Some prominent Nigerians have called for the return of a detribalised Nigeria.
Speaking at the 2017 lecture/ award, and the launch of Epiphany Azinge Foundation, the elder statesmen, including former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alpha Belgore and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, all admitted that the problem with Nigeria was not its diverse tribes but the ability to utilize same for greatness, due to tribal sentiments and nepotism.
Bishop Kukah in his keynote address, held that the collapse of the Nigerian image did not happen in isolation but must be mentioned against the backdrop of collapsed institutions.
He described the present day Nigeria’s tertiary institutions as tribal association, where merit is sacrificed on the altar of tribe in both appointment into leadership positions and admission processes.
“We have institutionalized ethnicity and the impact of this is telling on us.
“Also, tribalism was able to thrive because of inefficiency of Nigerian system. Nigeria must move to a slightly different direction if we must achieve greatness again.
“Tribalism did not happen by chance. Planning is everything. We can turn our society around by looking for people that are ready to do things slightly different,” he said.
Kukah added that intellect must be a governing factor if Nigerians are to be proud of the nation and live in peace once again.
For governor Akeredolu, successive leaders have failed to build a nation. He also canvassed a state of residence rather than state of origin as a way of detribalizing the country.
For Gowon, there is only one Nigeria that all must try to protect. He said that the moment Nigerians begin to believe in the country, all will be well with the nation again.
To him, that was the idea behind establishment of unity schools and introduction of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
John Onayekan said tribes are natural, and differences that must be recognized. Rather, it should be seen as values that should be brought to bear on governance. He said it is human behavior that is bad, not tribal differences.
Azinge, who also used the opportunity to mark his birthday, said he had tried in the last 36 years to give his best to the country.
“I may not have completely lived my dreams, I have thought it wise to set up a foundation that will give me the platform to pursue some of my visions and aspirations, “ he said.
Many Nigerians considered to be detribalised were recognised with awards.