The Citizens’ ColloquiumAn entrepreneur, Gbenga Olawepo Hashim, says that the high rate of poverty and social inequality in Nigeria is worrisome.
Hashim was the guest speaker at The Citizens’ Colloquium orgainsed by the Citizens Communications and Advocacy Centre on Monday in Abuja.
The topic of his paper is “Understanding Democracy as Instrument of Development, Integration and National Cohesion.’’
He regretted that in spite of the obvious gains of democracy over the years which had led to unprecedented development, there had been serious challenges to national integration and social cohesion in Nigeria.
“Since Independence in 1960, we have battled with the idea of national unity. No wonder then that some of our past leaders have even described Nigeria as ‘a mere geographical expression’ “the mistake of 1914” among others.
“ A civil war and other unfortunate ethno-religious and other crises have tested our national resolve.
“The lack of social cohesion in Nigeria has been caused by wide disparity between the rich and the poor.
“The figure of 87 million poor people – the largest in any country in the world, should be a great source of concern to every Nigerian.
“ When we have added to this gender inequality and the large numbers of unemployed youths about 67 million we can then know why there is no social cohesion in our country.’’
According to him, in order to achieve national cohesion, Nigerians should examine the quality of their leadership and how they ascribe to power.
He said that the people should build democratic institutions as a safeguard to dictatorship and arbitrariness.
Hashim, who is the Chairman, Transnational Energy Limited, said there was need for social programmes in education and health to improve the quality of life of the people.
“We need to engage in manufacturing and industrial development to provide economic growth, gainful employment and a modern life for the people.
“We need to encourage the private economy or informal economy and small businesses through policies and credits to engender economic growth and a better life for all citizens.
“We need unfettered freedom as provided in the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution; the rights to life, to human dignity, to expression are sacred; no nation can grow without fundamental human rights.
“We need to build a nation based on fairness and justice without regard to religion or ethnicity in order to foster national integration,’’ he said.
The business man said that Nigerians needed to apply the Rule of Law in all aspects of their lives both in the private sphere and in contracts without bias.
He added that corruption was a cancer that Nigerians must fight concertedly in order to ensure development.