Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi (Chairperson, Planning Committee)
Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I stand before you today with great pleasure to extend my warmest welcome to every esteemed guest in this momentous gathering. As we come together, let us reflect upon the theme selected for today “Burden of Inclusivity and Nigeria’s Democracy.” This topic is significant, not only for Nigeria but also for nations around the world as they strive to build robust and prosperous democratic societies.
Inclusivity is the cornerstone of any thriving democracy. It encompasses the principles of equality, representation, and participation of all citizens, regardless of their social, economic, or cultural backgrounds. It means ensuring that every individual has a voice, that every opinion is heard, and that every person’s rights are protected.
Nigeria, as a nation, has made remarkable progress in its democratic journey. We have witnessed the evolution from military rule to a vibrant civilian system that is finding it difficult to turn around our diversity and embrace the ideals of inclusion. However, we must also acknowledge that the burden of inclusivity rests on our shoulders, as it is not a task solely for the government or any particular group, but a responsibility for each and every citizen.
To achieve true inclusivity, we must address the various challenges that hinder the full participation of marginalized groups in our democratic processes. We must ensure that the voices of all tribes, religions and groups are heard and represented, especially people from disadvantaged groups including women, youth, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, enabling them to take an active role in shaping the policies and decisions that affect their lives. By doing so, we tap into the wealth of knowledge, perspectives, and talents that are often overlooked, enriching our democracy with a multitude of voices.
Inclusivity demands that we bridge the gaps in our society. We must address the disparities in access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, ensuring that no one is left behind. By creating an enabling environment for every citizen to thrive, we foster a society that is not only just but also resilient, capable of withstanding the challenges that lie ahead.
It is essential to recognize that inclusivity is not just a moral imperative; it is also a strategic necessity. A diverse and inclusive society breeds innovation, creativity, and social cohesion. When we provide equal opportunities for all, we unlock the potential for economic growth, social harmony, and sustainable development.
However, achieving true inclusivity requires collective effort. It calls for collaboration among government institutions, civil society organizations, private enterprises, and individuals alike. We must work hand in hand, breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and promoting dialogue to foster understanding and empathy.
As we embark on this journey, let us remember that the burden of inclusivity is not a burden in the negative sense. It is a shared responsibility that carries immense potential for positive change. Together, we can build a Nigeria where every citizen feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute to the progress of our great nation.
In conclusion, I extend my gratitude to each one of you for being part of this gathering today. Let us seize this opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions, exchange ideas, and chart a path forward towards a more inclusive Nigeria. May our commitment to inclusivity serve as a beacon of hope, guiding us to a brighter, more prosperous future for all. I want to congratulate other members of their planing committee for their steadfastness and commitment to this program. I appreciate your efforts as I wish us all a successful deliberation.
Thank you, and once again, welcome!
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