Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday met with Northern traditional rulers and charged them to always speak up against hate speeches and divisive voices in their respective domains.
In his opening remarks at the meeting held at the old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr. Osinbajo said the meeting had become imperative in view of a spate of divisive statements in recent weeks, pitching the South-East against the North.
He maintained that the divisive rhetoric and agitations were unjustifiable, unacceptable and often times illegal.
“You are, by virtue of your vast knowledge, wisdom and experience, both a vital link with our past, and an important guarantee for the success of our future. This is why your role in national affairs is critical.
“The reason for these series of meetings is well known to all of us; it became necessary in the wake of a spate of divisive statements, in recent months and weeks, pitching the South-East against the North.
“We are all aware of the so-called ‘ultimatum’ issued by a group of Northern youths, asking that all Igbos living in the North vacate the region.
“Before then, there was the clamour, and it’s still on-going, by some south-eastern youths, operating as IPOB and affiliated groups, demanding secession from Nigeria at all costs and by any means.
“In all our previous engagements with Northern and South-Eastern leaders, we all came to the consensus that Nigeria is stronger and better together, and that these hate-filled and divisive rhetoric and agitations are unjustifiable, unacceptable and often times illegal. And I would like to reiterate that today.” he said.
The acting president said that the traditional rulers had a great role to play in checking the divisive tendencies in the country.
He stressed that Nigeria had already seen enough violence and bloodshed during its history.
According to him, the price of Nigeria’s unity has already been paid with the blood and lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians lost.
Recalling President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to one Nigeria from his experience in the military, Mr. Osinbajo said Mr. Buhari fought side by side with Nigerians of every tribe and faith.
The acting president said: “We must protect each other, put our lives on the line for each other; we were brothers even in the face of death. This is the type of nation we must maintain.
“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.”
Mr. Osinbajo assured the traditional rulers that the “government is not deaf to the legitimate concerns and frustrations in parts of 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.”
He urged all Nigerians to never take the nation’s diversity for granted, saying the fullness of the nation’s 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.” he said
He, however, assured that the government would ensure that “the entire apparatus of government is deployed to ensure that no one threatens Nigeria’s territorial integrity and that no one threatens the lives or livelihoods of any Nigerian living anywhere in the country’’.
While thanking the traditional rulers for their unyielding cooperation and support, Mr. Osinbajo prayed that almighty God would continue to give them the wisdom and the strength to preside over their kingdoms and the good health to reign long and reign well.
Among those who attended the meeting included the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar III; Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi; and the Etsu Nupe, Yahaya Abubakar.
Others were, Muhammed, the Emir of Jama’a in Kaduna State; Lawal Hassan, the Emir of Gummi; the Coordinator of the Northern traditional rulers council, Sakaruyi of Karo, Emmanuel Kyauta, and the representative of the Emir of Katsina, Sani Lugga, the Waziri Katsina.
The Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Gambari; Mustapha Agwai II, Emir of Lafia in Nasarawa State; Kyari El-Kanemi, Shehu of Bama representing Shehu of Borno and the Gbong Gwon Jos, Jacob Jang, also attended the meeting.
Also at the meeting were Abubakar, Emir of Gombe; Ndakwo Oboni II, Attah Igala, Kogi State; Muhammadu Ibn Abali, the Emir of Fika in Yobe; Attahiru Muhammed, Emir of Anka in Zamfara and James Ayatse, the Tor Tiv.
Adamu Yinusa, the Emir of Abaji, FCT; the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu; Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazzau; National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, also attended the meeting.
The Acting President on Sunday met with traditional rulers from the South-East in continuation of his on-going consultative meetings with leaders of thought across the country.
Mr. Osinbajo will on Wednesday meet with the 36 governors of the federation as part of the on-going consultative meetings with stakeholders in the “Project Nigeria.”