Former Vice-President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has pleaded with every tribe and tongue in Nigeria to live together in peace and see themselves as Nigerians.
The former Vice-President made this plea through his media adviser, Paul Ibe at the 40th anniversary of Federal Government College, Okigwe, Imo State on Saturday.
His statement read ; “I congratulate you on the 40th anniversary of your great school, the Federal Government College, Okigwe. Looking back at Nigeria over the same period of the four decades since your school was established, the mistakes and the bad decisions are difficult to miss on the landscape of our country’s history. But amidst all that are some exceptional developments. The 40th anniversary of your school is an opportunity for all Nigerians to celebrate one of those outstanding moments in our history: the establishment of the Federal Government College, Okigwe among several other federal government schools.
At the end of the civil war, the Nigerian government came up with the idea of the federal government colleges, both mixed and female only. The primary idea was national unity. Hence the motto: Pro Unitate. In a country of hundreds of tribes and tongues, with varying cultures and attitudes, the federal schools were to be a factory of unity. Young boys and girls from different and differing parts of the country were brought together, and given what was then the best education that Nigeria had to offer, in an environment where they were also taught to see themselves as one people, irrespective of their many differences. Nigeria’s best brains were trained not only to be academically sound but to see themselves as Nigerian rather than as Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba or any other tribe. That was and remains the Nigerian dream.
All of you gathered here for this 40th anniversary are the products of that experiment, an experiment that went very well indeed. You are the Nigerian dream. I have interacted with you at different times since I became your patron, and among you are established and exceptional men and women from different parts of the country. With the federal school system, any of you can find yourselves in any part of the country and feel comfortable, knowing that you have a friend or former classmate in that part of the country. Such is the beauty of the system that we are gathered to celebrate today. Such is the privilege accorded you by your attendance at this great school.
This celebration is coming at a critical time in our country’s history. All of you must be aware of the recent agitations from different parts of the country, with some groups threatening violence and, in some cases, secession. These agitations are the result of a number of factors which I will not bother going into at this time, although since you are all enlightened men and women, I have no doubt that you are well and fully aware of what they are. As a result of these various forces, the Nigeria of today appears more divided than it has ever been before. Our country is not at war in the sense of guns and bombs, but the level of inter-ethnic discontent, hatred, and hate speech is at an all-time high.
I would like to use this opportunity to call upon you all to play your part in the healing of our country. Remember that to whom much is given, much is expected. You, the current and former students of the federal government college system, have been schooled in the merits of unity as few other Nigerians ever have. You know from personal experience that the Hausa man’s problem is not the Igbo man, that the Igbo man’s problem is not the Yoruba man, that the Yoruba man’s problem is not the Hausa man, etc. You know the beauty of unity, of living together as brother and sister, in the same dormitory, in the same classroom, of belonging to the same house and working towards the same goal, whether it be winning a medal during inter-house sports competitions or a prize during a quiz competition. You know that, at those critical times when everyone’s eye is on the goal, the Hausa and Igbo and Yoruba need one another, must depend on one another to achieve. I call upon you, therefore, to go into all the nation in your various spheres of influence, and teach this crucial lesson to all Nigerians.
I am however aware that it is not all who started this journey four decades ago are here today to be part of this historic celebration. At this juncture, I will request that you stand up and observe a minute silence in memory of all staff and students who have passed on. May their souls rest.
My dear students and alumni of the Federal Government College, Okigwe, Nigeria needs you at this hour. The glory of what was begun here 40 years ago must not be allowed to die. It must be propagated throughout all our country. That is a responsibility that you must all meditate on as you celebrate with one another over the next few days of this grand occasion. That is also the responsibility that you must carry on your shoulders as you depart to your various locations across the globe. Whether locally or from the Diaspora, you must each and every one of you see yourselves as entrusted with a critical role in mending the cracks that hate and divisions have marked in the social and political life of our great country, Nigeria. This is the time to lace your boots. This is the time to roll up your sleeves. This is the time to give back. Nigeria once gave you her best and it is time for Federal Government College, Okigwe, to give her best back to Nigeria.
Once again, I congratulate you on this grand occasion of the 40th anniversary of Federal Government College, Okigwe. May the next 40 years be even greater than the former. May we gather again to celebrate more notable anniversaries in future, in peace and good health.”