A delegation of the Northern Governors Forum sent by President Muhammadu Buhari visited the South-East and South-South as part of efforts to douse tension and promote peace and dialogue among all sections of Nigeria.
The delegation of five Northern Governors was led by Chairman of the Forum and Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, also had Katsina State Governor, Mr. Bello Masari; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Kebbi State Governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu; and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong in the team.
During the visit on Monday, September 18, the Northern Governors called for the enthronement of peace-building measures, while reassuring their South-Eastern counterparts that despite the security challenges facing the country, steps had been taken to ensure that there were no reprisals in different parts of the country.
Making a veiled reference to the attacks by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra on the Hausa community in some parts of the country, the governors stressed that no law-abiding Nigerian deserved to be punished as a result of where he/she resided.
In Abia State, leader of the delegation, Governor Shettima stated that no part of Nigeria could comfortably accommodate Nigerians in the event of any major crisis in the country.
Speaking in Umuahia during the visit, Shettima said that the Northern Governors had faith in the unity of Nigeria, adding that some of the governors, who had served in the National Assembly, had mixed with people from different parts of the country and had built a coalition across the country. He stated:
“We are here on behalf of northern governors to commend Governor Ikpeazu for his high quality leadership in handling the crisis in Abia.
“We are here to show solidarity. We have a moral obligation to ensure that Nigeria remain one. Nigeria is the largest conglomeration of black people in Africa and we cannot afford to separate.
“If we separate, where do we go? North is the Sahara Desert and Chad cannot contain us. If we go South, it is the Atlantic Ocean; south is too small for us and the mountains of East Africa, with their so many challenges, cannot accommodate us.
“We are here to remind Nigerians that we are better as one. We are here to also invite our South-East colleagues to come to the flashpoints of the North to speak to Ndigbo living in the North.”
In response, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu hailed the Northern Governors for identifying with Abia residents and other Nigerians living in the state during the crisis period.
He pointed out that normalcy had returned to the state, adding that Muslims had a peaceful worship in mosques on Friday. Hear him:
“I am delighted by this show of solidarity by our brothers from the North. When this crisis started, I asked myself: what will my brother, Tambuwal in Sokoto, do if he is in my shoes or Shettima of Borno?
“We are one and I want to assure you that the security of all Abia residents, both indigenes are non-indigenes, are guaranteed. We cannot allow a few people to separate us.”
In Rivers state, the Northern Governors, who hailed Governor Nyesom Wike for taking urgent steps that led to the protection of Nigerians living in the state, made reference to the clashes that erupted in the Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state.
According to Governor Shettima, Wike’s actions, especially his state-wide broadcast, helped to restore peace, despite the challenges. He said:
“Governor Wike, we are mightily proud of you. We are mightily associating ourselves with you. Nigeria is greater than political differences. We belong to one political family and that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“No interest should be bigger than the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You believe in the Nigerian Project. For that, we remain eternally grateful. In spite of what has happened in Abia State, steps have been put in place to ensure there is no retaliatory attack in any part of the country.”
In response, Wike promised that he would continue to protect all Nigerians and foreigners living in the state. Hear him:
“Rivers State believes in the unity of this country. Rivers State will not be part of those calling for the disintegration of Nigeria. We owe it as a duty to protect every Nigerian living in the state.
“I will not allow any group to intimidate, harass or attack other Nigerians living in the state. We are Rivers people and we belong to the Niger Delta.”
Explaining that violence can never lead to the resolution of any grievances, Wike urged aggrieved persons to embrace dialogue in the interest of peace and development.
He added that the people of Rivers State had their own peculiar grievances against developmental issues in the country, pointing out that as governor, he had raised such issues, but would never support disintegration.