By Ankeli Emmanuel, Sokoto, Nnamdi Mbawike, Enugu and OKECHUKWU OBETA, Awka
Former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), yesterday warned Nigerians against acts that are capable of sparking another civil war in the country, saying they must eschew all forms of violence, criminal activities and behaviours that tend to divide the country.
Reacting for the first time to the increasing spate of divisive and hate speeches by certain persons in some parts of the country, the former Nigerian leader who was a leading actor in the Nigerian/biafra war that claimed many lives and properties in the country sounded the warning in Sokoto at a one-day national prayer rally organised by a prayer group called Nigeria Prays.
Gowon who is the national convener of Nigeria Prays also appealed to Nigerians to collectively pray for the speedy recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Warning against the spoils of war, he said, “We should value the lives of our fellow human beings that God has created for a purpose. May we never take lives with impunity.
“We are offering fervent prayers that Nigerians will never raise their hands against one another. They should love one another irrespective of religious, ideological, political and ethnic affinities”.
He also urged Nigerians to pray for Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and leaders at all levels, even as he solicited for sustained prayers for peace, unity and socio-economic prosperity of the country.
Gowon said, “Prayer can solve problems better and faster than soldiers, as well as physical weapons of war. I have no doubt in my heart that God will honour our collective prayer and intercession for our dear nation, as well as heal our nation of insecurity.
“May we experience abundance of God’s mercy and showers of blessings over our lives and our nation as we raise our voices in heartfelt prayers today in Sokoto”.
The former head of state commended Sokoto State government for its support, involvement and generosity to ensure the success of the rally.
The North-West zonal coordinator of Nigeria Prays, Bishop Godwin Okafor, said the rally was organized to seek for sustained peace, unity and stability of Nigeria.
S’East Govs, NASS Members Insist On One United Nigeria
Meanwhile, the Southeast Governors’ Forum as well as the apex Igbo social cultural organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo, and other notable persons from the zone have declared the support of Ndigbo for a united Nigeria where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity as well as equality of opportunities are paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation.
They made their position known in a 7-point communiqué issued at the end of their one day meeting at the weekend, which began at the Enugu Government House and ended at Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu.
The communiqué also condemned in strong terms hate speeches and conducts emanating from any segment of the country.
In the communiqué which was read by chairman of the forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, the Igbo leaders advocated restructuring of the federal republic of Nigeria on the basis of fairness and equity.
“We therefore, call on the federal government and all Nigerian leaders to commence a process of dialogue among Nigerians on the modalities of achieving this pressing question within a reasonable time frame”, the leaders stated.
The meeting was also attended by some selected Igbo leaders of thought, including members of the National Assembly (NASS) from the region, religious and traditional rulers, among others
They equally express their support for the report of the 2014 national conference, just as they urged the federal government to set up structures that would enable the implementation of the confab report within a reasonable time.
According to the communiqué, the Igbo leaders had during the gathering agreed that “the South East governors, members of the National Assembly from the region and the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo should henceforth constitute the official organs that will speak on behalf of Ndigbo on political matters.
“That the South- East leaders in consultation with leaders from other parts of the country will engage the federal government on all areas of concern to Ndigbo and to Nigeria as a whole”, the Igbo leaders resolved.
Umahi had earlier in his speech noted that Ndigbo has a pride of place in history.
The meeting was attended by the five governors of Abia, Anambra Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu States.
Mbanefo Lampoons IPOB, Kanu
Former Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, has lampooned the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB) and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, describing their activities as unnecessarily endangering lives of Igbos living in the Northern part of the country.
Mbanefo who spoke to journalists at the weekend in his Onitsha country home during the burial of his brother-in-law and pioneer general manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Odinigwe Onuora Nzekwu, also threw his weight of support behind the current call by many prominent Nigerians for restructuring of the country.
Describing those agitating for Nigeria’s disintegration like the IPOB and its leader, Kanu, as riffraffs who should not be taken seriously, Mbanefor however, stated that restructuring of the country is the only alternative to all the agitations in the country.
He called for the publication of the 2014 national confab report to enable Nigerians know and digest the recommendations of the report, stating that many Nigerians do not know the details of the confab report.
Describing the biafra agitators as a bunch of ignorant people, Mbanefo warned that careless talks cost life, even as he accused the IPOB and its leader of endangering the lives of Igbos living in the Northern part of Nigeria
He said, “It is only two persons today that are still alive that served in Biafran government under Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu: myself and Dr. Sylvanus Kuki from Okpobo land who fought the war and know the intrigues behind it.
“This country belongs to all of us. We are talking about restructuring based on the confab report but out of 180 million people in the country, how many people have seen the report? Why is it that the media doesn’t want to publish the report so that everybody should know the details in that report? If you want to do something, sit down let people know what you are doing. Leadership is not by talking, it is by action. It is not a secret document, it is not a classified document. Why didn’t they publish it in the media, even the executive summary of the report?”
Mbanefo also added that ignorance and money are 99 per cent of Igbo man’s problem. “The Northerners had just made a simple statement and all the Igbo lands are shaking because we are interested in wealth. Anything that affects our wealth, we get worried. They said that on October 1, Igbos should go and people are shouting. Is any thing wrong with that? People say careless talk costs life. We should be careful on how we talk because war is not an easy thing”, he stated.
The former Nigerian envoy continued: “They said they are going to United Nations that, they want referendum. Do they know what referendum is all about? will it come just like that? Who is going to finance it? Referendum costs money. If you go for referendum tomorrow, all these boys that are making nose, nobody will side you.
“90 per cent of Lagos is owned by Igbos. All the investment there, how many of them are going to leave all these things and come back to the East?”