Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, has assured Nigerians that the Buhari administration is not deaf to grievances in parts of the country, saying the government will address them.
But he urges that such grievances be “expressed with grace”.
The acting president’s office said this emerged from the highlights of the series of consultations Mr. Osinbajo called to interact with leaders from the North, Southeast and the media over the last two weeks.
A updated statement from the presidency Tuesday said “the meetings were convened to provide a platform for frank and open discussions between the concerned Nigerians on issues relating to the unity, peace and security of country.”
While this set of consultations were concluded last week, the presidency will continue to actively engage with different segments of the Nigerian population at different stages and format in the near future, the statement said.
In response to the recent spate of agitations pitting some groups in the North against others in the Southeast, the Acting President commenced a series of engagements and consultations with political, religious, traditional & media leaders from across the country as follows:
· Northern Leaders of Thought: Tuesday 13 June, 2017
· Southeast Leaders of Thought: Wednesday 14 June, 2017
· Southeast Traditional Rulers: Sunday 18 June, 2017
· Northern Traditional Rulers: Tuesday 20 June, 2017
· All State Governors: Wednesday 21 June, 2017
· Media Publishers and Editors: Thursday 22 June, 2017
The meetings touched on various issues relating to the ethnic agitations that have manifested most recently in a call for secession by some groups of youth from the Southeast, and an ultimatum by Northern youths for south-easterners living in the North to leave the region by 1st October 2017.
According to the statement, the meetings established common ground on a number of issues, as follows:
· Condemned all the hateful and divisive rhetoric by the concerned groups of Northern and Southeastern youths.
.Affirmed the primacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the ultimate basis for the unity of Nigeria. That Constitution guarantees freedom of residence and of movement for all Nigerians anywhere in the country, without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
· Affirmed the need to draw a line between the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution and the degeneration of such expression into hateful rhetoric, prejudice and hatred. Under no circumstances will Government condone or tolerate hate speech in any way or form.
· Affirmed the necessity of confronting all grievances and frustrations head-on, however uncomfortable that might seem now; instead of ignoring issues and allowing them to fester.
· Affirmed the need for all leaders and elders, regardless of political or ideological persuasion, to speak out more forcefully to counter divisive and hate speech and any form of warmongering.
Osinbajo expressed appreciation to all the leaders for their time and commitment to the unity, peace and progress of the Nigerian nation. He also assured the Nigerian people of the determination and resolve of the Buhari administration to ensure their well-being and security at all times.
“The Federal Government will continue to actively engage with Nigerians of all shades and opinions in its bid to move the country forward on a path of socio-economic development and ultimate greatness,” the statement said.
Quotes from Speeches by Acting President Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, during the Consultations:
“There is a point where a line has to be drawn, and that is when conversations or agitations degenerate into hateful rhetoric, where the narrative descends into pejorative name-calling, expressions of outright prejudice and hatred.”
“Let me say that we are not deaf to the legitimate concerns and frustrations arising from around 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.”
“All of us have agreed that our nation must remain one… I think that there is clarity as to that one thing, that our country ought to remain, must remain, a united country.”
“It will be wrong of us to approach our grievances by threatening to disobey the laws or by threatening the integrity of our nation.”
“I firmly believe that we ought to address these agitations and proclamations urgently and decisively. Burying our heads in the sand and expecting the storms to blow over of their own accord is not an option.”
“One thing is clear – violence and war are not going to do anyone any good. They are easy to start but near impossible to end. We are witnesses to the unspeakable devastation that war continues to inflict across the world. No one who has seen the horrors of war – even merely on television – would wish it on their worst enemy.”
“Our emotions must not be allowed to run wild in such a way as to endanger the lives of so many.”