Eminent Nigerians participating in the ongoing Minna peace summit convened at the instance of the former military ruler, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar have expressed concern about the growing tension in the country and called for efforts to abate it.
Organised Abdulsalam Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development, the-e participants warned against disintegration and warned those beating the drum of war to learn from the experiences of some other war-torn countries.
In his keynote address at the two-day event which began in Minna, Niger State yesterday, Abubakar said Nigeria is going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment in the land.
“There is anger in the land and the voices of reason are drowning very rapidly.
“We are all here as Nigerians who share responsibility for the state of our nation. Therefore, if any forum can help in accurate identification of the problems and solution for a united and peaceful Nigeria, let us be counted as a veritable one,” he said.
However, Abubakar pointed out the summit was neither a mini national conference nor a forum to review the constitution but rather, to look into the problems confronting the country at present and proffer solutions to them.
“There are matters that will doubtless appear in our discussions but they should not be allowed to distract us from the key goals of the round table,” he said.
On the absence of some groups, he said the participants were carefully selected, adding that everyone invited was eminently qualified and “represents interests and perspectives of the nature of the issues as well as the solutions needed to resolve them.”
“Unfortunately, some of the invitees are unable to attend, while some others have sent in contributions and since peace building is a continuous process, other fora will provide opportunities for continuous dialogue,” added.
In an interview, with journalists, the chairman of the round-table conference former minister of external affairs, Prof Ibrahim Gambari said there is never be a military solution to any conflict, stressing that there is no alternative to dialogue in resolving conflicts.
“To bring conflicts under control, you must look for a common ground.
“Dialogue should not be seen as a soft measure but a tough option. Peace building has to be hand-in-hand with conflict resolution.
“The forum should not be a mere paperwork, but taking real action. A lot is expected from this forum, we must not allow things to fall apart,” said Gambari.
He also said there was the urgent need to focus on the peculiarities that unite all the segments of the country, rather than those that divide them.
The event was also attended by generals Ishola Williams, I.B.M Haruna and Haliru Akilu.
Other present included the former minister of external affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; Prof. Awalu Yadudu; Prof. Ango Abdullahi; Ambassador Yahaya Kwande; former military governor of Rivers State, who is also the Amanayanbo of Twon Brass in Bayelsa State, Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff, and the Emir of Minna, Alhaji Umar Faroq Bahago.
It would be recalled that the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) had declined the invitation to attend the conference
SMBLF, made up of pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum and the Middle Belt Forum, while turning down the invitation expressed its reservation about the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) being invited to the meeting.
The group described as a “grave insult” the invitation to a roundtable with MACBAN whose AK47-bearing members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country.