Former President Goodluck Jonathan said he convened the 2014 National Conference with the intention of creating an environment for Nigerians to address issues causing division in the country.
Jonathan stated this in his remarks at the 2nd Igbo Nsukka Zik Annual Merit Award in memory of the first Nigerian President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, on Tuesday in Abuja. The event was organised by Igbo Nsukka United Front.
At the event, Jonathan was honoured with the Zik’s Merit Award, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
The former president said the inability to manage Nigeria’s diversity was a major stumbling block to the nation’s socioeconomic development.
He said, “When I convened the 2014 National Conference as president, my intention was to create an environment that would enable our citizens to dispassionately address those issues that were pushing us towards divisive politics and sowing the seeds of discord in our polity.
“I believe that, in a complex and diverse country like ours, the journey of nationhood and march to greatness is not a sprint but a marathon.
“However, to get it right, we need to do much more to unite our people and integrate our society, in order to build a nation of selfless patriots and citizens, citizens as defined by the Greek philosophers.
“That is the type of country envisioned by our nationalists.
“That is the only way to turn our huge population, rich diversity and the outstanding resourcefulness of our people into a positive force that would transform and enhance the greatness of our dear country.”
The former president stressed the need for Nigerians to come together and agree on how to strengthen mechanisms and institutions that would promote the harmonisation and functionality of the citizens.
Jonathan said this would ensure equitable distribution of resources and opportunities and inspire harmony, patriotism, justice, peace and sustainable development.
He expressed belief that Azikiwe’s ideals, philosophy and wisdom are relevant at this particular time as Nigerians seek to chart a way forward for the country.
He added that Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other great nationalists did their best to lift the image of our country.
Jonathan commended the award organisers for making efforts to preserve Azikiwe’s legacy of national unity in “these challenging times.”