Governors launched yesterday a peace move in the Southeast.
Five from the North visited Rivers and Abia states, preaching peace. They also addressed Northerners, telling them to remain calm, following the tension generated by the activities of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The governors were led by Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima. Others are Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Aminu Masari (Katsina) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi).
Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu promised to defend Nigeria’s unity, despite the IPOB agitation.
“We will not allow a few agitators to divide Nigeria,” Ikpeazu told the delegation.
He thanked them for the visit and assured them of the safety of northerners in the Southeast.
Shettima praised Southeast governors for their efforts in ensuring that the clash of IPOB members with the military did not escalate.
The Borno governor said the governors were in Abia to show solidarity with Ikpeazu, adding that the governor refused to be drawn into ethnicity.
Shettima said: “We the Northern Governors Forum and the entire country want to thank you for rising up to the challenges of leadership by declaring the curfew that brought a lot of sanity to the state during the clash between IPOB and the military.”
Shettima said what Ikpeazu did during the crisis went a long way to bringing peace.
He said: “We are here as Northern governors who respect and promote the unity of Nigeria, we are here to thank Governor Ikpeazu for his leadership role in the heat of the crisis, he rose to the occasion, he saved the nation from the precipice.
“We the leaders of this country have a major role to play in bringing peace to this nation and leadership is about symbolism, we are here to show solidarity with the Abia governor.
“We have a moral obligation as leaders and governors to ensure the country remains one indivisible entity. We are proud of the Igbo nation, they are our brothers. We have to make this country work
“Nigeria is a unique nation, despite our challenges. We don’t want any mass exodus of Nigerians from any part of the country.”
On the quit notice for Igbo to leave the North by October 1, Shettima said nobody had the right to chase any Nigerian out of any part of the country. “Ndigbo are part of Nigerian economy. Those agitating for break-up don’t know much about this country.”
Immediately after meeting with Ikpeazu, the governors addressed leaders of northern communities resident in the state in Hausa language at the Government House.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike told the Shettima delegation that his state believes in Nigeria’s unity.
Shettima said the governors were in Rivers State to identify with Wike and praised him for nipping in the bud the unfortunate conflict that erupted in Oyigbo Local Government Area.
The North’s delegation’s two-day visit to the Southeast and Southsouth is part of efforts to douse tension and promote peace and dialogue.
According to a statement by Tambuwal’s spokesman Imam Imam, the visit got President Muhammadu Buhari’s blessing. Buhari met with the governors in Abuja before departing for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Shettima 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.”
Shettima added that despite the unfortunate incidents in Abia, steps had been taken to ensure that there are no retaliatory attacks in different parts of the country.
Wike said: “Rivers State believes in the unity of this country. Rivers State will not be a 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.
”I am not against anyone who wants to protest any grievances, but there are channels for such protests.”