.
Falana also said that equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth to take care of Nigerians was another way to promote unity in the country.
“’What is of urgency now is to restructure this country because if everybody can be allowed to mind their own business, then our country will be better for it.
“’If we want a new country, we need restructuring by litigation. The struggle must continue otherwise our challenges as nation will remain. We must also democratise power by giving power to the people.
“’Women should also be given political positions because no country can be free without the liberation of women. It is working for Ruwanda with two-third of women in political position, it can be achieved in Nigeria too, ” he said.
The Chairman of the event, Mr John Nwodo, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo Worldwide, described Okonkwo’s life as examplary and trail blazer.
“God has endowed you with gifts and you have used these gifts to touch lives of many Nigerians positively by establishing over 200 branches of TREM in less than three decades.
“You have been promoting civic education, youth empowerment and organising seminars to touch the lives of many. You deserve to be celebrated.
“Your rejection of materialism by rejecting and opposing `Tithes’ is humbling and examplary, ” he said.
Nwodo said there was the need for intelligence gathering and adequate policing to prevent crimes, killings and protect property, lives and unity of the nation.
He also called for adequate mentoring of children to instill values of discipline and prepare them for leadership positions in the future.
The Convener, Dr Mike Okonkwo, urged political and religious leaders to break down the barriers that divide the country along ethnic and religious lines.
Okonkwo also urged governments to prioritise youth empowerment, saying that a well informed person would inform a better and progressive society, thereby building a virile and world class nation.
Our correspondent reports that the Mike Okonkwo annual lecture was established in 2000 to discuss topical national issues to provide solutions to the challenges facing the nation.