Agitation Not Solution to Marginalisation
President of Nigeria (1979-1983)
December 30, 2004
Acceptance speech at his conferment with a honorary doctorate degree by the Igbinedion University, Okada.
This day and this pleasant place by the grace of God provide for all of us the chance to meet and to rejoice
over some of the remarkable achievements of a unique achiever. For me and perhaps for some of us here this is
the first time we have visited Okada. Okada is now a household word in Nigeria; so any Nigerian who has not
been to Okada must be missing a very important lesson in life. Here in the birthplace of Chief Igbinedion
are some of the monuments created by this great man, not for himself or family but for the general good of
all in Edo State and beyond. One of these monuments in this citadel of learning the Igbinedion University
established for all of us to benefit from, in one way or other. Today, one of the beneficiaries has come
from far away Sokoto to be honoured among so many other awardees including graduates and distinguished guests
from far and wide. May I on behalf of them all humbly thank you most sincerely Chief, the Vice Chancellor, the
Senate and the entirestaff of this university for your kind gesture, which we shall never forget.
If I may be allowed to elaborate on the lessons we should learn from Okada we must start by trying to study and
emulate the Chancellor of this university who by sheer determination started from humble beginnings to build
himself up into a giant entrepreneur, tactician, politician and above all a great philanthropist of the first
order. In all his numerous pre-occupations he has maintained close contact with his birthplace Okada and tried
to build it to fame just as he did to himself and his family. For all persons with ambition to be great, this is
the person to emulate. So over to you students, graduates, postgraduates and many others who aspire to greatness,
your role model is indeed Chief Igbinedion, may his shadow never grow less!
The establishment of this university is the result of a successful and triumphant challenge and commitment to
build a reputable educational institution that will be one of the increasing and necessary efforts to build a
cadre of competent manpower to man the several facets to our national development and growth. I congratulate Chief
Igbinedion, Esama of Benin Kingdom, for your dream and achievements in establishing this institution. You, the
academic and non-academic staff are helping to build this nation to greater heights by preparing these many
students for the challenge of the future.
I congratulate you all -- the Esama, teachers, students and others alike -- that you have accepted and embarked on
the noble challenges of nation-building, accepting in your various ways the graphic call of the young President
John Kennedy in his inaugural address: "As not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your
country". It was a challenge President Kennedy asked of his fellow Americans but today it is a universal challenge
to humanity as a whole, particularly in an age that is threatened by hunger, insecurity and violence. The reasons
for the general unease and widespread poor level of living lie in people's potential disappointment about a denial
of basic human rights, economic injustice and social insecurity.
We here in Nigeria have had our own share of violence. We as a nation went through the crisis and tragedy of the
secessionist attempt of a unit of our nation. Now, the tragedies of armed robberies and of other damnable social
ills that we cannot be proud of nor can we or should we leave as an inheritance to future generations. All these
eat deep into the fabric of our existence as a healthy society with treasured values because they deplete even our
meagre resources to tackle the massive construction and services we face as a nation. Every facet of our existence
remains challenging in order to improve the quality of life.
I cannot be emphatic enough in expressing the need for peace. The world honoured us a nation for our role against
the evil apartheid, racism and in the independence of the continent. We as a nation pursued these objectives
without violence. We will still continue to pound on the facade of hypocrisies, injustice and fight for our human
dignity, not in violence but with negotiations and convictions. Think of our past heroes in the fight for our
nationalism. Think of the life of Martin Luther King Jr and his victory through his non-violent pursuit of civil
liberties for his fellow Americans. Think of Mahatma Gandhi and his immortal charges and campaigns to make India
free and become independent.
Similarly, you should not be defeated. Do not be discouraged. I call on youths all over the country, particularly
those in the angry areas of our country not to allow themselves be victims of violence. Violence is not the
religious way. It is not the Christian way. It is not the teaching of Islam. And not even of the traditional
beliefs and religions of your forefathers whose treasure for peace and energies at development and growth enabled
them build great cultures and civilisations such as the Benin Kingdom which astounded Europe and Europeans when
they first reach Benin. Let us continue to embrace and cultivate the culture of peace, not violence.
I need not remind you, this august audience of brilliant young men and women, young leaders of tomorrow, political
leads, lawyers, administrators and top class civil servants of tomorrow of our great nation, that you may claim to
seek justice for many years of neglect, particularly in the Niger Delta area, source of our nations major material
wealth, but remember that violence destroys the work and hopes of justice. peace and justice cannot be achieved by
Only two years ago, the world witnessed the tragedy of the "September 11" bombing of the Trade Centre building in
New York in the USA. It was a tragedy and horror that I never imagined would occur in our age. I felt even more
stunned when some claimants were reported to justify their act on the teachings of their religion, Islam. That was
a terrible and false claim. Islam abhors violence and nowhere in the Holy Qur'an is violence justified.
Ironically, nationals from different parts of the world lost their lives in that monstrous tragedy -- Americans,
Europeans, Africans, South Americans were all victims from all over the world. it is with all these examples in
mind that I must repeatedly appeal to our fellow Nigerians from all parts of the country, north and south, east
and west, majority and minority tribes, that violence is not the solution to perceived and real injustices.
The tragedies in Plateau against moslems and retaliatory events in Kano and other places were monstrous tragedies
for Nigeria and all Nigerians. Ask yourselves, did those violent atrocities achieve any justice? We have had our
civil war when a part of the nation tried to secede. Think of the hundreds and thousands of the victims of that
tragedy that could have been saved by peaceful discussions through the path of justice and peace. Unfortunately,
it is helpless and innocent people women and children and old men who suffered most for the errors of the advocates
of war and violence while such leaders revealed in luxury but the masses they claim to lead and represent were the
expendable puns in the rhetoric and embrace of violence.
I think of all the pains and human tragedies and losses that have been caused by bigotry and inter-ethnic
conflicts that consumed our energies and retarded our progress in trying to achieve a truly unified nation.
Professor Eric Lander at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in his researches has confirmed that All
human beings are more than 99.9 per cent alike genetically. That is an incredible research finding, scientifically
confirming the greatness of God Almighty. God Almighty did not create one tribe or group of people superior to
others. Why then the spurious claims and tragedies of "ethnic cleansing" which some of the conflicts have
degenerated to? Why all the hate-crimes? Was it because of ethnic superiority or religion? If so, then, the
perpetrators were far from the lessons of Christianity -- "Though shall not kill" -- or those from Islam.
Almighty God in the Qur'an was quite emphatic: "Let not a people's enmity towards you incite you to act contrary
to justice:be always just, that is closet to righteousness."
We moslems, by the grace of God, have just gone through the month of Ramadan, and the lessons of greatness of His
Supremacy, Benevolence and mercies. Next month, Christians will celebrate the birth of Christ. Let the lessons of
peace and non-violence be propagated and practised by all in this great nation, Nigeria. Before closing I wish to
reiterate my firm belief in the need for each and everyone of us in this country to contribute his/her own quota
towards the task of building this nation called Nigeria which belongs to all of us. There is a world of difference
between building and breaking. While the former is difficult but rewarding the latter is seemingly easy but
I urge all sensible Nigerians wherever they are to rededicate themselves to the service of their fatherland so that
we all can join hands together in unison to unify and solidify the nation which is the envy of many other less
fortunate nations in Africa and the rest of the developing world.
Those who talk glibly about the idea of breaking this complicated yet wonderfully reliable structure do not
realise their folly until they attempt to break it. They will find to their chagrin that the overwhelming majority
of Nigerians are ready as always to confront them. Nigerians are eager to participate not only in re-enforcing the
impressive edifice known as Federal Republic of Nigeria but also to tenaciously defend it if and when necessary.
I call upon all Nigerians, not only to abhor separatist tendencies but also to strongly condemn the sinister idea,
which would do no one any good at all.
By the grace of God Nigeria is destined to be a great nation; a melting pot of diverse peoples and cultures,
a haven for democracy, human rights and peaceful co-existence. Yes, we can make it despite all the odds which
with goodwill, understanding renewed determination and vigor we can overcome. I call on you all, my co-graduands
and youth everywhere in our dear nation, to look forward to and work for the great future that lies ahead. Employ
all your resources and talents to enables us bequeath to you and our future generations a noble inheritance. do
not be tempted by the tragic emptiness of the worship of money and the deep evil and destructiveness of corruption.
In the final analysis, in the words of the great Athenian leader Pericles over 2,500 years ago:
One's sense of honour is the only thing that does not grow old, And the last pleasure, when one is worn out
with age, is not, as the poet said, making money, but having the respect of one's fellow men.