Following the rising violence and recent spate of hate incidents reported across the country, Nigerian young people have been called upon to stay united and play their role in promoting peace and unity for sustainable development.
This call was made over the weekend at a reception for youth leaders to break Ramadan fast during the holy month, organized by the Founder and Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE) Hamzat Lawal, in Abuja with the theme, “National Cohesion and Tolerance”.
The event which had several youth leaders in attendance, focussed on the role of the youth in promoting peace and other activities that unite the country rather than those that divide it.
Addressing the media after the event, CODE’s Chief Executive, Lawal noted that the iftar dinner was held to bring Muslims and Christians together to have a conversation about national unity, cohesion and tolerance while the Ramadan fast is being observed.
According to him, “We are not happy about the situation of things in Nigeria, but as young people, we are taking back the destiny of this country into our hands by taking a stand that we will not be distracted because what unites us is greater than what has divided us. And for us, we want to inspire and start a new kind of conversation today that Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have a role to play.
“We must respect and continue to tolerate ourselves because we are not created differently but we must disagree to agree. I decided to reach out to people to see how we can shut down the current conversations laden with hate and violence to embrace peace and prosperity”, he said.
He further revealed plans to visit the six geopolitical zones and convene a meeting of young people from different divides to ensure that they join hands together to build the country, adding that the youth have a role to play to secure Nigeria.
“I believe young people have the idea to bring Nigeria to a greater height, so let’s share those ideas with our policy and decision makers, let’s have a national conversation on cohesion, let’s start to heal by speaking. Let’s have a serious conversation to amplify unity, peace and prosperity”, he said.
For his part, Rev. Father Robert Achiaga of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, noted that although Nigeria has people who are violent in society, there are also people who like dialogue and are very peaceful, and urged the youth to consciously choose to emulate those people who embrace dialogue.
In his words, “The problem we have now is that we are struggling apart and a lot of people are fighting for something in a divisive way. Any leader who thinks he is a leader only for a section of this country is doing that section more harm than good because the members of that region will continue to co-mingle with people of other regions.
“It is wise for any leader to lead the whole of Nigeria and not in sections and I am sure there are leaders who are more nationalist than many others that we see. Let us just copy the good examples and forget about those ones that divide us. The youth should be focused”, he added.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, International Centre for Energy Environment and Development (ICEED) Mr. Ewah Eleri stated the importance of having conversations around issues of young people being at the receiving end of the crisis in the country, adding that critical voices of young people with a focus on the future should be amplified.
He emphasized that creating opportunities for conversations will deplete the number of young people who are drawn to conflict and violence.
Participants at the dinner stressed on the need for a deliberate national conversation on; how to heal Nigeria, de-escalation of violent and hate speech by every Nigerian, self-governance, engaging leaders on the roundtable, moving from a country of settling issues with violence to a country of ideas, and to make effort to entrench peace.