By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah,
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday that the federal government will do everything within its power to defend and uphold Nigeria’s Sovereignty as enshrined in the constitution.
He stated this when he met with leaders of thought from the Southeastern part of the country in continuation of government’s moves to douse tension in the country, following drums of war being played by secessionist in some parts of the country.
“We are also resolute in our determination to protect every Nigerian, everywhere in the country.We will do everything within our power to defend and uphold the terms of our constitution, which declares that we are one nation under God”, Osinbajo noted.
In his opening remarks at a meeting with the Southeast leaders at the banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja yesterday, Osinbajo said the meeting was very urgent and crucial because of the current loud voices of hate speeches and divisive comments resonating across the country.
Unlike yesterday’s meeting with leaders of thought from the North, all the governors of the Southeast were present at the meeting.
Osinbajo recalled that there have been hostile agitations by youths in the southeast, calling for secession of the region from Nigeria, which was followed by the recent ultimatum issued by a coalition of youth groups from the North, asking all South-easterners living in the North to leave by October 1 this year.
Consequent upon this, he noted that after meeting with the Igbo leaders, he will also meet with religious and traditional leaders from the North and from the Southeast tomorrow and Monday respectively, before the final consultation next week Thursday in which all the leaders of thought in the country will come together for further engagement and consultation.
“I also plan at some time in between to meet with the Nigerian Governors Forum”, he added.
Osinbajo observed that both of these expressions and agitations from both sides “have been attended with some controversial and hateful vituperations including patently illegal and violence-inducing remarks.
He told the Igbo leaders that it is in government’s bid to deal with these grievances that he convened the series of consultations with various groups, even as he said the federal government will never shy away from the responsibility of ensuring and upholding the peace and security of the country.
His words: “As leaders, we carry the burden to secure the peace, progress and prosperity of our people, and that is why our voices ought to be heard and heard loud and clear at moments like this in the defense and articulation of what is truly beneficial to the nation and the people, and what is right and patriotic.
“Nigeria has gone through some really difficult times. We have survived bloody coups, several rounds of ethno-religious violence, and emerged from a long and bloody Civil War. All of us here have seen close-up what violence can do to a country, and I believe I speak for us all when I say that no one here is keen to see Nigeria embroiled in violence or bloodshed of any kind.
“Especially not when we are only just emerging from a brutal insurgency that has consumed more than 20,000 of our brothers and sisters and children, as well as the better part of a decade”.
He said, “Indeed you’re all aware of the Igbo proverb that says that “A man who rushes into battle does not realize that battle entails death.” We are witnesses to the unspeakable devastation that war continues to inflict across the world. No one who has seen the horrors of war – even just on television – would wish it on their worst enemy.
“It is also clear that wars sometimes start, not with bullets, but with words. Hateful, incendiary speech, opening floodgates of blood. The tongue, like the pen, is often mightier than the sword – because it is what pushes the sword into action. When we throw words like stones in a marketplace we do not know who or what it will hit.
“Knowing this, under no conditions whatsoever should we tolerate or excuse or justify hate speech or hateful conduct of any kind, especially where such is illegal”.
Acknowledging that as part of living together in the space called Nigeria, misunderstandings and frustrations are inevitable, Osinbajo said because resources are limited, there will always be a striving to get what is perceived as the best seat at the table.
He said, “All of that is normal and to be expected, especially in a democracy, like ours. A healthy democracy ought to be a theatre of energetic striving by all parties and stakeholders. But things should never descend to a level where mutual suspicions override the desire to live together in peace and harmony.
“Yesterday I made it very clear that hate or divisive speech, or divisive behaviour, where it is illegal, will be met with the full force of the law. I will say it again today”.
He also reiterated that his stance at the meeting with Northern leaders that the federal government will stop at nothing to deal with troublemakers makers in the country.
He stated: “Let there be no doubt whatsoever of the resolve of government to ensure that no one will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause division or violence. We will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or to disrupt the peace of Nigeria. And we will not tolerate such.
“It also guarantees the free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the country, as well as full residence rights for every citizen in all and any parts of the land of their choice. It is also the aspiration of the Constitution to ensure a country in which, and I quote, “loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.
“And it is the responsibility of the Government to create the conditions for the attainment of these ideals. There is something that President Buhari is fond of saying: that without peace and security there can be no development. We cannot develop a country that is not in the first place safe and secure for all its people. For this reason we take extremely seriously our constitutional responsibilities as your government.
Some of those present at the meeting were Senate Preaident Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; governors of Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra and Imo.
Others include chief of staff to the president Abba Kyari; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; NSA; chief of defence staff, other service chiefs; IGP and ministers.
Others are former Senate President, Ken Namani; Senator Eyinaya Abaribe; Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Catholic Awka Bishop Okoye; Igwebike Onah, Catholic archbishop of Nssuka; Senator Joy Emordi and Professor Viola Nwuleri
Disregard Relocation Order, Lai Mohammed Tells Igbos
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday reiterated its position to the igbos living in the north that they disregard the quit order given to them by Arewa Youths.
This was disclosed by the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council meeting yesterday at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The minister assured Nigerians that the federal government was on top of the matter, saying just yesterday, the acting president addressed leaders from the Northern part of the country in this regard.
Mohammed said, “The call for secession and call for people from certain parts of the country to relocate from regions are generally very disquieting voices. The idea is not just to assure Nigerians that we are doing something about it, but also to give comfort to all Nigerians that this matter is completely under control. To assure any Nigerian that anywhere you are is safe.
“The security authorities are completely atop of the matter and that they will deal decisively with any group of people whose conduct the government believes is going to create instability in the country. So, there is no need for you to panic. There is no need for anybody to move from any part of the country. The security agencies are on top of the matter”.