FREEPRESS – The Federal Government yesterday warned of dire consequences for anyone who makes hate speeches capable of disrupting the peace of the country.Acting President Yemi Osinbajo issued the warning when he met with foremost leaders of northern extraction in the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, vowing to ensure that any form of divisive behaviour is met with the full force of the law.
”I want to ensure that there is no doubt at all that it is the resolve of the government that none will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause sedition or violence because when we make these kinds of pronouncement and do things that can cause violence or destruction of lives and property, we are no longer in control. Those who make those speeches are no longer in control.”
The quit notice given to Igbo in the north, if not well managed, could lead to ethnic hostilities that may cause the disintegration of the country. The meeting was the first phase of the government’s special engagements with regional leaders, including religious and traditional heads from the north and south-eastern part of the country in a bid to quickly arrest the emerging ethnic crisis. The parley came on the heels of the recent outrage that greeted the ultimatum by Arewa youths to Igbo to vacate the northern states.
The Acting President will today (Wednesday) meet with leaders from the south east, and on Friday hold a session with traditional rulers from the same area. He would later on Sunday conclude the effort with a meeting with the traditional rulers from the north.
Addressing the northern leaders yesterday, Osinbajo acknowledged that in the course of living together, misunderstandings and frustration are inevitable, but noted that “we can only begin to talk about any part of anything if we are together in peace.”
He likened the emerging hate speeches from across the regions to stones thrown into the market which he said are likely to hit targets not intended. “I need us to be fully conscious of that and the Nigerian people must be made to be fully conscious of that so that we do not create a crisis that is not intended. These days, wars do not end, and I am sure that those who have seen or experienced war in any shape or form will not wish it on their worst enemies.
“As a government, we are determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution, and I say that hate and divisive speech or divisive behavior, where it is illegal, will be met with the full force of the law”, he said.
In attendance at the meeting, which was ongoing at press time, were the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Mongunu (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin; Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum and former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Comassie; Prof. Ango Abdullahi; former governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wammako; former deputy governor of Plateau State, Pauline Tallen; Publisher of Leadership , Sam Ndah-Isaiah; Deputy Leader, Northern Elders Forum, Wantaregh Paul Unongo; and former Chief of Defence Staff, General Martins Luther Agwai.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Mandate Union (EMU) led by elder statesman, Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo has canvassed a meeting of the various ethnic groups in Nigeria to discuss modalities of disengagement or dissolution of the Nigerian state without violence.
The group expressed regret that Nigeria has failed to weave a nation out of the ethnicities that make it up since its political independence and reiterated its support for any ethnic group that wants to pull out of the country.
Reacting to the recent quit notice to the Igbo in the north, EMU stated that it was sheer waste of time to continue to force the people to live together, insisting that the various agitations are enough signals that Nigeria should be reworked.
The group urged the Igbo living in northern Nigeria to begin to make arrangements for relocation back home to avoid a repeat of the events of 1966 pogrom, stressing that the ultimatum by the coalition of northern youths should be taken seriously notwithstanding the denials.
In a statement released after their meeting in Enugu, the group stated that the threat to use force to evict Igbo from the north after October 1, 2017 “is in tandem with the character of the north and should be taken seriously.”
Besides, the Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN) has blamed the structure of the country for most of the agitations.The association, through its Acting Chairman, Sule Kwasau, said the restructuring of Nigeria is the best option for solving many of its problems, recommending a full implementation of the 2014 national conference report. He said that all attempts to block its implementation should be resisted by all patriotic Nigerians.