Piqued by the order issued to Ndigbo living in the northern part of the country to vacate the north on or before October 1, 2017 by the coalition of norther youths, the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN had been busy trying to find lasting peace to the matter. He has had meeting with the leaders of both nationalities to calm frayed nerves.
Having met with leaders of the north on Tuesday June 13, 2017, where he cautioned them on the dangers of allowing their youths to chant war songs in the country, he said loyalty to the nation should prevail over ethnic interest. Just yesterday (Wednesday June 14, 2017), he again met with leaders from the south-east and like the pastor that he is, Prof. Osinbajo continued to sue for peace and tolerance.
It was after the meeting that the government claimed it was on top of situation in the country and encouraged the people of the south-east zone to disregard the ultimatum given to them by a coalition of northern youths. The ultimatum to the Igbo actually triggered off widespread condemnation. Yesterday too, the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria condemned in strong terms the unguarded utterance from northern youths.
Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who briefed State House correspondents at the end of weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, the, said the federal government’s commitment to nipping the matter in the bud was the reason Acting President Osinbajo met with northern leaders on Tuesday and south-east leaders Wednesday. He also said Osinbajo would in the same vein meet with traditional rulers from the South-east Friday and on June 22 hold a consultative meeting with all groups from the two zones, including traditional rulers, religious leaders and leaders of thought.
He said, “With regards to what we know is agitating the minds of Nigerians; that is, calls for secession, calls for certain parts of the country to relocate to their regions, generally, we have been hearing disquieting voices. We want to assure Nigerians that the federal government is on top of the situation and yesterday (Tuesday), the Acting president addressed the leaders from the northern part of the country and on Wednesday those from South-east. On Friday, he’s going to address South-east traditional rulers and leaders of thought. On June 22, there will be a joint consultative meeting of all the groups, that is, traditional rulers, religious leaders and leaders of thought from both the South-east and the other parts of Nigeria. The idea is not just to assure Nigerians that we are doing something about it but to give comfort to all Nigerians that this matter is under control; to assure Nigerians that any Nigerian anywhere in Nigeria is safe.
“The security authorities are completely on top of the matter and they will deal decisively with any group of people whose conduct is going to create instability in the country. So there is no need for anybody to panic. There is no need to move from any part of the country. The security agencies are on top of the situation and there is no reason for anybody to panic,” he said.
Meanwhile, Osinbajo had in the meetings reiterated the resolve of the government to ensure that anyone who beats the drums of war would be duly punished under the weight of the law. He warned against divisive and hate speech, threatening that anyone who engaged in such acts would be dealt with decisively. Addressing the South-east leaders, Osinbajo informed them: “After this, I will meet with religious and traditional leaders from the North and from the South-east on Friday and Monday, respectively.
“And then, in the final consultation next week Thursday, all of us from the North and South, will come together in the same room for further engagement and consultation. I also plan at some time in between to meet with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. “These consultations are necessary and important, because of recent events in the country. You are all aware that there have been loud and sometimes hostile agitations by youths in the South-east, calling for secession of the region from Nigeria. “Then there was the recent ultimatum issued by a group of youths from the north, asking all South-easterners living in the north to leave by October 1 this year. These expressions and agitations from both sides have been attended with some controversial and hateful vituperations, including patently illegal and violence inducing remarks.
“I firmly believe that we ought to address these agitations and proclamations urgently and decisively. Burying our heads in the sand and expecting the storm to blow over of its own accord is not an option.” The acting president, who further stated that those who had been privileged to be leaders in the society must be agents of peace and progress, observed that Nigeria had gone through turbulent times, a path he said the country could not afford to tread again. According to him, the country had survived bloody coups, several rounds of ethno-religious violence, a long and bloody civil war, adding: “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.” He informed the gathered that preparing the grounds for more violence when Nigeria was just emerging from a brutal insurgency, which he said had consumed more than 20,000 Nigerians, would be ill-conceived.
“One thing is clear – violence and war are terrible things. They are easy to start but near impossible to end. Indeed, you are all aware of the Igbo proverb that says that ‘a man who rushes into battle does not realise 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,” he added.
“I will say it again today, 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. We are also resolute in our determination to protect every Nigerian, everywhere in the country,” Osinbajo said.
Present at the meeting were Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara both also attended the meeting with the leaders from the north when they met Osinbajo. Also there were Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin and Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, South-east governors, namely, Umahi (Ebonyi), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Willy Obiano (Anambra) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo); President-General of Ohanaeze-Ndigbo, John Nwodo; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; former Senate President, Ken Namani; Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; former Anambra State governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; former Ebonyi State governor, Sam Egwu; Awka Catholic Bishop Okoye; Catholic Archbishop of Nsukka, Igwebike Onah; Senator Joy Emordi, former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri; and other ministers and a host of others.