By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja and MSUE AZA, Kaduna
….In what seems like a recant of their ethnic grandstanding, the Igbos declared yesterday that they have no where to go and, therefore, are ready to remain in the Northern parts of the country.
President general of Igbo Delegate Assembly, Chief Chikezie Nwogu, and Igbo Chiefs in the 19 Northern states and Abuja who made the declaration said the Igbos will continue to live together with Northerners as brothers and sisters.
Nwogu stated this when he led the Igbo traditional rulers from the 19 Northern states to Kaduna on a courtesy visit to the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
LEADERSHIP had reported exclusively on Monday that youths from the Northern part of the country had appealed to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to allow a complete separation of the Southeast states presently agitating for biafra republic from the federal republic of Nigeria through a peaceful political process.
But the Igbo royal fathers told the Kaduna governor yesterday that they were not happy with the call for division and that they want the country to remain as one, even as they said the Northern youths have been their brothers.
“We are not happy with the call for division. we want Nigeria as one so that all of us can benefit. Northern youths have been our brothers. The Igbos are not going anywhere, we will remain with our Arewa brothers in the north”, Nwogu stated.
Nwogu commended the federal government and Governor el-Rufai for their swift intervention to the quit notice issued the Igbos by the Northern youths, asking them to vacate the the North.
He said, “We are here in Kaduna to hold a meeting based on what has been happening in the North, especially with the Arewa youths’ ultimatum given to Igbos and the agitations by IPOB. We are not here to condemn anybody.We thank the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and other Northern governors, traditional rulers and the Federal government for their interventions in the heat of the issue.
“We want the government to tackle the root causes of agitations and subsequent quit notice by Northern youths and find solution”.
Addressing the Igbo chiefs and leaders in Government House, Kaduna Governor el-Rufai said he has the mandate of the 19 Northern state governors under the chairmanship of Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, to reassure the Igbos and their properties of safety in the North.
He insisted that no matter how long it will take, Arewa youths who issued the quit order to Igbos will be arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.
The governor urged Igbo leaders to also prevail on their youths against making statements and agitations capable of dividing Nigeria.
Governor el-Rufai said: “Kaduna State government is grateful to the Igbos for coming. Kaduna has suffered so much crisis and so, we are very sensitive to comments that incite and cause disaffection among the people. Kaduna used to be a home for all, but so much crisis has divided the state along religious lines.
“As a government, that is why we abolish indigeneship. Once you live in Kaduna you are an indigene. We have arrested so many people for hate speeches and we are trying them. We are going to arrest the Arewa Youths and bring them to justice too, no matter how long it takes.
“If they had done it in any other place we would have just condemned them, but since it is in Kaduna, we are going to arrest them no matter how long it takes. Kaduna has experienced so many crisis in the past and that is why we did not take chances in ordering for their arrest and prosecution.
I have the mandate of the Northern Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, to reassure the Igbos in the 19 Northern states and Abuja that their lives and property are safe in the North”.
Osinbajo Meets Northern Traditional Rulers
Meanwhile, in continuation of his consultations with leaders of thought on increasing tension in the country, Acting President,Yemi Osinbajo met with traditional rulers from the North yesterday.
Osinbajo told the royal fathers that as Nigerians, they must never take the country’s diversity for granted, pointing out that Nigeria must use its diversity as a binding agent and not as divisive tool.
He commended the traditional rulers for their demonstration of commitment and leadership, which he said is heartwarming, adding that there was no doubt that they will all be enriched by the interaction with the federal government.
He noted that the meeting is the third in a series that commenced last week when he met with leaders of thought from the North and leaders of thought from the Southeast, as well as traditional rulers from the Southeast.
The acting president observed that as royal fathers and traditional leaders, their place and role in the society and nation is significant as they are the custodians of Nigeiran cultures and traditions, as well as living embodiment of the country’s rich heritage.
He specifically noted that by virtue of their vast knowledge, wisdom and experience, the traditional rulers who are both a vital link with the country’s past and an important guarantee for the success of its future have a critical role in national affairs.
According to him, the reason for the series of meetings is well known to all Nigerians as it became necessary in the wake of a spate of divisive statements in recent months and weeks that is pitting the Southeast against the North.
He reminded them of what he described as a so-called ‘ultimatum’ issued by a group of Northern youths, asking that all Igbos living in the North vacate the region.
He further stated that before then, there was the clamour, which is still ongoing, by some south-eastern youths, operating as IPOB and affiliated groups, demanding secession from Nigeria at all costs and by any means.
Osinbajo said in all his previous engagements with Northern and South-Eastern leaders, they all came to the consensus that Nigeria is stronger and better together and that the hate-filled and divisive rhetoric and agitations were unjustifiable, unacceptable and often times illegal.
Reiterating that Nigeria has seen enough violence and bloodshed in its history, he said the price of the country’s unity had already been paid in the blood and lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
The acting president recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had spoken of his commitment to one Nigeria as arising from his experience in the military where he fought side by side with Nigerians of every tribe and faith and that they protected each other, put their lives on the line for each other and were brothers even in the face of death.
Noting that this is the type of nation Nigerians must maintain, he said”, As Royal Fathers and Leaders, I think you will agree with me that we all have a role to play in countering the voices of divisiveness, and the elements who seek to take us down a bloody path.
“Let us continue to counsel the misguided elements among our youth, who think that ethnic confrontation is a game and that words can be thrown around carelessly without repercussion. Having said this 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. I would like to assure you all that we are here to listen and to answer, and, very importantly, to reassure everyone that we are committed to the unity of Nigeria, and that upon the foundation of that unity we can together build a prosperous and great country.
“We must never take our diversity for granted; the fullness of our strength actually lies in that diversity. And we must wield that diversity, not as divisive tool, but instead as a binding agent. As we round up these consultations tomorrow with a meeting with governors, it is clear to me that we are all resolved to by words, conduct and action, promote the unity of our dear nation”.
Osinbajo continued: “On our part as government, let me say that we willensure that the entire apparatus of government is deployed to ensure that no one threatens Nigeria’s territorial integrity, that no one threatens the lives or livelihoods of any Nigerian living anywhere in the Federation.
“Our objective is to provide the environment for a prosperous nation, a nation where all regardless of ethnicity or religion can pursue their legitimate aspirations peacefully and securely. Once again I thank you for your time, and your unyielding cooperation and support.
“May the Almighty God continue to give you the wisdom and the strength to preside over your Kingdoms and the good health to reign long and reign well”.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the Etsu Nupe, Yahaya Abubakar, said they sat down with the acting president and discussed what has been going on in the country and that he appealed to them to talk to their people .
He noted that the youths need to know the history of the country, especially the civil war, as most of the people now agitating were not even born during the cwar.
He also harped on the need for the traditional rulers to ensure that the traditional institutions tell their people to ensure that they live in peace.
The royal father also stated that the acting president tasked them to support the move by the government to ensure peace and unity in the country.
Traditional rulers present present at the meeting were Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III; Emir Of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II; Etsu Nupe Alhaji Dr Yahaya Abubakar; Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sule Gambari; Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Mustapha Agwai; Alhaji Kyari Umar El-Kanemi, Shehu of Bama representing Shehu of Borno and Gbong Gwon Jos, Jacob Buba Jang.
Others are HRH Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar, Emir of Gombe; Idakwo Ameh Oboni 11, Attah Igala; Alhaji Muhammadu Ibn Abali, Emir of Fika; Alhaji Attahiru Ahmed Muhammed, Emir of Zamfara; Professor James Ayatse, Tor Tiv and Alhaji Adamu Buba Baba Yinusa, Emir of Abaji.
Others include Alhaji Muhammed Isah Muhammed, Emir of Jama; Justice Lawal Hassan, Emir of Gumi and coordinator of the Northern traditional rulers council; Alhaji Emmanuel, Etsu Karu and the representative of the Emir of Katsina, Prof. Sani Lugard.
Others present at the meeting include; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu; Minister of Interior,bAbdulrahman Danbazzau and National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno.