This Day (Lagos)

15 February 2013

Nigeria: Carrington - Nigeria Will Overcome Tribal, Religious Differences

Former United States envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Walter Carrington, on Thursday said he was optimistic about the future of Nigeria as a great nation that would rise out of Africa despite the tribal and religious differences within the country.

"One day in Africa, there will arise a great nation which every country in the world will look up to," Carrington said during a lecture titled "Celebrating the Black History Month" at the University of Lagos.

He said the conflicts generated by ethnic differences in Nigeria are fuelled by unnecessary stereotype, adding that he always uses the example of Lagos as a place where all ethnic and religious groups live in harmony as an example of a true Nigerian spirit.

"Nigeria is unique because it is the only country in the world that has an even distribution of Christians and Muslims among its 150 million people. It is important that Nigeria continues to sower ahead with its 250 million ethnic groups" the former ambassador said.

In this regard, Carrington harped on the need for all ethnic groups to work together and resolve all tribal, religious and political problems clogging the wheel of the nation's progress..

The former top diplomat posited that the intrinsic diversities of Nigeria must be sources of its power, urging Nigerians from all parts of the country to come together and work for its development after going through harrowing military dictatorships.

He further described the Lagos example as his dream of his larger Nigeria, where everybody will live in harmony and work for the progress and unity of the country.

He recalled his disposition to the military regime of General Sani Abacha and cooperation with pro-democracy groups after the annulment of June 12, 1993 election widely acclaimed to have been won by the late Bashorun M.K.O Abiola.

"It was informed by my experience when I was fighting for advancement of coloured people during the days of black discrimination and I had the advantage of diplomatic immunity also," he said while responding to a question posed by a student of the university.

According to him, he witnessed vicious attacks on coloured people by whites - who he described as mutants of the Black and vowed to respond to such oppression anywhere he finds it, an experience that came handy during the military era.

The former diplomat said that during Abacha's military dictatorship, he met with pro-democracy groups and told them never to jettison the fight for good governance and democratic advancement in Nigeria even in the face of military brutality.

He said Abacha regime spent large sum of money on image laundry with people like the Leader of Nations of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and others being invited by him to Nigeria to back him and drum up supports.

He was impressed that nothing came out of such moves as Congressional Black caucus and American government officials were not

moved by the deception. Carrington urged pro-democracy activists to continue their promotion of good governance, and ensure that Nigerians benefit from available resources.

He urged them to also make sure that corrupt people do not steal available money meant to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary citizens.

The former envoy described he United States' President, Barack Obama, as representing what America never had before. He said: "Obama understands the problems of Africa and by the end of his tenure; he would have been a president with a great vision for Africa."

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