In an address at a meeting of the 19 northern states governors and traditional rulers in Kaduna, Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum and Governor of Borno State, Ibrahim Shettima, said any restructuring should be done within acceptable criteria and must be fair to all component parts of the country.
He said a final decision on the position of the north would be taken today when governors of the 19 northern states meet in Kaduna.
He said: “It is also my expectation that at the end of this meeting today (yesterday) and, God willing, tomorrow’s (today) meeting of the governors, the forum and our esteemed royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria and which will attract popular acceptance.
“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.
“Secondly, it is important to do so not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but to 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.
“Without pre-empting the outcome of our interactions over the next two days, however, permit me Your Excellencies and Your Royal Highnesses, to embark on a short reflection on the matter before hand. Agreed that being citizens of a democratic country, Nigerians are entitled to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and association, and the clamour for the restructuring of the country falls within the purview of these freedoms. However, the exercise of such rights outside the confines of responsibility is not acceptable.
Condemn hate speech
“ The resort to shenanigans, hate speech, and sometimes, incitement to violence by organisations such as IPOP and MOSSAB must be unconditionally condemned as they are inimical to national unity, stability, peaceful coexistence and national security.
“In this regards, I call on all constituted authorities and responsible leaders of thought 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.
“These elements must be encouraged to pursue their agitations within processes enshrined in our constitution and with the full and willing participation of all parts of our nation.”
Call for reinvention and redirection of nation’s politics
The governors called for a reinvention and redirection of the nation’s politics in order “redirect the energy of our youths so that we exploit the great potential, which God in His mercy has bestowed on us. The system can be provided with the much needed policy-framework, funding, energy and direction to set up urban and rural agro-based industries to raise our productive capacity, keep our youths busy; after some of the countries we admire and frequently visit did just that to be the shining light that they are today.
“We need to task our intellectuals, our political class, our clergy and our traditional leaders to create the necessary synergy to work assiduously to meet targets that will put us back on the path of progress. We can’t afford to fail, 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.”
On farmers, herdsmen clashes
Speaking in the incessant clash between farmers and herdsmen, the governors said proactive steps must be taken to check the issue.
They said: “Another no less important issue on the front burner of national discourse, which by far impacts more on the socio-economic lives of the people of the North than the rest of the country, is the continuing, and in some cases, worsening, conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
“Although the struggle over grazing land is a recurring phenomenon in many African countries south of the Sahara, the case in Nigeria has come to assume a dangerous and worrisome dimension in terms of both its massive scale and widespread scope, and the ethno-religious colouration it has been so cynically given.
“I dare to say that unless we are ready to cast aside all sentiment-laden approaches to tackling this monstrous problem, it is capable of consuming the very social fabric of the North and even condemning the entire country to unwarranted destruction.
“It, therefore, behoves on us, our political leaders, royal fathers and elders, to here and now embark on the serious search for a viable, sustainable and lasting solution to this admittedly difficult to resolve but not insurmountable quagmire.”
Insecurity in the north
In his speech, Governor Nasir el Rufai of of Kaduna State called for more attention to be paid to the issue of insecurity in the north.
He also expressed concern on the continued insecurity in north, noting that the meeting was coming at time when there is dire need to restore peace in the north.
El-Rufai noted that in place of strife and division, there was the dire need of the regional leaders to create economic opportunities for the north to move forward.
Some of the traditional rulers that were at the meeting included the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad AbubakarIII; Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Ibn Garbai El-Kanemi; Emir of Gwandu, Maj.Gen Muhammad Iliyasu Bashir; Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II; Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu; Emir of Katsina, Dr. Abdulmumini Usman, Emir of Zazzau, Etsu-Nupe, Dr. Yahaya Abubakar, the Top Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, among others.