MR Peter Esele, a Chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Edo, has urged Nigerians to rise against manipulation of religion and ethnicity by politicians, so as to build a nation of their dreams.
Esele made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Benin, on Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary.
Esele said it was sad that 61 years after independence, Nigerians have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by politicians who hide behind regional, ethnic and religious sentiments to achieve their selfish goals.
He said that this was a ploy by politicians to divert people’s attention from complaining about the fundamental challenges bedevilling the country.
He noted that it was not enough to say that the country’s leadership must come from a particular region, because doing that at the end of the day reduces quality leadership.
According to him, poor leadership and bad followership remained the bane of the country’s development.
“Because first, for you to say a leader is a problem, you also need to ask yourself, what is the value of the people, because a leader is as good as the people.
“If the people are good, they will also produce very good leaders, and even if the leaders make mistakes, they will correct them.
“But what we have had is a succession of leaders that have not been able to direct this country in a proper way for it to fulfil its potentials.
“Our leaders keep diverting our attention by confusing and manipulating us with regional sentiments, ethnicity and geopolitical balancing.
“Because when they are doing this, nobody will be talking about the quality of education, health care, and insecurity in the country”, he said.
Esele, who was a former President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), noted that it was high time Nigerians ask themselves what kind of country they desire.
“If we now say we want a country of security, freedom, peace and that will give people wings to fly and excel, are we ready to put in the work?
“Putting in the work means ensuring that religious bigotry and ethnicity is ruled out.
“It means the people will now have to choose their leaders based on competence and capacity to lead.”
Esele stressed that Nigerians must also learn to hold political leaders to account, instead of wasting energy on voting people based on ethnic or religious sentiments.
“All of these distractions are what has bedevilled the nation in the last 61 years.
“Whether as military head of state, or civilian government, if you ask me, what we have as political leaders are people who have been manipulating the people based on religion or ethnic bias.
“Over time, we have been made to believe that this is how the country must go.
“Meanwhile, there are fundamental issues that when resolved, nobody would be interested in where a leader comes from.
“If we want a better country, our emphasis must be on who has the capacity, emotional stability, empathy, compassion to lead.
“When I look at where Nigeria was in the past, where it is now and where it can be, I believe we should have done better than this”, Esele said.