Northern Governors and traditional rulers on Thursday met in Kaduna to take common position on the agitation for the restructuring of the country; the agitations by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and lingering problems in the region.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno, who is the Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum, said the region is not afraid of restructuring and its position on the issue would be in the best interest of the region.
Shettima, whose address was delivered by Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, assured that the consensus position of the region would attract popular acceptance.
He also said that the meeting would discuss farmers/herders conflict and will come up with ways to tackle the problem devoid of parochial sentiments.
“We, the political and traditional leaders of Northern Nigeria, are gathered here today against the backdrop of certain developments in Nigeria’s political landscape that we can only ignore to the detriment of the wellbeing of our people and the development of our region.
“We have witnessed in the last few months, all manner of political agitations, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous,” he said.
Shettima added, “It is also expected at the end of this meeting of the Forum and our esteemed royal fathers we will adopt a consensus position.
“It is of vital importance to arrive at such consensus position because it is crucial to dispel the erroneous impression created and disseminated by certain interests in this country that the North is opposed to restructuring.
“It is important to do so, not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but also counter the specific versions of restructuring which generally seek to place the North in a position of strategic political and economic disadvantage, but portrayed as the only versions that can work for the nation.”
The chairman also spoke on agitation for the creation of Biafra, saying that it was unacceptable for groups such as IPOB and MASSOB to resort to incitement under the guise of exercising right to free speech.
“The exercise of such rights outside the confines of responsibility is not acceptable,” he said, adding that incitement to violence by such organisations “must be unconditionally condemned as they are inimical to national unity, stability, peaceful coexistence and national security.”
He called on governors and responsible leaders in the South East and other parts of Nigeria “to rise to the occasion and call these purveyors of hate speech and inflammatory and provocative statements to order.”
The forum chairman said no Nigerian would be prevented from pursuing their agitations within processes enshrined by the constitution.
“This was precisely what we did when we acted in unison as governors of Northern states when we recently took the responsible position of swiftly and emphatically condemning the ultimatum given by some Northern youths to people of Igbo extraction residing in the North to leave by 1st October,’’ Shettima said.
He cautioned those stoking embers of hate to look beyond “now’’.
“There is need for statesmen to chaperone the art of governance, not politicians; for we need to look at the coming generations not the coming elections.
“We need to look far into the future with the utmost sense of responsibility and not cash in on some immediate opportunities.
“We need to constantly weigh the consequences of our words and actions and avoid playing to the gallery.”
The Northern Governors’ chairman emphasised the need to re-invent politics, re-engineer society and redirect the energy of the youth to exploit their potentials.
He said that there was need to provide policy-framework, funding, energy and direction to set up urban and rural agro-based industries to raise productive capacity and keep the youth busy.
“We have all we need to succeed, all we require now is the political will; the will to change our ways, the will to re-invent our politics, the will to re-engineer our society and focus on the next generation rather than the next elections.”
Shettima said the farmers/herders conflict must be handled with care before it consumes the nation.
He said issues of grazing land in Africa including Nigeria has assumed dangerous and worrisome dimension in terms of scale, scope and ethno-religious colouration “it has been so cynically given.’’
The chairman cautioned northern governors to set “aside all sentiment-laden approaches to tackling this monstrous problem capable of consuming the very social fabric of the North and even condemning the entire country to unwarranted destruction.
“It requires no knowledge of rocket science to discern that the future prosperity of the North in particular and Nigeria in general squarely rests on agriculture and the human resources and talent we can bring to bear on it.”
He also said the meeting would discuss issues of insurgency, the Almajiri system and other problems confronting the region.
In his remark, the Chairman, Northern Traditional Rulers, who is also the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, advised traditional rulers to avoid utterances that may cause havoc in the society.
He said that the traditional chiefs were committed to the development of the region and ensuring lasting peace in the country.
In his remarks, the host governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said the problem before the North is immense, especially security which remains a challenge across the region.
El-Rufai, who titled his speech thus, ‘In place of strife and division, let us create economic opportunities’, disclosed that the frequency and savagery of communal clashes in some of the Northern states, and the prevalence of untoward phenomena such as rural banditry, cattle-rustling and kidnappings, need to be tackled.
“The festering sores left by previous conflicts in which proper closure, accountability for crimes and reconciliation were not effected appear to be accelerating a descent into impunity and a situation in which many elite are too short-sighted to recognise the dangers of embroiling our communities in repeated cycles of violence.
“The message needs to go out to our communities that peace requires a determination to have peace, sustain peace and protect it. There is no human alternative to choosing to resolve all differences by exclusively peaceful and legal means.
Our region is the most diverse area in our vast country. It cannot afford the ghastly luxury of transforming differences in religion, language and culture into sources of conflict, death and destruction”.