From MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Former military President Ibrahim Babangida, has sought to know the difference between an indigene and a citizen as well as their transformational processes.
He asked for this interpretation from the former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was the keynote speaker at the 13th session of the Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe lecture series held in Lagos on Thursday.
“I will be paying particular attention to find out who is an indegene as opposed to a citizen; how one transforms from one to another,” Babangida who was the chairman of the occasion said through his representative, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Nigerian leader also wanted his Sri Lankan counterpart to also state “whether it is important at all that this transformation takes place.”
He noted that throughout human history, nations have had to deal with issues of nation-building, stressing that nation-building is always work in progress which cannot easily be got right
He called for courage in executing this citizenship responsibility. “We must have the courage to face the challenges of nation-building. We will always not get it right. When we get it wrong which is human, let us have the courage to admit the wrong, and return to the drawing board,” he advised Nigerians.
Babangida in continuation of his motivational address said: “We must never fear to attempt, but we must never attempt to fear,” pointing out that “life is not about not falling down, but that when we fall down, we pick ourselves up and keep going.”
“Perfection,” he emphasized, “is not achieved at a go. Perfection is what we work at everyday of our lives.
Though Kumaratunga who spoke on the theme, “Synthesis For Nastionhood: Ethnic Policy And Nati8onal Integration – From Indegenes To Citizens,” did not give explicit distinction between an indigene and a citizen, she, however, pointed out why ethnic discrimination occurs, and therefore advocated an inclusive policy making framework.
She believes that an inclusive society could only be achieved within the framework of a free and democratic state.
According to her, diversity should be directed towards achieving a positive change in order to get a free and fair democratic society.
“We need to celebrate diversity, not reject it,” she affirmed.
Kumaratunga asserted that colonial rulers transformed diversity into social friction employing diversities to execute “divide and rule” policies.
“From being a virtual strength, diversity was transformed into political extortion,” the Sri Lankan leader said.
Kumaratunga added that recent developments have illustrated that exclusion and inequality between different groups have been the major causes of intra-national conflicts.
Injustice as well as frustration and despair caused by continued social marginalization, economic depravity and political defeat, she reiterated, give rise to violence and even terrorism, she stated, noting that “terrorism is the most dehumanizing phenomenon of our time.”
She, therefore, advised that all communities which have been excluded must be included as equal partners in nation-building in order that peace will reign.
“Government must adopt an inclusive approach and political, governmental and societal structures must be designed to allow the equitable distribution of and equal access to the amenities of development and prosperity for all,” she continued.
Violence in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation, Kumaratunga argued, is not caused bythe presence of diversities but by the clash of civilization, due to the exclusion of the less-powerful groups.
Feeling cheated and wanting to assert their rights, “the marginalized groups then mobilize around their group identity – be it religion, ethnicity, language or ideology” to unleash conflict and violence on the society.
Kumaratunga regretted that some countries have not been capable of managing their diversities to generate constructive political change by building democratic and plural societies.
In particular, the Sri Lanka citizen emphasized that Nigerians believe that ethnicity influences government to favour or discriminate against diverse groups in giving jobs, land, education and political positions.
“Adopt policies to include all groups in formulating development plans and make people to have confidence and trust in government,” Kumaratunga counseled.
From MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos