From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), has charged the Federal Government to invest more in non-kinetic strategies like national dialogues, festivals, and inter-ethnic marriages, which promote national integration as well as demonstrate capacity and the willingness to tackle amicably, the various ethnic tensions and violent conflicts currently bedevilling various parts of the country.
They also called on the government to make efforts to improve security, ameliorate the excruciating economic hardships facing citizens, check environmental degradation, and promote social justice across Nigeria’s social strata.
These were part of the recommendations contained in the communique issued at the end of its 25th Convocation, Scientific Session and Investiture of New Fellows held on 10th August 2023 at the J.F. Ade-Ajayi Auditorium, University of Lagos with the theme: “Inter-ethnic and Intra-ethnic Relations in Nigeria Since Pre-colonial Times”.
They charged the political leadership of Nigeria to resolve henceforth to provide good governance that will usher in a new era of peace, tolerance, acceptability, and mutual trust among the constituent ethnic nationalities.
They stressed the need for the political leadership to be more proactive and collaborate with the intelligentsia to ensure proper management of the country’s rich diversities so as to retrieve the nation from its current precipice.
In this regard, the Nigerian Academy of Letters said, it is important to urgently activate the Endowment for the Arts in line with Section 6.1.2 & 3 of the Nigerian Cultural Policy (CPN, 1988) which states that ‘the state shall support (creative arts) Associations and clubs through government subventions, grants and other forms of assistance”; ensure rigorous implementation of the recently approved Nigerian Language Policy; and revisit the fundamental principles of genuine nationhood so as to progressively correct observed fault-lines and prejudices bequeathed by colonialism.
They also charged the Nigerian intelligentsia, especially the Nigerian Academy of Letters, to continue to highlight observed incongruities in the formation of the country jeopardising inter-ethnic harmony.
Accordingly, they agreed to partner with relevant institutions to promote, sponsor, and boost research within its rich disciplines, to interrogate the challenges of ethnic rivalry and tension in the country.
The commendations followed scholars’ observations that the seed of the disorderly ethnic relations witnessed in Nigeria today was sown towards the end of the 19th century through contacts with the outside world, which were amplified through colonialism, western education, religion and trade. The colonial policy of divide and rule was supported by Western historians, literary scholars and colonial government officials;
They had also observed that post-independence Nigerian leaders failed to take concrete steps to foster unity across ethnic boundaries, the political class weaponised ethnic and religious differences to terrorise, subdue and exploit the citizenry. Similarly, elite capture has frustrated the attainment of the noble objectives of constitutional and policy initiatives like the Federal Character principle, NYSC, Unity Schools, etc.
The scholars and practitioners in the various humanistic disciplines also observed that they have been active in deploying their creativity to interrogate and resolve critical national challenges in their various scholarly and creative works; however, the government has been slow in leveraging on such inputs.
They also observed that the poor management of diversity by the political class has dimmed the hope of citizens that inter-ethnic relations in the country will improve for the better.
Fifty-three new members were inducted and 10 new fellows Professors Ayobami Kehinde, Emmanuel Samu Dandaura, Solomon Oluwole Oyetade, Herbert S. Igboanusi Egodi Uchendu, Olufunke Asake Adeboye, Irene Isoken Agunloye, Isaac Olawale Albert and Akinbiyi Akinlabi) were admitted into NAL College of Fellows.
The convocation ended with the installation of Professor Sola Akinrinade, FNAL, as NAL President (2023-2025), and the election of Professor Andrew Haruna, FNAL, as Vice President.
Other elected officials are Olakunbi Olasope (Secretary), E.T.O. Babalola (Assistant Secretary), Afis A. Oladosu (Treasurer), Victor Ariole (Financial Secretary), Umaru Pate (General Editor), and Emmanuel S. Dandaura, FNAL, (Bulletin Editor). The Ex-officio and coopted members are Professor Duro Oni, FNAL (Immediate Past President), Professor Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose, FNAL (Foundation President), Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, FNAL, and Professor Emeritus Dan Izevbaye, FNAL. Others are, Professors Munzali Jibril, FNAL, Olu Obafemi, FNAL, Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, FNAL, and Is’haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, FNAL. Professor Florence Orabueze, FNAL, was appointed Honorary Solicitor.
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