State governors, on Wednesday, said they had resolved that they would not allow Nigeria to break up, stating that those fanning the embers of war were wasting their time.
The governors spoke after their meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in continuation of Osinbajo’s consultations on the recent tension in the country as a result of several agitations.
Oyo State Governor, Abiola, Ajimobi, who spoke on behalf of the other governors, said the governors and other stakeholders had agreed that despite the agitations being witnessed in parts of the country, Nigeria must not break.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of a meeting, Osinbajo stated that any Nigerians expecting the country to break was only wasting his time.
“The 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 that is thinking of that, is wasting his time, and we will not allow it, not in this country. All of us are unanimous about that,” he added.
He said the governors resolved that the unity of the country “is sacrosanct, non-negotiable and we have all agreed to work together to educate people.”
Ajimobi added, “Any 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.
“Nigerians are by nature a united people; nobody cares whether you are from the north, south or the east.”
The governor also warned against the consequences of war, urging Nigerians to learn from Rwanda and Somalia.
Osinbajo had appealed to the governors to always be ready to speak up against statements from individuals or groups capable of setting the nation on fire.
He said they must be ready to protect the nation and its democracy from the hands of those who were bent on dividing the country.
He spoke before the meeting, which was held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, went into a closed-door session.
He stated, “We 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 on how we express ourselves.
“What we have seen in recent times is that some of the languages (words) 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 the hands of rhetoric that may just divide us.
Osinbajo, who had earlier met separately with leaders of thought and traditional rulers from both the North and the South-East, said those who participated in the previous consultations agreed that Nigeria’s unity should not be taken for granted.
He said nobody wanted the nation to witness bloodshed or war.
While describing the previous meetings as frank and open, Osinbajo said they were able to agree on most of the critical issues that were discussed, and in most cases, changed perceptions that might have been long embedded in their minds.
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He added that the participants also agreed that under no circumstances should hateful speeches be condoned and that government should take all steps necessary to bring to book all those who preached violence.
The acting President stated that they also agreed that government needed to do more to engage youths productively, create some jobs and multiply the economic opportunities available.
Osinbajo added, “More importantly, we agreed on the need for leaders to speak out forcefully to counter divisive speech or any kind of warmongering.
“We 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.
“All 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.
“This applied to both the statements made by the young people in the South-East as well as the youth 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.
“We 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 going completely out of control.”
He commended the leaders from the North and South-East for their openness at the consultations, saying they were extremely responsible even in their criticisms of what they felt were issues that should have been better handled.
While saying their criticisms were fair and balanced, he commended them for their sense of responsibility and their leadership.
Osinbajo mentioned the issue of herdsmen and farmers crisis, especially the way that some of these had resulted in flashpoints across the country, as one of the issues raised at the previous meetings.
He said it was important that lasting and satisfactory solutions were found to the problems identified.
Describing the problems as multidimensional, Osinbajo said state governors had important roles to play especially because they were in control of their territories.
He stated, “We must resist the temptation to play politics especially with matters of security, but to reach for simplistic narratives that might be originally expedient and satisfying but false, deceiving and sometimes unhealthy to proper understanding of the issues.”
Governors, who attended the meeting, included Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).