Former President Goodluck Jonathan said on Tuesday he convened the 2014 National Conference in a bid to create an environment for Nigerians to address issues pushing citizens towards divisive politics and sowing the seeds of discord.
Jonathan stated this in his remarks at the 2nd Igbo Nsukka Zik Annual Merit Award held in honour of the first Nigerian President, late Nnamdi Azikiwe, in Abuja.
He said the inability of successive governments to manage Nigeria’s diversity was a major factor limiting the nation’s socio-economic development.
The ex-President said: “When I convened the 2014 National Conference as President, my intention was to create an environment that would enable our citizens to dispassionately address those issues that are pushing us towards divisive politics and sowing the seeds of discord in our polity.
“I believe that, in a complex and diverse country like ours, the journey of nationhood and march to greatness is not a sprint but a marathon.
“However, to get it right, we need to do much more to unite our people and integrate our society, in order to build a nation of selfless patriots and citizens, citizens as defined by the Greek philosophers.
“That is the type of country envisioned by our nationalists.
“That is the only way to turn our huge population, rich diversity, and the outstanding resourcefulness of our people into a positive force that would transform and enhance the greatness of our dear country.
“I have no doubt in my mind that God Almighty has deposited in our land and in our citizens, the indefatigable spirit and creativity to unite, work and relate in a harmonious way and make our country great.”
Jonathan stressed the need for Nigerians to come together and agree on how to strengthen mechanisms and institutions that would promote the harmonization and functionality of their diverse people.
These, according to him, will ensure equitable distribution of resources and opportunities and inspire harmony, patriotism, justice, peace and sustainable development.
He expressed his belief that Azikiwe’s ideals, philosophy, and wisdom were very relevant at this particular time, as Nigerians sought to chart a way forward for the country.
He added that Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and other great nationalists did their best to lift the image of the country.
Jonathan added: “The nation owes Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria who was in office from 1963 to 1966, a debt of gratitude.
“His outstanding role while working with other great nationalists to secure the independence we enjoy today was legendary.
“Nigerians of different generations will continue to remember his extraordinary efforts towards keeping Nigeria one, and his belief in Nigeria’s greatness anchored on equity, justice, and inclusion.”