Led by Professor Anya O. Anya and Dr. Christopher Kolade, the group, which has the likes of Ambassador George Obiozor, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, Chief Philip Asiodu, Mrs. Folake Solanke, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Mr Olumide Onabolu (secretary) and Ladi Thompson, among others as members, was pained by the dangerous dimension insecurity has assumed in the country.
Specifically, Anya, Kolade, Wigwe, Obiozor, and Thompson, who spoke at a press conference in Lagos, said: ‘’We must explore widely, look deeply, act fast, and be ready to think out-of-the-box’’ to silence the drums of war.’’
The Burdened Elders statement
In a joint statement, titled: “Constructing The Bridge of Peace – Reprogramming Nigeria,” the Burdened Elders said: “For the peace and prosperity of every Nigerian citizen, the drums of war have to be silenced. Every dark cloud must be dispelled and the confusion must cease. This can be achieved through inspirational and innovative leadership. We must explore widely, look deeply, act fast, and be ready to think out-of-the-box.
“There is a native African proverb that says, the elder who examines a situation to declare that ‘we have never seen anything like this before’ is only dramatising the situation before offering a solution.
“With pain in our hearts, we mourn every single life that has been lost and the innocent blood that has been shed. Age and wisdom know that this is the hour when great courage, faith, and wisdom, are in urgent demand because there are too many voices in the wind, and it is not every voice that wishes us well.
“While it may be true that many routes lead into an African market, it is certain that the road of violence and bloodshed, definitely, is not an option in the process that will determine the Nigerian future.
“Many people are calling for a restructuring of the nation at all costs, but we will plead that such exercises must be preceded by a reprogramming of Nigeria to erase animosities and strife; so that all conversations can then be conducted in an atmosphere that is productive, fruitful, and peaceful.
“We need courage to rise above emotional reactions, and we need faith to look beyond the dark clouds; but it is wisdom that will guide us into a future that is based on inspiration and innovation, instead of locking our children in the prisons of the past that never prospered us.
Words of the elders
“We must learn to interpret every provocation as a distraction as we sift through the mess to isolate the true enemies of our future, whether they be of foreign origin, local, or a mix of the two. Instead of folding our arms in despair, we must all work together to tear down the walls of separation and hatred and build the much-needed bridge of peace and national understanding.
“The bridge that will accommodate the value, safety, and prosperity of every Nigeria citizen. A bridge that will tower above political divides, vested religious interests, and selfish ambitions, to release our younger generations from the dark prisons of the past.
“For too long, we have permitted distractions and diversions to keep the titan of West Africa in chains. The rest of the continent has been waiting for the giant of Africa to awaken and Nigeria should not disappoint destiny.
“As things stand today, the quality of life for the northern citizen is no better than the values of the common man of southern Nigeria. The old equations must be laid to rest and the new challenges must be overcome so that the sun can shine for every Nigerian.
“Working across every strata of society and the cohorts of age, we must multiply goodness and expand its light to overcome every force of darkness that is troubling our land. However, there must be no illusions as we embark on this mission to construct this bridge of peace.
“Armed with the wisdom of reprogramming, we will, if need be, contend inch for inch, person for person, and language, to rescue our nation from this present darkness of instinctive mistrust, blood spills, and bitter divisions. By reaching into the deep reserves of cooperation in our African heritage where it takes an entire village to bring up a child, we can modernise, nationalise, and deploy unique conflict resolution tools, which are common to every cultural nation represented in Nigeria.
“The average Nigerian may be surprised to discover that the things that bind us together far outweigh what is dividing us.
“History must put it on record that there was a generation of Nigerians that rose up with wisdom to join hands knowing that we are better and stronger together. The best future for our nation will not be built on the dungeons of the past but the selfless sacrifice, innovations, and inspiration, of patriots.
“There is really no problem in Nigeria except the problem programmed inside the Nigerian. Once this can be fixed, we will overcome all challenges with ease. Research also teaches us that we were all programmed to act as rivals and fight one another for resources through the colonial heritage. The opportunistic forces that are tearing us apart today may have taken advantage of the centrifugal forces engineered and embedded in our souls but we shall surely overcome.
“Divisive programmes have a life span that runs into centuries and we are no exception. Before Nigeria can ever succeed, we need to be de-programmed and then re-programmed, and that is what the bridge of peace we are constructing is all about. The immediate challenge then is to discover and project a new Pan-Nigerian nationality beyond our ethnicities, fractional identities, inchoate diversities, and fragile values. History teaches that it has been done before and can be done again. Then, we can see a future of peace, plenty and progress in the days ahead.”
Other citizens back peace move
Other citizens, who spoke at the event and pledged their support for the pursuit of peace in Nigeria, on the platform of Yigba, meant to build bridges across the south, include Bishop Oscar Ossai, Mr. Ben Amonye, Mr. Tim Akano, Mr. Yemi Akinsanya, and Mrs Bunmi Oke.
They said: “The bloodshed is rising, killings are multiplying and the whole country is not at ease.
“Foreign and local interests seem to unite in only one purpose – a quest to take Nigeria apart, by all means. Their real identity is artfully concealed as they borrow other masks such as Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers.
“All so well-armed, organised, and co-ordinated to a level their personnel cannot of themselves justify. Many are beginning to say that perhaps government is disinterested. Meanwhile, the drums of war are getting louder by the day.’’
Stressing why Nigerians must avoid war, Mrs Oke, who was a member of the 2014 National Conference, said when men go to war, women and children suffer the most, adding ‘’in reality, there is no gain in war.”