Speaking in Calabar, at the retreat held by the Southern Senators' Forum, Saraki insisted that "we must always put Nigeria first" in the ongoing debate about restructuring of the country and other similar agitations.
“As a nation, unity is a prerequisite for development, stability and greatness,” the President of the Senate said, “Unity is the first focus. Without unity, we can achieve nothing. And yet we know that, since the end of the Nigerian Civil War, our unity has never been more challenged than at the present time.
“There are agitations across the length and breadth of this country that threaten our unity. And this time around, the threats are multi-faceted, and the vagaries of modern times have made the issues even more challenging than in the early post-independence era.”
He further stated that the founders of Nigeria’s Constitution had envisioned the current agitations, and had put in place guidelines to ensure that the entire country must be on the same page in order to take drastic decisions.
“In seeking to carry out any reform or restructuring, it is worth bearing in mind that the founders of our country, in their wisdom, had laid down some guidelines, making clear that it cannot be done by a simple majority, but rather by a two-thirds majority,” Saraki said, “To this end, we must all be on the same page. We cannot bully or browbeat others into accepting our point of view or positioning. Whatever we do must be by consensus, with the buy-in of all critical stakeholders in the debate.”
Saraki also emphasized that Nigeria is not alone in its current predicament, stating that in Africa and the rest of the world, similar agitations are making governments and those they rule over to question their continued co-existence, amid new and persistent threats to their unity.
“The ripples of Catalonia’s failed referendum bid are still being felt in Spain. In other parts of the Western hemisphere, the rise of right wing populism - amid concerns about immigration and illegal migration - is fueling suspicion and injecting an element of the unpredictable into once stable societies.
“Britain’s shock Brexit vote not only brought about a seismic shift in the political dynamics of that country, it also prefigured the dawning of Trumpian America. Sections of U.S. society are now locked in a fractious debate about what it means to be American. From anthem protests by African American football stars to the debate over Confederate statues to inflamed confrontations in Charlottesville, the United States is roiling with its own agitations. In the Middle East, a location of historical disagreement over borders, religion and statehood, the solutions seem far off.
“In all of this - the ability to dialogue, to listen to one another, to seek to understand the other person and to accept each other’s differences – is important in this issue of unity. Indeed, unity must exist before you can even talk about restructuring or reform. And so, Distinguished Colleagues, one of my messages to you today is this poser: How Do We Stay Together?” he said.
Saraki also stated that it is the responsibility of legislators to find the necessary clarity that will allow substance to override parochial considerations and crude sentiments. He also stated that Nigeria’s democracy is built around compromise, and Senators have a responsibility to reassure their constituents and inculcate in them a sense of belonging that will also them to always put Nigeria first.
He further challenged the Senators from the Southern part of the country to play their own role in boosting the profitability of commercial enterprises in their states, thereby creating an economic boom that will enhance the unity of the nation and provide more opportunities for people.
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