Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working towards a peaceful co-existence of Nigeria have urged the federal government to urgently convene a national dialogue to address issues of poverty, youth unemployment and education to save the country from collapse.
The organisations believe that if the government could address structural issues through dialogue, it will deplete the number of young people used by religious and political leaders to instigate violence in the country.
The CSOs made this call weekend in Abuja at a National Cohesion and Tolerance Dinner organised by Connected Development (CODE). They said the government has a unique role to play in creating a safe environment where people can have dialogue and conversations that could heal the country.
According to them, differences of ethnicity and religion must also be addressed in such a way that it represents young people with their focus on the future before looking at what unites the entire nation.
Speaking, CODE Executive Director, Hamzat Lawal, explained that there is tension in every part of the country today because people are not allowed to speak when necessary.
Warning that no development will come into the country without peace and harmony, Lawal noted that every region must shelve their swords, have dialogues and support the government, insisting that government is everyone’s business.
“If people want to speak about issues that affect them, allow them to speak because people that are talking will not take up harms, so for me in the spirit of Ramadan I call on Muslim and Christian brothers, Muslim Sisters and Christian Sisters to amplify unity and peace instead of hate,” Lawal said.
“We believe that the government have a unique role to play in creating a safe environment where people can have dialogue and conversations.
“As we go into the political atmosphere we must understand that when we represent people it’s a call to service and for us we must ensure that people live peacefully because no development will come to Nigeria if we don’t live in peace and harmony.
“We must shelve our sword and have dialogues and support our government because the government is each and every one of us.”
Disclosing that young people have the ideals to bring Nigeria to a greater height, he urged them to share those ideas with the country’s decision-makers, adding that when people are not allowed to speak it often result in violence.
Executive Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (CEED), Ewah Eleri, on his part, stated: “Our country is going through tough times, a time of trouble in our existence as a country, every part of our nation is boiling to a large extent our young people are at the receiving end for the crisis that we have today in the country.
“Both victims of violence and perpetrators of violence, victims of poverty, victims of deprivation, victims of deprivation in terms of educational opportunities, employment and other things that make life worth living.
According to Eleri, it is important that the country have a conversation around issues of unemployment, poverty and education before talking about the things that unite the country.
He added: “Our differences are being amplified, differences of ethnicity, differences of religion until these critical voices can come together representing young people with their focus on the future then we can begin to talk about those things that unite us.
“How we can solve the issue of poverty, poor outcomes from education, lack of job opportunities, addressing these structural matters that give cause to the rising tension that we have all over the country we will deplete the number of young people who are drawn into violence and conflicts, who are being used by religious and political leaders.”