As Nigeria marks its 61 Independence Day Anniversary this week, the Northern Governors’ Forum (NoGF) has warned that the country cannot be built on bigotry and nepotism, insisting that such parochialism is behind the country’s backwardness.

The governors also warned against defining people based on their religion, tribe and ethnicity just as they noted that de-marketing Nigeria comes with great consequences, attributing the nation’s challenges to such behaviour.

NoGF chairman and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who made these comments yesterday in Jos, the Plateau State capital, as part of the independence day anniversary celebration, also called on Nigerians not to allow the current challenges facing the nation to push them towards de-marketing the country or even advocating its disintegration as, according to him, the consequences will not only be uncertain, but unimaginable.

Lalong spoke at an inter-denominational church service to mark the 61st Independence anniversary at the Government House Chapel, Rayfield, Jos, said Nigeria remains a great nation that will surmount its challenges to realise its potential for greatness.

He said, “While some may use the current travails that the nation is witnessing to cast a shadow of hopelessness and despondency; we should never allow the trials of today overshadow the many successes that our nation has witnessed in the past.

“There are many good things that have continued to happen till date. Many prophets of doom had prophesied that we shall not live to witness this year and some people representing both internal and external interests have also worked fruitlessly to fulfill this prophecy,” he said,

Lalong exoressed confidence that, at the end of the day, Nigeria will emerge very strong and prosperous, exceeding all expectations and putting behind all disappointments. All that is needed, according to him, is for Nigerians to work together in unity, tolerance, sincerity, loyalty and patriotism to ensure that the nation lives up to its God-given potential.

He said, “For far too long, we have focused on our differences and weaknesses, and trivialised, or even ignored, our strengts and prospects. We seem to dissipate so much energy on defining people based on their religion, tribe, ethnicity and even political orientation, completely neglecting their capacities, gifts, talents and willingness to serve humanity.

“We have been blinded by such myopic considerations that we fail to see that God has a plan for creating us with diversity and yet making us dependent on one another.”

The governor contended that all great nations embrace diversity, tolerance, excellence, good work ethics, and a national philosophy based on honesty, reward for hardwork and punishment for deviance.

Lalong insisted that Nigerians cannot embrace corruption, despise hardwork, shun the rule of law, champion nepotism and bigotry, act selfishly, oppress one another, particularly the vulnerable, and yet expect to build a great nation.

“Great nations, according to him, have entrenched good governance, rule of law, tolerance, patriotism, social welfare, respect for human rights and zero tolerance to corruption and indiscipline – an example that Nigeria has no option than to follow if it must make headway.”

Taking his reading from the book of Jeremiah 27 and Luke 8:24-25 among other chapters, Deputy Chaplain of the Plateau State Government House Chapel, Rev. Ezekiel Dewan said Nigerians must avoid negative narratives as there is power in the tongue.

He pointed out that those who give up at difficult times may not benefit from God’s intervention when it arrives as they may be too blind to recognize it.

The governor admonished Nigerians to pray for God’s mercy on Plateau State and Nigeria, as the Bible directs citizens to not only pray for their leaders, but also for the cities where they dwell. He also asked that there should be constant prayers for God to turn the wisdom of the wicked into foolishness and stop them from troubling Nigeria.

In their separate goodwill messages, the Atah Ateng of Ganawuri (representing the State Traditional Council) and GOC 3rd Division and Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Maj. Gen. Ali, said though Nigeria is passing through difficulties of insecurity, poverty and disease among others, there is hope for the future as God is raising leaders who will unite all people, lead with the fear of God, and shun all forms of evil for nation development.