From Sunny Nwankwo, Umuahia
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has described the civil war which broke out in the country between 1967-1970, as a setback to national advancement.
He noted that the civil war was a defining national tragedy that should not be allowed to repeat.
Osinbajo in a special town hall meeting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigeria Civil War organized by Ken Nnamani Center for Leadership and Development, in collaboration with The National War Museum, Umuahia noted that the cost of the war on Nigeria was unquantifiable.
According to him, “the way to celebrate national fallen heroes that paid the Supreme sacrifice for the union called Nigeria is to ensure that the circumstances that led to the conflict never occur again”, quoting late Odimegwu Ojukwu that “wars hardly ever resolve issues” but an aberration, while the issues remain long after.
“Unlike many African countries with protracted multi-generational conflicts”, he said “our strife lasted only three years, and we have suffered not to relent in ending the issues after 50years.
“We have invested in national integration, peacebuilding, and reconciliation”.
Osinbajo while noting that in the cause of ending the issues, the country faced many challenges along the way, adding “but those challenges should not induce hopelessness or desperation”.
“Our historic mission therefore is not just to build a nation but to create a substantive polity capable of moving the country and the continent to posterity, said Osinbajo, adding “we must be open to address the concerns of all.
Osinbajo, however, warned: “We must ensure we do not poison the minds of young ones” “who did not witness the war so that they don’t view the country as it was seen in the late sixties”.
He commended the social media for bringing Nigeria young ones together in terms of marriage, migration and otherwise in their course of earning livelihood.
The Vice President further pointed out that one of the challenges as a nation also is providing opportunities and hope for the teeming population of the youths, adding “We are determined to continue providing them with the tools and resources that will enable them make use of most of their lives to maximize their potentials”.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Convener of the meeting and chairman, Ken Nnamani Center for Leadership and Development, Sen. Ken Nnamani, said the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Civil War is in every respect, a highly significant milestone in the life of Nigeria as a nation.
“It is an occasion for reflection and the Centre thought it appropriate to organize an event that would bring together leaders and citizens to reflect on the war and its legacy while charting a course for our common future”, he said adding “the conflict was a costly catastrophe that has left its ugly marks on generations of Nigerians.
“The exhibitions in the museum are meant to provoke us to contemplate the horrors of violence, to entrench a recognition that wars are never the solutions to our differences and to inspire a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts”.
According to him, “We have come a long way since the end of the war but I think that we can all agree that the road ahead of us is still a long one. We have not yet built the kind of country that we aspire to have. We have started the project but we still have a long way to go. If we are to successfully complete our national project, it is crucial that we adequately remember and reflect upon the most important milestones on our road.
“As people of faith, we understand the need to refrain from the bitterness and grievances of the past so that we can face the future with hope and without fear.
“There are countries in which civil wars have become perpetual cycles of violence fought by successive generations. This has not been the case in Nigeria and we must ensure that we douse the embers of bitterness and create a new culture of conversation. Surely, we can all agree that it is much better for us to talk than to fight.
“It’s our responsibility as elders and leaders to always speak truth to power and in addressing our nation are pressing issues, we should exercise restraint not to sow seeds of discord through our choice of words. Moderation is a prized virtue in an age of extremism”.
According to him, “this town hall meeting is being organized to show that we can address the pressing issues of our time with a spirit of civility and maturity. It should not happen again. We can inaugurate a new era of honest dialogue that will bring healing to our land”.
In his speech, the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu said before any national healing, the cause of the conflict should be identified and then from there, people’s feelings will be assuaged, adding that the relics of the civil war makes development in the war affected area difficult.
He urged that the area of bombardment during the war should be given national priority in terms of infrastructural development, wondering why it is difficult to achieve in 50 years, what Rwanda achieved in 3 years.
The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, and the member representing Bende at the House of Representatives, Uche Oga Ben Kalu, among others were at the event.
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