- Â North, Sâ€™East leaders back arrest of proponents of hate, divisive speech
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo Wednesday cautioned the governors of the 36 states of the federation to resist the temptation of playing politics with matters of national security, saying doing so is unhealthy for the countryâ€™s unity.
The acting president made the remark when he unveiled the report of his consultative meetings with leaders from both the North and South-east, which indicated that political, religious and traditional rulers from both regions had given their backing for the arrest of anyone who henceforth engages in unlawful agitations, hate and divisive speeches.
The meetings were the fallout of the threat of secession by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and the ultimatum given by a coalition of Northern youths to Igbos resident in the North to vacate the region.
At the opening session of his meeting with governors in the State House, Abuja, Osinbajo used the forum to give a summary of the output of his meetings with political, religious and traditional rulers from the North and South-east in the past one week.
According to him, all the groups he met agreed that Nigeria remained an indissoluble and sovereign entity whose unity must not be negotiated by anyone, explaining that leaders must imbibe the spirit of prompt reactions to offensive speeches, which had the tendency to lead the nation into civil crisis.
He said the leaders gave the nod to arrest anyone who henceforth makes hate and divisive speeches capable of dragging the nation into bloody and civil conflicts, pointing out that the governors as chief executive officers of their various states have important roles to play in handling such crisis by promptly condemning the acts the moment they come up.
He said crisis often begins with words and if not promptly addressed, it can lead to calamity, noting that the constitution guarantees the sovereignty of Nigeria as well as the peace and safety of all Nigerians in different parts of the country.
He insisted that any Nigerian reserves the right to live in any part of the country without fear.
Osinbajo also said one of the concerns expressed by the leaders he met was the rampaging activities of herdsmen in different parts of the country, describing it as an issue that needed to be confronted and acceptable solutions found to it.
â€œWe 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.
â€œWhat we have seen in recent times is that some of the language 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 rhetoric that may just divide us.
â€œFrom all of the consultations, we have all agreed on certain issues. We agreed that Nigeriaâ€™s unity should not be taken for granted. No one wants to see us go down the path of bloodshed or war.
â€œWe also agreed on the permanence of the Nigerian constitution, that the 1999 Constitution is the basis for our unity. It is the basis for the legal contract that exists between all of us.
â€œOur 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.
â€œWe also agreed that under no circumstances should we condone hate 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.
â€œWe also agreed that we need to do more to engage our youths productively, create some jobs, multiply the economic opportunities available.
â€œMore importantly, we agreed on the need for leaders to speak out forcefully to counter divisive speech or any kind of war mongering.
â€œWe agreed that leaders at all levels must 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.
â€œAll 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.
â€œThis applied to both the statements made by the young people in the Sout-east 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.
â€œWe believe that if the leaders do not speak up forcefully enough, if for any reason, matters are allowed to degenerate, not only does leadership lose their legitimacy, they run the risk of things getting completely out control.
â€œGoing back to some of what was said, some of the issues that came up and I hope that we will discuss in greater details the issues around the herdsmen and farmersâ€™ crisis, especially the way some of these have resulted in flashpoint across the country.
â€œWe 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.
â€œIt is absolutely important that we are able to make lasting and satisfactory solutions to these problems.
â€œOf 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.
â€œI 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.
â€œWe must resist the temptation to play politics especially with matters of security, to reach for simplistic narratives that might be originally expedient and satisfying but false, deceiving and sometimes unhealthy to proper understanding of the issues.
â€œSometimes, intentions are perceived on account of the fact that they have the wrong perception about a particular thing. I think it is in our place to ensure that we dig through the facts and ensure that people are given the facts and ensure that we donâ€™t colour them with politics,â€ he stated.
Addressing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the governors said the secessionists advocating a separate country were wasting their time.
They also appealed to all Nigerians to embrace peace, saying they do not want the country to witness a hate war like Rwanda did.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajiomobi added that the unity of Nigeria was sacroscant.
â€œIt has been unanimously agreed that the unity of this country is sacrosanct, it is non-negotiable and we have all agreed to work together to educate people,â€ he said.
â€œAny time you have agitation, usually there will be poverty, there will be unemployment, there will be hardship. So, we should address fundamentally these areas of poverty, unemployment and hardship.
â€œNigerians are by nature a united people; nobody cares whether you are from the north, south or the east.
â€œThe countryâ€™s unity must be upheld, as we cannot play with it. The consensus has been that there must be unity.
â€œThe message is for Nigerians to work more together and collaborate. We have more to gain when we are united. We cannot afford to break, and anybody who is thinking of that is wasting his time and we will not allow it, not in this country. All of us are unanimous on that.
â€œTo you the media look for what unites us and not sensational stories. If we fight, everybody will lose out. Have you ever seen a country that fought a civil war and remained the same?
â€œWe donâ€™t want to be another Rwanda or Somalia and all these places. The government is doing its best,â€ he said.