Efforts to douse the rising tension in the country have received a huge boost with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, saying Nigeria will not only overcome the prevailing hate-filled agitations but will also remain one united country.
A coalition of northern youth groups had recently given the Igbos living in the northern parts of the country up to October 1, 2017 to quit or face the consequences of failing to obey the notice.
The action, which was predicated on the agitations by some Igbo youths in the South-east for an independent state of Biafra, had attracted retaliatory quit notices from other sections of the country with several sectional groups issuing hate statements that had put the nation on the edge.
With palpable tension in the air, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo waded in, holding high level consultations with traditional rulers, religious leaders, the 36 state governors, public opinion leaders and media owners and editors, telling them about the dire implications of the hate speeches that were polluting the polity.
The Sultan gave the acting president a helping hand on Wednesday night, describing the agitations by the sectional groups as unnecessary diversion, saying that resorting to uncomplimentary remarks and violence to make their demands heard would not augur well for the peace and stability of the country.
Speaking while hosting leaders of resident communities, heads of security agencies, civil society groups and media practitioners to a breaking of fast in his palace in Sokoto on Wednesday night, the monarch wondered why anyone would want to hold the entire country to ransom?
The Sultan said violence and war had never solved any problem in any part of the globe.
“We don’t have to resort to uncomplimentary remarks or violence to make our demands heard because insecurity doesn’t help anybody, he said, adding: “Violence does not pay or resolve any problem.”
The Sultan told his guests: “We should stop looking down on others unless we want to lift them up. We should understand ourselves and respect one another.
“Let us sit down, discuss these issues so that together we can find out what really went wrong. Let us retrace our steps and see where did we start to get things wrong so that we can find the way of sorting things out.
“It is a simple thing because we are all eager to live in peace, united and to have a morally upright country based on justice, equity and above all the fear of God.
“So I am not totally surprised over what is happening. I like challenges and we are in a challenging period and we will take it up. We will continue preaching love, impartiality, respect and unity in the country.”
The monarch said he was confident that Nigeria would still remain as one indivisible entity despite all the agitations and counter agitations in the polity.
According to him, God did not make a mistake in creating us as Nigerians, adding that as men of faith, Nigerians should accept that and live in peace with one another.
He advised Nigerians to stop associating religion or ethnic group with any act of violence, saying criminals should be identified by their acts not by their religion or tribe.
The monarch noted that suspicion always breeds enmity and disunity and called on elders in the country to caution their youths.
The Sultan said: “No matter what anybody can say, no matter what is happening we are still one big family.
“If you see your son misbehaving and decide to keep quiet it means you are supporting him because no father wants to see his son go astray without doing anything.”
He also spoke against removing History and Religious Studies from the country’s education curriculum, saying it was at the nation’s detriment.
According to the monarch: “We should never forget our history so that we cannot copy other people, and religious studies ensures spiritual wellbeing of our children.
“I don’t know why the government decided to remove them from our curriculum, which is very wrong and we want them back.”
He called on those who felt short changed or marginalised to also look at other people, describing the north as the most marginalised region in the country.
The Sultan cited the number of out-of-school children and those who were displaced by the Book Haram insurgency in the region to buttress his claim.
Weak Governance Responsible For Rising Agitations
Also intervening in the spate of hate speeches making the rounds in the country, governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have blamed the resurgent agitations by youth groups promoting ethno-regional identities and extremist positions, on weak governance.
Reacting to the spate of threats and counter threats emanating from the quit notice issued to the people of the South-east by a coalition of Northern youth groups, the governors under the auspices of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), warned all those fanning the ember of disunity to desist from the act in the interest of peace and survival of the nation.
The governors in a statement signed by the Director General of the PGF, Mr. Salihu Lukman, said they would work with the federal government and other patriotic Nigerians to ensure unencumbered protection of lives of all citizens in every part of the country.
The PGF said: “Acknowledging the rich diverse heritage of Nigeria as a country, the PGF particularly notes that the resurgence of desperate youth groups promoting ethno-regional identities and extremist positions from the different geo-political zones across the nation as currently experienced, is a reflection of prevalent weak governance, economy and law enforcement system in Nigeria.”
The APC governors said they were committed to building a country every Nigeria would call their home, irrespective of tongues and localities.
“The Forum condemns in the strongest terms the present secessionist and separatist agitations promoting ethno-regional identity in the country,” they said, adding: “These sundry factional groups, claiming to represent different ethnic nationalities, sow seeds of disunity and promote secessionist agenda in the nation. We decry and reject their activities in all intents and purposes.”
The governors called on all decent voices across the country to speak up against the upsurge of some desperate irredentist movements across all ethnic groups and support the emergence of a stronger and virile unified Nigeria.
They said the challenge before Nigerians was to commit themselves to the unity of the country.
Acknowledging the challenges of nation building, the governors said they believed that the resolution of the challenges rested with the development of a virile democratic culture and the ascendency of structured processes of national consultations, negotiations and agreements.
Labour Cautioned Against Hate Speeches
On its part the organised labour condemned the quit notice by the northern youth groups to the Igbo.
The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayuba Wabba, and President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, spoke at a press conference at the Labour House, Abuja, decrying the pronouncements that were capable of destroying the unity and stability of Nigeria.
They called on Nigerians not to fall cheaply for the glamorization of conflict or war, as a solution to the nation’s crisis.
According to Wabba the briefing was in response “to the drum beats of war, which have escalated to a deafening dimension while the leadership of the labour unions were attending the just concluded International Labour Congress meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.”
He drew the attention of Nigerians to the danger inherent in the on-going war-mongering, stating that the Nigerian workforce condemned in its entirety the threats and counter-threats as well as persistent hot exchanges of words by various ethnic groups, which were capable of threatening the foundation and integrity of the sovereignty and unity of Nigeria.
“Those fanning the ember of disunity need to be schooled on the realities of war,” he said.
These views, he said, do not represent the true feelings of patriotic Nigerians and the nation’s workforce, rather, he said, those views “symbolize the intensity of greed, the implacable arrogance and desperation of the elites, some of whom have been funding or sponsoring the hate campaigns that can only lead to the disintegration of our dear nation.”
Projecting the Nigerian workforce as an organisation that believed in the sovereignty and indissolubility of the country, Wabba said the body was not in support of a fragmented Nigeria because workers and pensioners and their families would be the direct and immediate casualties of the conflict.
Stressing that dialogue remained the most tested and result-oriented form of conflict resolutions mechanism, he said: “In attempting to resolve issues of conflict of interest for the purpose of having a better union, we are irrevocably committed to dialogue; responsible and responsive dialogue that takes on board socio-economic justice, democratic culture, cohesion, political competitiveness, mutual respect and all those other values that strengthen a nation.”
Labour organizations in the country, he added ,will underscore the need for good governance in the country as a basis for any realistic development and eventual emancipation of the people, saying, “if the resources available to us as a nation were well managed and not stolen by both the corrupt public and private sector operators, the escalating problems of youth unemployment, decaying infrastructure, non-funding of education, health and other social services, would have been adequately addressed.
“In our estimation, most of the issues in contention can be resolved through good governance, sustainable and transparent fight against corruption and addressing inequities and injustice in the system”.
The President of Trade Union Congress, Bobboi Kaigama said the leadership of the country should look at issues raised in the report of the 2014 National Conference if the APC- led government is serious about addressing the many problems besetting the country, the Buhari administration must as a matter of necessity adopt vital resolutions reached at the Confab to restructure Nigeria.
“Let us look at those issues raised by the 2014 National Conference and implement them. Though the APC as a party then did not participate in the conference, you cannot throw the baby away with the bathwater just because the APC then did not support the conference. There are far-reaching decisions in the report that can help in restructuring the nation and amending the current constitution”, he said.