The Federal Government has accused opposition political parties in the country of abusing the freedom of thought and conscience guaranteed in the constitution to threaten the unity of the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan made the accusation at the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, conference in Calabar, Cross River State.
The President, who was represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said: “The quest for power and determination of certain persons and sections of the country to wrestle power from the incumbent political office holders have led to the issuance of all manner of threats with grave implications for our national unity.
“These constitutional rights have unwittingly become tools in the hands of politicians in the polity.”
Jonathan’s accusation came as Senate President, David Mark, represented by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), called on those angling for a sovereign national conference to forget about it in the meantime, adding that it was not feasible.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubukar and House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, also spoke on the state of the nation at the event, even as Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State called on the people to hold governments at all level accountable.
President Jonathan said: “Democracy and liberalism that it engenders in the political space have also brought about its own challenges, especially to the unity and corporate existence of our nation.
“The freedom of expression, association and freedom of thought and conscience guaranteed by the Constitution, have unwittingly become tools in the hands of politicians and their associates to promote division, hatred, and discontentment in the polity.”
… lists challenges
The President said despite effort of past governments, the country was still faced with multiple challenges.
He identified some of them as how to ensure the security of lives and property in the face of increasing global terrorism, how to protect people’s rights and liberties in the midst of competing social norms, and how to achieve economic development and improvement in living conditions.
He said: “Another major challenge to our nationhood is how to improve on the living conditions of our people. Our Constitution clearly provides that security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
“Although this administration has unveiled a programme of action to deal with these issues, it is obvious that success can only be achieved with concerted efforts from the public and private sectors to deal with these developmental challenges.”
Tambuwal, Atiku speak
The Speaker, Mr. Tambuwal, said: “In the face of stupendous wealth, resources and potential with which we could build a united nation of prosperous people, we are indirectly but gradually building two nations in one.
“There is a nation of prosperity and affluence on the one hand and another nation of poverty and squalor on the other. Yet our desire and expectation is nation building.”
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar decried what he called a consistent and progressive marginalisation of the vast majority of Nigerians.
The discrimination, he said, is as a result of policies which encourage “inequitable interpersonal and inter-regional distribution of opportunities.”
This, he said, “has created situations that propagate rural poverty, urban squalor and general discontent on the one hand, indiscipline, corruption, ostentatious living on the other and social tension and insecurity on the whole.”