USOSA: What Nigeria must do to restore security, unity

Stakeholders drawn from the education sector, most of whom have permeated various strata of the Nigerian society, have advised the Federal Government on ways it can secure the country as well as make it stay united.

The stakeholders who converged in Abuja, under the auspices of Unity Schools Old Students Association USOSA, decried various agitations for succession, saying it was a manifestation of a society that has lost its values for co-existence.

At the 38th plenary session/Annual General Meeting of the body, held at the weekend, they said part of the way to douse tensions was for citizens and government to begin to prioritize history as a core course in the educational system.

According to USOSA, the historical perspectives of how Nigeria managed to gain independence from the colonial masters have been completely lost, especially the new generation. They fail to understand how Nigerians from various tribes or religious backgrounds came together to fight the British government before we became an independent nation.

While engaging members in a brainstorming session, to find lasting solutions to the current security quagmire, the President-General of USOSA, Lawrence Wilbert enjoined old students from Unity Colleges to step up peace advocacy programmes in their various communities, states and places of work.

Speaking on the theme: “Role of Unity Schools Old Students Association in Uniting Nigeria” he said both the government in power and old students must begin to find ways of leveraging on our cultural diversity, promoting those bonds that united us as a nation.

His views were corroborated by Chairman Board of Trustees of USOSA, Uyi Akpata, who said it is disheartening that because of security constraints, people are no longer favourably disposed to sending their children to other states for schooling, a situation that is further widening the curve of peacebuilding.

He relieved the good old days in schools when students from different social backgrounds coexisted peacefully while acquiring education and parents freely gave out their children in marriage irrespective of where they hail from.

Akpata also encouraged over a million USOSANS who acquired education in any of the 104 Unity Colleges to begin to reenact those roles they played to be able to tolerate and accept people and live with them peacefully.

Rear Admiral Mauzu Salami (retd), among other stakeholders, said Nigerians have a lot to learn from the Armed forces, insisting that it remains one unique body which religion, ethnicity or primordial sentiments have not been able to infiltrate.

Other speakers at the forum advocated for dual state identities, insisting that there should be nothing wrong if a person born in a state or community other than where his or her parents hail from to adopt such state identity as well.

They equally faulted the younger generation, saying they have failed to manage diversity in all ramifications.

Some of their opinions, “Nigerians should begin to discourage this undue affiliation to their states of origin when Nigerians travel abroad, nobody asks which state we come from, rather they identify us simply as Nigerians. But on our own, for instance, somebody that has lived all his life in Lagos will first say I am from Sokoto or Ekiti state, why can’t we just say I am a Nigerian”.

Another said, “Tribalism is more of an official thing than individual, I say this because, during our youth service schemes, we interact freely with people from other climes, we even form life long bonds, but when it comes to official matters, we quickly activate our tribal sentiments, which shouldn’t be the case if Nigeria must remain peaceful”.

“Those of us from the older generation who were exposed to education through these unity colleges, married into other tribes and today some people are calling for succession, if Nigeria gets divided where will we fall into,” another worried participant asked.

Recall that what is now known as Unity Colleges was formed in 1966 by the Federal Government, under the leadership of then Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

It was first established as Inter-Regional Secondary Schools and later called Federal Government Colleges in the old three regions of East, North and West.

It was created to bring together young boys and girls from all regions of the country, irrespective of their social or economic background to learn, play, work and live under one roof in order to remove the virtual mysteries surrounding the evolution of the people who made up the regional citizenry, thereby creating a homogeneous family devoid of rancour, suspicion or distrust.

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