Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Some politicians and leaders from the northern part of the country have started an initiative aimed at reconciling various groups in the region to agree to a common agenda for peace and development.
The leaders, under the auspices of Northern Elders Assembly, have been rallying support of eminent political leaders in the north such as former military Heads of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Abdulsalam Abubakar, and former Vice President, Namadi Sambo.
Speaking to journalists weekend at his residence in Abuja shortly after a meeting with some elders, former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar advised Nigerians to embrace peace and be ready to volunteer information on the identities of perpetrators of the killings and destruction in parts of the country.
The former Head of State said for the county to enjoy meaningful development everyone must allow peace to reign. He also charged politicians from all sides of the divide to join hands to ensure that there is peace in the country ahead of the 2019 elections, adding that without peace, there would be no nation.
â€œI have no other advice to give than solicit for peace. Peace is paramount to everything. If there is no peace, there is no nation, if there is no peace there would not be any politicking. So it is absolutely necessary for each and every one of us to put hands on deck to ensure that there is peace in the country,â€ he said.
On his advice to political parties as they engage in campaigns for the 2019 general election, the former Head of State said: â€œthey should make peace. Once you have peace, you always solve any problem.â€
When asked about his concerns over spate of killings by armed herdsmen, Abubakar said the reason senseless killings and criminality had continued unabated was because people were not ready to identify the causes and those behind it so as to nip it in the bud.
â€œThese criminals, are they Nigerians or they are foreigners and if they are foreigners have we been told where they are coming from, are we given intelligenceâ€ And if they are Nigerians, are they not our brothers and sisters, donâ€™t we know them? or canâ€™t we expose them? So each and every one of us has a role to play,â€ he said
On what he thinks can be done to put an end to the spate of killings in the country, he said: â€œyou see I wander at people when start asking this question, me and you and every Nigerian have a role to play in ending this carnage.
Abubakar said: â€œGovernment is not just all in the Villa; we and every person they represent are part and parcel of this government. Let us keep praying that God will look at us with mercy so all these criminality and other ills will come to an end and for us to have a peaceful country.
â€œAll these senseless killings and criminality that are going on will not serve any purpose. So please letâ€™s try and make sure that we give peace a chanceâ€.
A top woman politician, a former minister, Hajia Inna Ciroma who volunteered to speak to journalists on the outcome of the various consultative a meetings with the leaders said they have agreed to support the agenda of the group to ensure the north speaks with one voice once again.
â€œAs you know we have been going round meeting with our leaders, especially former Presidents and Heads of States of northern extraction. We have been trying to get them to support this initiative and we are very happy that they have all supported us and also that General Abdulsalam Abubakar has agreed to be one of our patrons.
â€œApart from him, all the other leaders we have visited have advised that all the northern groups must unite. There is no need to have different groups from the north. They have advised that all of us must unite and I think that is what they will work on, to see that all the born groups are united,â€ she said.
When asked to comment on the insinuation that their consultations were all geared towards mobilising the north for. 2019 election, she said: â€œNo, not at all, in this group, we are non partisan and we are all free to support any political party of our choice. It is all about the 2019 election because there is no we have a candidate that is acceptable to all of us. It is about the unity and progress of the north. You know that the north is presently facing a lot of challenges.
â€œSo if the northern people donâ€™t come together and look at how this problem can be solved, it will be affecting the whole country. Therefore I think it is high time we rise up to address these challenges.â€
She said under the emerging Northern Nigeria Leaders Assembly, a committee is being devoted to tackle the issue of insecurity ravaging the region.
Earlier while speaking on the mission of the group, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi said the body is a non partisan one intended to rally leaders and people of the northern Nigeria to work on a common agenda of securing peace and development for the region.
Before meeting with Abubakar, the group which included, politicians such as former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, and Halilu Nello also met with Gowon and Sambo on Friday evening.