CSOs working for Nigeria’s peaceful coexistence have urged the federal government to convene a national dialogue as soon as possible to discuss problems such as poverty, youth unemployment, and education in order to prevent the country from collapsing.
The groups agree that if the government could resolve systemic problems through dialogue, the number of young people who are used by religious and political leaders to incite violence in the country will decrease.
CSOs made this call at a National Cohesion and Tolerance Dinner organized by Connected Development over the weekend in Abuja (CODE). They said that the government has a unique role to play in fostering a healthy atmosphere in which people can engage in constructive debate and discussions that can help the country recover.
They believe that racial and religious disparities must be discussed in such a way that it reflects young people who are focused on the future rather than what unites the entire country.
Hamzat Lawal, CODE Executive Director, said that there is conflict in every part of the world today because people are not allowed to speak up when they need to.
Lawal warned that no progress will come to the country unless there is peace and unity, and that everyone in the country must put down their weapons, engage in dialogue, and support the government, maintaining that government is everyone’s business.
“If people want to speak about issues that affect them, allow them to speak because people that are talking will not take up harms, so for me in the spirit of Ramadan I call on Muslim and Christian brothers, Muslim Sisters and Christian Sisters to amplify unity and peace instead of hate,” Lawal said.
“We believe that the government have a unique role to play in creating a safe environment where people can have dialogue and conversations.
“As we go into the political atmosphere we must understand that when we represent people it’s a call to service and for us we must ensure that people live peacefully because no development will come to Nigeria if we don’t live in peace and harmony.
“We must shelve our sword and have dialogues and support our government because the government is each and every one of us.”
He said that young people have the ideals to lift Nigeria up, and urged them to share those ideals with the country’s decision-makers, noting that when people are not allowed to talk, violence often results.
“Our country is going through tough times, a period of trouble in our life as a country, every part of our nation is boiling to a large extent, our young people are at the receiving end of the crisis that we have today in the country,” Ewah Eleri, Executive Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment, and Development (CEED), said.
“Both victims of violence and perpetrators of violence, victims of poverty, victims of deprivation, victims of deprivation in terms of educational opportunities, employment and other things that make life worth living.
Before discussing the things that unite the country, Eleri believes it is important that the country have a discussion about issues such as unemployment, poverty, and education.
He added: “Our differences are being amplified, differences of ethnicity, differences of religion until these critical voices can come together representing young people with their focus on the future then we can begin to talk about those things that unite us.
“How we can solve the issue of poverty, poor outcomes from education, lack of job opportunities, addressing these structural matters that give cause to the rising tension that we have all over the country we will deplete the number of young people who are drawn into violence and conflicts, who are being used by religious and political leaders.”
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN