…Urges peaceful co-existence among Nigerians in a climate-induced changing environment
By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The National Orientation Agency (NOA) on Thursday made a clarion call for November 16 to be adopted as an annual National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence Day.
The Director General of the Agency, Dr Garba Abari who made the call, said it will be a day set aside each year to celebrate our unity in diversity as a nation of diverse people. According to him, it will also be a day to promote awareness of our national ethics which include; discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance and self reliance.”
This is also coming as Nigerians have been urged to imbibe the spirit of tolerance, unity, and peaceful co-existence in a climate -induced changing environment.
Abari made the call at a pre-event press conference to familiarize the media and the general public on the proposed “National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence (NAFESTAPCOE)” slated for Nov 16, 2023, with the theme, “Team Nigeria – Inclusion of Diversities against Unconscious Biases”
Recall that the National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence which started last year 2022, is an initiative designed by the National Orientation Agency in collaboration with UNESCO. The Programe duration for the first phase is 5 years (2022 – 2027). It consists of three parts that will run concurrently. These includes; (I) Bill into law; which is the domestication of the resolution of the principles on tolerance ratified by Nigeria as a member state of UNESCO: in all the states of the FGN and the FCT: (ii) Impact-oriented activities- National Festival of Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence program: and (III) Community Intervention projects.
The DG noted that it is only when there is tolerance and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians that there will be achievement of great national objectives.
In his words, ”Today the 25th of May, 2023 marks yet another milestone in the activities and programs of the national orientation agency an agency specifically established by law for the purposes of citizens engagements, creating a society that is principled and disciplined, a society that is in the part of progress, and engendering patriotism, love for nation, integrity and service, selflessness and social justice, on a holistic manner.
“The purpose of the press briefing this afternoon is to acquaint the media men and women here and by extension the Nigerian public on partnership efforts that the NOA, UNESCO, National Council for Climate Change in Nigeria, and Pearl Trade West Africa, for the promotion and implementation of projects under the National Festival for Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria and indeed the world.
“This is a big country with a big population, with an expansive lands, with diverse cultures, with diverse conditions, with cuisines that are different, with apparels that are different, with climatic conditions that are different, all these diversities require one thing; basic understanding of the differences that exists and respecting them.
“What we want is naturally, a society that is united despite the diversity, that is focused despite the diversity, that is genuinely integrated despite the diversity, towards the achievement of national objectives.
In reaction to what is happening in the political space, Abari said that the political commentaries are sounding as if the elections are not over yet, adding that where two candidates are still claiming to have worn election speaks volumes of the electoral process.
He therefore called on Nigerians to recognize that there is life after elections, as he commended the media and acknowledged that they have helped in disseminating the message of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in no small measures across the country.
He said, “Only a few months ago, we had ran a Presidential and National Assembly campaigns above the national and sub national levels. You will all agree with me that the campaigns did not go without toxic use of language. You will agree with me that the campaigns did not go without escalated passions. And of course, we all know that politics is essentially a game of passions, and the people really tend to get passionate in terms of their political choices and of course their political preference.
“The elections have come and gone, come and watch our television screens, is just as if the elections are going to take place tomorrow, meaning that politics has not gone away and we are still not out of the elections, and the electoral processes and the procedures.
“The National Orientation Agency has a direct mandate to promote peace, national cohesion and tolerance; and we have been doing this using political programmes, and using very many platforms, and flagships of the agency. Before the elections, we took our message for unity and ones, for political tolerance and for people to understand that all those who are contesting for political offices are doing it for the greater good of the society and one cannot to love the country more than the other. But strategies may differ, styles may differ but without a peaceful atmosphere, full of peace, tolerance and patience even the election will not be successful. We took that message to Kano, we visited the Emir of Kano, we. visited the council of Bulama, we visited the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), we had an assemblage of the media, and we had assemblage of the civil society. So that we can galvanize efforts towards a common goal,; that of achieving an election that is free, fair, and credible.
“We were happy that Nigerians have awoken to the various sensitization and advocacy messages reinforcing what NOA have been doing in this commission, what the civil society organizations have been doing, what the media in their different respects have been doing, and of course, what religious and traditional rulers have equally been doing.”
In his remarks, the Secretary-General, National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Dr Olagunju Idowu stressed that the Federal Government should promulgate laws to fight intolerance, enforce human rights and punish offenders.
According to him, our country can also fight intolerance by organising grassroots network to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance in order to discredit hateful propaganda.
“These will go a long way in enhancing our quest for peace, progress and prosperity in Nigeria,” Idowu said.