It is my great pleasure to be here today to contribute to what I consider a paramount issue in our march towards sustainable democracy. There may never be a greater opportunity than this forum provided by the Gamji Forum to express my deep rooted feelings about certain factors that have for so long hindered our collective struggle to build a stable nation. I sincerely thank God that this apparently outstanding issue has come up yet again and I do pray and hope that our collective deliberations on the subject will lead Nigeria to a better future.

Whatever title it might be given, the sum total of the objectives of this and similar gatherings is the much trumpeted Nigerian question. As a thesis the Nigerian question has been visited and re-visited by eminent Nigerians at various times and places. Whenever it comes up as a subject for dialogue, the state of the nation or whatever title it is given, portends a great challenge and some kind of premonition.

The arguments for and against the continuation of Nigeria as one indivisible corporate entity are inexhaustible. Similarly the catalogue of reasons why the nation cannot function as it should is voluminous. There is nothing I am going to say that has not been said before, but I am only going to speak from the depth of my conviction, and if for no other reason, but at least to provoke re-thinking. To start with, I would like to ask: WHAT IS WRONG WITH NIGERIA?

Before attempting to answer that question I would like us to look at the country Nigeria itself. As we shall see in due course, Nigeria is a nation of paradoxes. The factors shat should have been our strength have been allowed to become sources of our weakness.

The country occupies a vast land area of 913,073 square kilometres which stretches across two major climatic zones. Unlike most of our neighbouring countries that situate virtually on barren land, Nigeria another form of micro-nationalism. Of great concern to the present administration is the case of ethnic militia, which constitutes a major source of insecurity to the nation. You will agree with me that democracy, as government of the people, cannot thrive under a state of insecurity or under a situation where some sections of the polity appear to be pursuing a different agenda.

The Niger Delta issue is yet another very serious matter confronting the government. The challenges of the new beginning are enormous. This, however, is not to say that there is any problem the government cannot handle. In fact the issues of security, reviving the economy and nurturing an enduring democracy top government’s priority list. And of course it will take time and a lot of efforts and cooperation from the people to make these marks.

Those of us at the National Assembly are making our contributions towards actualising these lofty national objectives. At a recent public lecture I recounted my first experience as the President of the Senate. After I was sworn in I met a house divided against itself – party against party, caucus against caucus, tribe against tribe, and religion against religion. Everyday at the Senate it was all intrigue and political manoeuvring to whittle down opponents, settle old scores or have advantage over material benefits. It was as though the Senate was set up for the interest of tribe, religion or simply self. And all this while the nation suffered discovered that at the heart of all these is mutual mistrust and rivalry. The micro-consciousness of the past was still there with us.

I have always believed in justice and fair play as a solution to the struggle associated with sharing public dividends. That informed my approach to bringing about stability in the Senate. Through consultations, dialogue, consensus and most importantly God’s guidance, we now have a Senate where every tribe and tongue, every creed and every hue of opinion is equally represented. And of course this approach would come to naught without justice, accountability and transparency on the leadership. The result now is a senate devoid of overlords; a senate where nobody is marginalized on account of tribe or religion or educational attainment; a senate where dialogue takes precedence and a senate where tension and mutual suspicion are minimised.

My fellow countrymen and women, I sincerely believe that we have our own destiny in our own hands. We can make Nigeria work. Our prayers as Christians and Moslems can move mountains if and only if our actions are consistent with what we pray for. Our great population is a source of tremendous strength. Our social and cultural diversity makes us a country of many parts. 

I believe deep down within me that God has blessed us abundantly in this country. We have all we need to get where we want to go. It is our duty to use what we have to get what we want. Sustainable democracy in a country where everybody will live in peace is our destination. With God on the lead and our total commitment to the cause, I believe we shall get there.

Thank you all and God bless.