By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah and MUYIWA OYINLOLA,
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday met with governors of the 36 states of the federation for over four hours in furtherance of his consultations on the three-month ultimatum handed the Igbos by Northern youths to relocate from the region.
The ultimatum was issued by the youth groups in response to the agitation for a biafran state by the Nnamdi Kanu-led indigenous people of biafra (IPOB).
The acting president had met separately with leaders of thought and traditional rulers from both the North and the South East.
Before yesterday’s meeting entered into a closed door session at the State House conference centre, Osinbajo told the state chief executives that they have a huge role to play in ensuring peace and security in their respective domains.
Declaring that leaders in the country should show greater unity of purpose, he warned them against playing politics with issues of security.
He said, “We must resist the temptation to play politics especially with matters of security, but to reach for simplistic narratives that might be originally expedient and satisfying but false, deceiving and sometimes unhealthy to proper understanding of the issues.
“Sometimes intensions are perceived on the account of the fact that they have wrong perception about a particular thing. I think it is in our place to ensure that we dig down the fact and ensure that people are given the fact and ensure that we don’t colour them with politics”.
He said the federal government is committed to working with the states to ensure peace and security and to continuously assure Nigerians of their safety in all parts of the country.
He noted that the issues facing the country currently are centred around unity in diversity, adding that “we need to handle the issues carefully”, even as he pointed out that they have been occasionally exploited by politicians for selfish reasons.
Osinbajo emphasised the need for use of moderate language in expressing agitations and grievances, saying that freedom of expression is not tantamount to call to anarchy through careless utterances.
The acting president noted that the consultative meetings earlier held agreed that Nigeria’s unity should not be taken for granted.
He said there was also a unanimous agreement by stakeholders that the leadership of the country should do everything possible to avoid bloodshed and violence arising from the current agitations.
Osinbajo equally noted that there was consensus among participants that the constitutionally guaranteed freedom and equality of all citizens should be upheld and respected.
He warned that any attempt to dislocate any Nigerian from any part of the country will not be tolerated, adding that the country’s sovereignty and insolubility is not negotiable.
Accordingly, he advised that leaders should not condone hateful or divisive speeches, even as he said government will do everything possible to productively engage the youths in the country to prevent them from being used as tools for perpetrating violence.
He urged them to also speak out forcefully and promptly against any kind of divisive speech without waiting to be prompted.
Osinbajo said, “We must not allow the careless use of words, careless expressions that may degenerate into crisis. We are a people that like to talk and we express ourselves loudly but it is expected for us to recognise that it is those same words that can cause conflagration that can unfortunately lead to calamity.
“We must be careful of how we express ourselves. What we have seen in recent times is that some of the languages used have tended to degenerate badly and I think that we must begin to speak up against some of these things and ensure that we protect our democracy and our nation from the hands of rhetorics that may just divide us.
“From all of the consultations, we have all agreed on certain issues. We agreed that Nigeria’s unity should not be taken for granted. No one wants to see us go down the path of bloodshed or war. We also agreed on the permanency of the Nigerian constitution, that the1999 constitution is the basis for our unity. It is the basis for the legal contract that exists between all of us.
“Our meetings were frank and open as I hope this will be, we were able to agree on most of the critical issues that were discussed and in most cases changed perceptions that may have been long embedded in their minds”.
The acting president continued: “We also agreed that under no circumstances should we condone hateful speeches and that government should take all steps necessary to bring to book all those who preach violence, in particular the kind of expressions of dissent that can cause violence.
“We also agreed that we need to do more to engage our youth productively, create some jobs, multiply the economic opportunities available. More importantly we agreed on the need for leaders to speak out forcefully to counter divisive speech or any kind of woe mongering.
“we agreed that leaders at all levels speak out forcefully against any kind of divisiveness or divisive speech. And we expect that our political leaders will do so without waiting to be prompted”.
According to Osinbajo, all of those who spoke felt that sometimes when leaders do not speak up promptly it always results in degeneration, no matter what the problem may be.
He said, “This applies to both the statement made by the young people in the Southeast as well as the youths in the Northern states. We discovered there was a need for much greater resonance in the way that these things are done and for the leaders to speak up more forcefully.
“We believe that if the leaders do not speak up forcefully enough and if for any reason matters are allowed to degenerate, not only does leadership lose their legitimacy, they run the risk of things going completely out control”.
Osinbajo commended the leaders from the North and South for their openness at the consultations, stating that they were extremely responsible even in their criticisms of what they felt were issues that should have been better handled.
He said, “I think that their criticisms were fair and balanced. I must commend them for their sense of responsibility and their leadership.
“Going back to what was said, some of the issues that came up and I hope that we will discuss in greater details are the issues around the herdsmen and farmers crisis, especially the way that some of these have resulted in flashpoint across the country. We started those discussions during the consultations we had and I believe that we will be able to deepen those discussions in our meeting and possibly hold a more expanded meeting where we will be able to take a closer look at it.
“It is absolutely important that we are able to make lasting and satisfactory solutions to these problems. Of course the problems are multidimensional but the states have a very important role to play, especially because they are in control of land in their territories. I must say that I trust that all of us appreciate the need to show greater unity of purpose and the determination to work together to resolve various challenges that arise on a constant basis for the benefit of all Nigerians regardless of party affiliations”.
Dialogue With Northern Youths Best Option – Kwankwaso
Meanwhile, former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, has called for caution over the call for the arrest of members of a youth group asking the Igbos resident in the Northern part of the country to vacate the area before 1 October, this year.
While describing such call as unpatriotic and capable of causing national insecurity, he also urged the governors and other leaders in the Northern part of the country that have called for their arrest to rather dialogue with the youths.
The politician, who currently represents the people of Kano central Senatorial district in the National Assembly made this disclosure yesterday in Abuja during a media parley with some journalists.
He further noted that arresting the young men would rather aggravate the already tensed atmosphere, even as he described the people of Igbo extraction as bona fide citizens of the country who are free to live in any part of the country just like every other Nigerian.
“The general belief in the North is that we are better together as a country”, he said, noting that the unity and development of the country should be of paramount concern of every Nigerian.
He attributed the tension that the pronouncement of the youths as well as the counter call made by another group in the South had generated to the weakness in the nation’s political order, as well as the silence of the elders who ought to call the youths to order.
His words, “Many people are afraid to call the youths to order; if they are wrong, they are wrong”.
He, however, commended the steps taken so far by the federal government and particularly Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who has been holding series of meetings with leaders of thoughts from various parts of the country as well security chiefs in a bid to ensure there is peace in the country.
He also stated that the agitation of the Igbos which borders on the need for better representation at the centre and the need for even development of their zone could be addressed without resulting to threat of secession.
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