Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says that identifying Nigerians as ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ is a form of ‘apartheid’ and contradicts the nation’s declared aspirations towards equality and unity.
This is as he said that despite the activities of “those with divisive agendas,” Nigeria will prevail over her tribulations due to the resilience, faith, hope and strength of its people.
Osinbajo said this on Thursday at the National Social Cohesion Dialogue organised by the Africa Polling Institute, which was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement titled ,‘Nigerians are unbreakable, do not hate each other – Osinbajo’.
Speaking on the need for unity and cohesion, the Vice President said, “In many quarters, there are feelings of alienation and exclusion. To this point, we must recognise how we perpetuate institutional discrimination and cause people to see their identities as weapons for procuring opportunity, often at the expense of others.
“We see this whenever Nigerians are denied opportunity based on their state of origin or because they are ‘non-indigenes.’
“We see it when a Nigerian that has been resident in a state all his life is suddenly excluded from admission into an educational institution or an employment opportunity because he is not considered an ‘indigene.’
According to him, “All Nigerians have a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and safety under the law. The classification of Nigerians as ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ is a form of apartheid and contradicts our declared aspirations towards equality and unity.
“Our Constitution enjoins the Government to ‘secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation’ and this is imperative that we must commit to across all tiers of Government. All that should matter in evaluating ourselves is where we live and fulfil our civic obligations.
He added that the destinies of Nigerians have become so interlinked as to be inseparable. This, he said, is why the Buhari regime is investing heavily in transportation infrastructure―road, rail, sea and river ports―to reduce the distances between the people and link localities to markets and enable trade, travel and tourism.
Describing Nigerians as “an unbreakable people”, the Vice President emphasised the shared interests of Nigerians across different facets of life, noting that Nigeria’s diversity can be used to drive further economic growth.
He explained, “And in the face of the challenges confronting us, we must remind ourselves that our present challenges are neither unique nor exceptional. Various nations at various points in their histories underwent similar tribulations. It is within our power to address these issues and emerge from them even stronger as a people.
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“Despite the divisive rhetoric of demagogues and the utterances of those who profit from disharmony, Nigerians do not hate each other.
“Every day, millions of Nigerians of different ethnicities and creeds comingle, make common cause and forge friendships across our fabled fault lines. While we have our share of such acrimony, the situation does not support the narrative that we are a nation of fragments condemned to be perpetually at each other’s throats.
“What matters is how committed we are to the constructive management of diversity and the peaceful resolution of such conflict. This is where we can and should certainly work much harder.”
Osinbajo advocated unity despite sundry differences, warning against “polarising identity politics”.
He said, “the truth is that Nigeria has evolved beyond the sort of easy balkanization that is proposed by some separatists. Politicians who continue to traffic in division and discord are behind the times and have failed to take note of how much more integrated our society has become.”
He further noted that even as the Federal Government continues to ramp up efforts in tackling the nation’s security challenges, a united citizenry would further help, especially in local policing strategies.
“As we address the challenge of insecurity and the profusion of threats to public safety, we are increasingly turning to multilevel policing strategies that are consonant with our federal architecture,” he said.
“It is important that the localized security mechanisms being established by subnational authorities are constituted inclusively and reflect the true diversity of those that live in local communities. No truly sustainable security umbrella can be built based on exclusion.”
According to the Vice President, criminal elements should not be generalized as a representation of ethnic or religious groups.
He noted that “Criminals must not be seen or treated as anything other than criminals and certainly not as representatives of any ethnic or religious group. We will not defeat crime by dividing ourselves. We can only overcome it by uniting against our common enemy – the criminals who terrorize our people.”
He also highlighted examples of the power of unity over division, such as 83-year-old Islamic cleric, Abdullahi Abubakar, who saved the lives of hundreds of Christians from terrorists in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State in 2018; as well as the reported ethnic conflict between Hausas and Yorubas in Shasha market, Ibadan, in 2021, where the VP stated that “members of both groups protected and shielded each other from harm.”
The Vice President commended the Africa Polling Institute for organising the event, which he noted was a significant work or social research that will help drive a more informed and constructive debate about Nigeria’s present and future.