By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, ANDREW ESSIEN, Abuja, MIDAT JOSEPH, MSUE AZA, Kaduna and ANKELI EMMANUEL, Sokoto
Igbo leaders in the 19 Northern states and Abuja under the auspices of Ohanaeze Ndigbo yesterday finally made their position clear on agitations from the Southeast, saying the clamour by people from the zone is about restructuring Nigeria and not about separation.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo implicitly denounced the indigenous people of biafra, a militant group led by Nnamdi Kanu, which has been playing drums of secession and creating sectional unrest in the country.
“We want justice, equity and fairness to ethnic nationalities”, the Igbo leaders declared during a visit to the leadership of the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) to seek mutual collaboration among the people from that part of Kaduna State.
Speaking at SOKAPU’s headquarters on Tuesday, the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Chief Austine Amaechi, said, “We have faith in one Nigeria; we don’t want to leave. Our agitation is not for Biafra but for justice, fairness and equity.
“We want a Nation that is fair to all the ethnic nationalities, we want to partner with the people of Southern Kaduna in order to built relationship across the Niger”. Readmit
Responding, SOKAPU president, Solomom Kaptain Musa, disassociated the people of Southern Kaduna from the quit noticed issued the Igbos by Northern youths, even as he noted that “Igbo people have been living in peace in our land without any trouble.
“We in Southern Kaduna desire restructuring, we desire the full implementation of the 2014 CONFAB report, we desire Gurara State”, he added.
He lashed out at the federal government for failing to arrest the Northern youths who asked the Igbos residing in the North to leave the region, adding “it appears there are secret cows in the Nigeria project”.
Musa said the people of Southern Kaduna are ever ready to partner with any ethnic nationality in order to ensure the restructuring of Nigeria, adding thatv“Nigeria belongs to all of us and there must be justice and equity to other ethnic nationalities”.
FG Not Deaf To Legitimate Concerns – Osinbajo
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government was not deaf to grievances in parts of the country.
According to him, the federal government will address them as far as those nursing such grievances express them with grace.
This was the Highlights of the series of consultations the acting president had with leaders from the North, Southeast and the media in the last two weeks.
The consultative meetings were convened to provide a platform for frank and open discussions between concerned stakeholders and Nigerians public on issues relating to the unity, peace and security of country.
A statement by media aide to the acting president, Laolu Akande, noted that, while this set of consultations were concluded last week, the presidency will continue to actively engage with different segments of the Nigerian population at different stages and format in the near future.
He quoted Osinbajo as stating: “There is a point where a line has to be drawn, and that is when conversations or agitations degenerate into hateful rhetoric, where the narrative descends into pejorative name-calling, expressions of outright prejudice and hatred.
“Let me say that we are not deaf to the legitimate concerns and frustrations arising from around the country. Every part of Nigeria has its own grievances. But these have to be expressed graciously and managed with mutuality rather than with scorn and disdain.”
“All of us have agreed that our nation must remain one… I think that there is clarity as to that one thing, that our country ought to remain, must remain, a united country”.
The acting president noted that it will be wrong for Nigerians to approach their grievances by threatening to disobey the laws or by threatening the integrity of the country.
“I firmly believe that we ought to address these agitations and proclamations urgently and decisively. Burying our heads in the sand and expecting the storms to blow over of their own accord is not an option”, he added.
Akande stated that, while the meetings established common ground on a number of issues, it condemned all the hateful and divisive rhetoric by the concerned groups of Northern and Southeastern youths.
He said the meetings affirmed the primacy of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, which is the ultimate basis for the unity of Nigeria, just as they noted that constitution guarantees freedom of residence and of movement for all Nigerians anywhere in the country, without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
He said the meetings, however, affirmed the need to draw a line between the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution and the degeneration of such expression into hateful rhetoric, prejudice and hatred.
According to the presidential aide, the meetings resolved that under no circumstances will the government condone or tolerate hate speech
in any way or form, even as he said the interactions “affirmed the necessity of confronting all grievances and frustrations head-on, however uncomfortable that might seem now instead of ignoring issues and allowing them to fester.
“(The meetings) affirmed the need for all leaders and elders, regardless of political or ideological persuasion to speak out more forcefully to counter divisive and hate speech and any form of warmongering”, he added.
Hinting that consultations was still ongoing, Akande said “The Federal Government will continue to actively engage with Nigerians of all shades and opinions in its bid to move the country forward on a path of socio-economic development and ultimate greatness”.
Issues, Agitations Transcend Ethnicity, Religion – Atiku
Former vice president and Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar, has observed that agitations for secession would not have arisen if the country had shown sincere readiness to address the underlying problems that feed the agitations by separatist forces around the country.
He, however, described as patriotic the convergence of positions around restructuring by leaders and stakeholders from diverse regions of the country, noting that it confirms that he (Atiku Abubakar) was not just a lone voice in the wilderness in the inevitability of restructuring of Nigeria for the good of all.
In a statement issued by his media office yesterday, Atiku further commended the resolution of the APC governors, which called for restructuring and true federalism, saying that the issue transcended religion and ethnicity.
According to the Waziri Adamawa, the restructuring debate transcended the ambition of any single politician in Nigeria, and that any attempt to ignore the agitations could make a bad situation more complicated.
Explaining that avoiding a problem won’t solve that problem, he stated that with so much hate, distrust, suspicions and fears in the country, political leaders shouldn’t be afraid to confront the challenge.
His words: “Our current federal structure should be freely discussed by allowing the federating units voice their grievances with a view to finding workable solutions that protects the rights and interests of all.
“The country could not afford to allow bottled up frustrations of the people to explode into violence, which threatens not only innocent lives, but also harms the country’s economic assets”.
Atiku praised the progressive governors and other leaders
as well as interest groups for their courage to confront the country’s most urgent national challenge, adding that separatist agitations are dangerously threatening the country’s unity and indivisibility.
He pointed out that, to his mind, no country could afford to take these threats lightly.
Agitations Are Symptoms Of Rot In Nigerian System – Sultan
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto and president general of Nigerian Superme Council for Islamic Affairs (NISCIA), Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, said yesterday that agitations have become a recurrent decimal in the country lately because of the rot in the system.
He said if the system was working normal over the years, there would not have been room for any agitation from whatever quarter, adding that because impunity was tolerated for too long, people now behave as it pleases them.
Speaking in Sokoto when Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, paid him Sallah homage in his palace, the Sultan said such wrong deeds backed by impunity gave birth to lack of good governance which is now steering the country in the face.
Maintaining that Nigerians should believe in her greatness, he sued for dialogue in resolving perceived misunderstandings.
The royal father said, “In the past, a lot of things were done by some people with impunity and nothing was done. That is why you find lack of good governance weighing us down now in the country.
“However, as it is now, no matter how bad your hand is, you cannot cut it and throw away, hence the need to employ dialogue to resolve all the misunderstandings and problems in the country”.
The religious and traditional leader admonished Nigerians never to get tired of sitting together to brainstorm, analyse what went wrong and retrace their steps to enable them collectively move forward as one indivisible entity.
Towards achieving this, the Sultan appealed to elder statesmen in the country to urgently wade into the sectional crises.
“We should not allow sentiments to rule our heads. Nigeria is our only country and we have no any other nation than it. We are not short of them across Nigeria and they should help the country by championing the dialogue. We should love one another irrespective of any religious, ethnic or cultural differences”, he stated.
Assessing Wike’s developmental strides in Rivers State, the Sultan commended the governor for his belief in the indivisibility of Nigeria and maintaining a very cordial relationship with the Muslim community in his state.
Earlier, Governor Wike said that the people and government of Rivers State believe in the indissolubility of Nigeria.
According to him, rather than contemplating break up as an option, a better way of resolving perceived grievances should be employed.
Let’s come to discussion table without sentiments – ACF
Meanwhile, the apex Northern socio-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said yesterday that the North will only support a restructuring that is genuine, just, fair and equitable to all Nigerians, as well as on in which stakeholders come to the table without sentiments
Reacting to the growing calls for the nation’s restructuring, ACF spokesman, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, observed with regret that in most cases, the discussions on restructuring had been taking place without regards to the present democratic structure.
According to ACF, it should be clear to all agitators that restructuring of a complex, big and diverse country like Nigeria is a serious business that must take account of the views of all its citizens and not just of those that shout the loudest.
ACF hinted further that it will back restructuring discussions that are free of threats, intimidation or blackmail from any group or individual.
The statement reads: “Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) wishes to lend its voice to the debate as to whether or not to restructure the federation of Nigeria. However, ACF has observed with regret that in most cases, the discussions are taking place without regard to our present democratic structure, as the issues are in some cases presented as ‘demands’ by one group or the other.
“Unfortunately, in most cases they are followed up by some ultimatum to the government to accept or face deadly consequences. It should be clear to all the agitators that restructuring a complex, big and diverse country as Nigeria is a serious business that must take account of the views of all its citizens, and not just of those that shout the loudest.
“More so, such discussions must be free of threats, intimidation or blackmail from any group or individual. A genuine restructuring must therefore be just, fair and equitable to all. Furthermore, it must strengthen our democracy, unity, peace and development of the Nigerian components. ACF therefore calls for a due process through our present democratic structure rather than just crass agitation, if we are to achieve ‘true’ federalism”.
Former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd), had in his Eid-el-Fitr message to the nation joined the call for restructuring of the country, a development which sparked fresh debate on the matter within the week.