President Muhammadu Buhari says his government does not discriminate against the south-east region or any part of the country.
He said this on Tuesday while addressing a crowd during his two-day working visit in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State.
The President also noted that his visit was a symbol of a strong belief in the Unity of Nigeria, and therefore, encouraged the youths to dismiss any calls for secession.
“My presence here today is a demonstration of a strong belief in the Unity of Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa with over 300 ethnic groups – our diversity is almost unique among nations.
“The people of the South-East are known for their ingenuity, industrial and commercial talent.
“There is no part in Nigeria where you will not find Igbo entrepreneurs, both men and women contributing to the development of their adopted communities.
“So I am asking you all not to buy into the senseless propaganda on secession. Igbo is Nigeria and Nigeria is Igbo. Both are Inseparable.
“We must, therefore, continue to commit ourselves to the development of Nigeria while we sustain our unity without compromising on our cultural identities.
“We must work towards building a Nigeria that we can sleep at night, knowing that tomorrow will be better than today.”
The President also stressed the need for nation-building and the need for leaders at all levels to teach their subjects the importance of unity, starting from the home-front.
“The task of nation-building is a continuous one, it relies on the successful transition of factual knowledge from one nation to the other. This means it is our collective responsibility to ensure we do not betray our founding fathers as we transform the Nigerian project from one generation to the next.
“As our national anthem says, the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain – So parents, speak to your children on the importance of their heritage, culture and being open-minded.
“Teachers, teach your students about the history of this nation, and leaders, we must lead by example and show tolerance and acceptance of diversity.”
Buhari also expressed gratitude to the government and traditional leaders of Ebonyi State for conferring on him two traditional titles.
“I’m delighted to be in Abakiliki today, to interact with the good people of this state and indeed the south-east region as a whole.
“I want to express my gratitude for their hospitality and the warm reception since our arrival in Abakiliki Some Hours Ago.
“In the last few hours, I have commissioned some landmark projects and laid the foundation stone for the Ebonyi City Mall and fly-over bridge projects.
“I commend his Excellency, Governor David Umahi for his vision and commitment to the development of his state.
“In the course of my visit, I also had the honour and privilege of unveiling the statue of a great Nigerian – Sir Akanu Ibiam, whose notable record of humanitarianism and advocacy of free primary education will continue to be an inspiration to all.
“I am also grateful to the people of Ebonyi as well as the southeast traditional rulers who today bestowed on me, traditional titles. I am Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi (A good Friend) and to the South East and I am Ochioha NdiIgbo. I thank you for this honour and the kind gesture,” he added.
Amid renewed claims that President Muhammadu Buhari is sectional, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, appeared on Friday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today.
He spoke with Seun Okinbaloye about the accusations, the controversy in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the state of the probe report on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agencies, and other issues.
One of the major issues on the table for this Presidency is the issue of corruption in the NNPC. We have heard so many sides to this story. What can the Presidency tell us? The Vice President has said he did not sign the contracts, he signed the loans. Did the President sign the contracts?
When the Vice President of the country has spoken, there is hardly anything I will add to it. I will just say let’s work with what the Vice President has told the country.
On the issue of trying to sanitise the NNPC, what are the details of the investigation into the NNPC and the activities surrounding some of the allegations linked to it?
It’s not just the NNPC that is being sanitised or is going to be sanitised. It’s a countrywide exercise. You know that the Buhari administration came with a resolve to clean up so many areas of the country. So, it would be wrong to isolate just the NNPC. The NNPC would be part of the larger cleanup of the country.
How did the President resolve the issues between Dr Maikanti Baru and Dr Ibe Kachikwu?
The issues are still unravelling. Just yesterday we had a new perspective on the issue from the Vice President. The issue is still unravelling but I can assure you that at the end of the day it is going to be permanently and amicably sorted.
Some of the unresolved issues as regarding allegations of corruption remain big issues. Don’t forget, this is a government that says it wants to fight corruption. How is the Presidency hoping to rid itself of all of those allegations?
You have seen a rapprochement between the Minister of State for Petroleum and the GMD of NNPC. It’s just one step, many others will be taken because it is very important that as long as they continue to serve the country, serve the President in these capacities, then they must learn to work together. The issues are going to be resolved; you can rest assured of that.
You didn’t answer my question about how the Presidency resolved the issue between these two men. Was there any moment when the two men were called into the Presidency to sheath their swords?
It’s in the public domain. There have been engagements and it’s all part of a process. That process will be completed and everything will be normal.
Let me take you on one of the statements you released today about what you called deliberate twisting of President Buhari’s commendable interface with the World Bank President. Clarify this issue for us. At the meeting between the World Bank chief and the President, did the President ask the World Bank chief to focus on the northern region of the country in terms of development?
Well, it has been explained; right from the very first week that the President got into office. His first trip was to the G7 in Germany and what did he put on the table? ‘Help us to rebuild the North East. The North East has been devastated, it has been degraded by insurgency which had been there since 2009′. In 2015 when he went to the G7 meeting he said, ‘Help us, the place needs to be rebuilt’. They asked him, ‘Is it funds?’ He said he didn’t want funds so that the funds will not end up being misappropriated. He would rather that those countries send in technical expertise, send materials and help in the rebuilding of infrastructure. And then (during) the first trip to Washington, there was a meeting with World Bank and he said the same thing; ‘Help us to rebuild the North East’. And (during) all the engagements the President has had both in the country and outside it with multilateral agencies, with other governments, he has always said, ‘Help us to rebuild the North East’. Now, if you look at the transcript of the encounter between the World Bank President and the media, which now has been released and is online, the question specifically was ‘What is the World Bank doing to help Nigeria rebuild the North East? And it was the answer of the World Bank President that some sections of the media and particularly online media twisted and they used it to try to brand the President as sectional, which was uncharitable, which was unconscionable, which was downright mischievous and wicked. So, we had to issue that statement clarifying the position.
A lot of people have this perception that the President is sectional in his treatment of some issues. What is the Presidency doing to rectify this issue?
The fact that you called it perception does not mean it is 100 percent reality. It’s a perception. But then we know that perception matters. One thing we must realise is that the President has a pan-Nigerian mandate. The way the country is structured, the way our Constitution is structured, no President can emerge without winning a pan-Nigerian mandate. That was what the President won. So, it’s not easy for you to then accuse the President and sustain it that he is sectional. No, it’s not possible. If he was sectional, he would not be elected in the first place.
Is the President aware of some of the statements made by Nigerians, some of those who voted him into office, that he is sectional in some of his dealings?
If they say those things, it does not necessarily make them right. That could be allegations, that could be conjecture but it does not necessarily make them right.
But is the Presidency making efforts to correct those notions? If you have four children and one or two of them believe that you love one above the other, wouldn’t you, as a father for example, make efforts to show that you love your four children in the same manner?
Making an effort to show (that you love them equally) will not be the right thing. I think it is better to just continue to do what is proper and that is what the President is doing. He will continue to do what is fair and what is just and what is equitable.
Do you think that Mr President has been fair to all the regions in terms of appointments so far?
As much as possible and he defended that in his meeting with the South-East stakeholders today. Let me give you an example he (Buhari) cited. When the stakeholders raised the issue of appointments, they first talked about the security agencies and he told them that was an area to be careful with because, there, competence, (and) seniority are very important. If you undermine those, you could be undermining the whole security architecture itself. Then when they talked about other positions, he pointed out to them that of the five South-Eastern states four of the ministers are full ministers but in the North, core northern states – Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, he mentioned all the seven states, they had ministers of state. Even his own state, Katsina, has a minister of state. Kaduna has a minister of state, Sokoto has a minister of state. These are states that you will think will have full ministers. But from the South East, four of the five ministers are full ministers.
One other area where some Nigerians are of the opinion that the Presidency may have a bias in handling is the fight against corruption. For example, the SGF probe report has been with the President for several weeks – submitted by the Vice President. The question is when will that report be made public and the decision of the President made public?
As soon as possible, as soon as practicable, as soon as the President is done with that report. Like I have said a number of times, the President is a very meticulous person. He would not punish anybody unjustly. The report came in six volumes. Of course, there is an executive summary, but knowing this President, he would read that report page after page and when he is done with studying it, he will come out with his pronouncement.
Governors for the South South and South East under the aegis of the South-South South-East Governors forum on Sunday night met in Owerri, the Imo state capital expressing worry over growing agitations in the country.
The governors during the meeting which lasted till midnight back Nigeria’s indivisibility status and deliberate on what will foster unity and development in the region.
The chairman of the forum, Akwa Ibom State Governor Emmanuel Udom said the forum is concerned by the calls for a breakaway by some leaders adding that it is a worrying development.
“This forum is also concerned with the voices that are calling for self determination from some sections of our dear country. We are worried about the state of the nation which has given rise to growing agitations from all over the country. From the North to the South, East and West.
“Also of concern are the issues of justice, fairness, and equity which many believe are in deficit in our country,” he said.
Udom also said the forum irrespective of political differences have come together chat a new course that will foster economic interest and integration for the region and member states.
Governors present at the meeting include Abia State, Okezuo Ikpeazu, Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, Cross River State, Bennedict Ayade, Bayalsa State, Seriaki Dickson, Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the Deputy governor of Anambra state.
Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South East have said they fully support the decision to zone the party’s slot for the 2019 Presidential election to the North and reserve the spot for National Chairman to the South.
The Chairman of the party in the South East, Mr Austin Umahi, made this known after a closed-door meeting with other party leaders in the zone.
During the meeting, governors from the party, National Assembly members, and the chairman were mandated to liaise with other zones to reach an understanding in respect of the next national chairman of the party.
Other resolutions include support for party’s candidate for the Anambra State governorship election and the unity of the country.
The meeting was attended by former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, former governor of Anambra State Peter Obi, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, members of the National Assembly, among others/
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has deployed some of its aircraft to support the “Exercise Egwu Eke”, also known as “Operation Python Dance”, the in South East.
Various air assets including the Alpha Jet aircraft has immediately been deployed by the Air Force to it’s 115 Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to support the ongoing exercise of the Nigerian Army.
Igbo socio-cultural organisation Ohanaeze Ndigbo has asked the Federal Government to end the ongoing military action in the South East.
This, it said, is because rather than guarantee the security of the people, the operation is aimed at intimidating people in the region.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, said in a statement on Tuesday that if the operation is not stopped, it would amount to an invasion of the South East.
“In a democracy, the level of disenchantment expressed by the people of the South East of Nigeria ought to have provoked a serious dialogue between our people and the federal executive and the legislature,” he said.
“History teaches us that the continuous use of force to silence dissent and free speech will only accelerate the growth of dissent and dissatisfaction. Fundamental rights of freedom of expression are critical for a successful democracy.”
The statement comes two days after an altercation between members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and troops of the Nigerian Army. Both sides have disagreed over what transpired.
The military had started an operation in the South East, code-named Operation Python Dance, last year with the aim of ridding the region of criminals and others threatening the security of the area.
Last week, it announced plans for Operation Python Dance II, but the continued military operation in the region has given Ohanaeze cause for concern as it believes it is being used for divisive purposes and extortion among other things.
“Nigeria at this moment does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis,’ it said.
The group added, “Our people were shamelessly intimidated and harassed at these check points. Operation Python Dance 1 procured no arrests of criminals that were prosecuted for any of the criminal activities that Operation Python Dance II is supposed to address.
“Instead, it witnessed reckless and indiscriminate murder of self-determination agitators in Asaba, Aba, Nkpor, and Port Harcourt numbering up to 191 by the estimates of Transparency International and shattered public confidence of South-easterners in the Nigerian Army and Police.”
Also, Ohanaeze claimed the operation by the military showed bias as the same approach had not been adopted in other places with similar crime rates as the South East.
“The Nigerian Army has never embarked on Operation Python Dance in any of the other five geopolitical zones on account of these incidences. Innocent civilians living in these other parts of Nigeria have not witnessed the type of invasion Umuahia witnessed Sunday night.”
Governors of the South-East and South-South geo-political zones have declared their support for Nigeria’s unity.
This follows a meeting of the governors which held late on Sunday evening at the Rivers State Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The governors condemned the use of hate speeches in the country and called on all Nigerians to ensure the nation remains united.
“Nigeria is a country that we all love, that we all have a passion for and we will do everything to maintain the unity and oneness in this country,” the Chairman of the forum and governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, told reporters after the meeting.
Governor Emmanuel, however, said that the Federal Government has a negligible presence in the two regions, except in the area of policing.
“There is the reality of the dearth of infrastructure in this our region, especially federal roads in the two regions. Indeed, federal presence in the regions is very minimal and only noticeable in the presence of policemen,” he said.
On his part, Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State joined the call for Nigeria’s restructuring and devolution of power to states.
He said, “Above all, we must continue to demand the devolution of power and resources to the states, as well as the institutionalisation of the state police.”
The meeting, the second of its kind, was convened to deliberate on critical economic and political issues common to the interests of the states in Nigeria’s affairs.
It had in attendance seven governors and four deputy governors.
Other governors present at the meeting include Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Deputy governors who represented their governors were Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah who is the acting governor of Bayelsa; Dr. Nkem Okeke of Anambra, Mr Philip Shaibu of Edo State and Professor Ivara Esu of Cross River State.
Although the outcome of the meeting is still being expected, there are very strong indications that the meeting will continue its discussion on the restructuring of Nigeria, and the need for the practice of true federalism, which is what was discussed at their previous meeting, also in Enugu.
The Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, and his counterpart from Bayelsa, were, however, absent from the meeting.
Also absent was the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano.
The host governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his opening remarks told the governors that there is the need for inter-regional cooperation saying it would help solve developmental issues accord the region.
Ugwuanyi also said that issues like road infrastructure and security will need inter-governmental synergy to solve them rather living for individual states.
The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has said the agitation for secession by groups in the South East and the ultimatum giving to Igbos to leave the North by Northern groups are in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution.
Professor Osinbajo said this on Sunday when he met with traditional rulers from the South East in continuation of his consultations with leaders of the North and South East following increased tension in both regions.
While assuring the traditional rulers that the Federal Government remained committed to the unity of the country, Osinbajo warned that it would be wrong to for people to threaten to disobey laws or the unity of the nation as a result of their grievances.
He also warned that the Federal Government would deal decisively with those who put the unity of the country at risk.
He said, “The manner of those agitations, the method and objectives are wrong, unlawful and in violation of the laws of Nigeria and the Constitution of Nigeria. I want to repeat that both the agitations for secession and the ultimatum to leave the Northern states are wrong and a violation of our Constitution.
“Our Constitution says in Section 2 that Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that is the law of our country.
“Let us not be in any doubt about the fact that the Federal Government is committed to ensuring that our country remains united.
“And that anyone who violates the law in the manner such as we are seeing all over the place will be met with the full force of the law.”
Although he described the agitations as unlawful, the Acting President said the nation “must be sensitive to the reasons why there are agitations by the various young men and in fact several others across the various zones of this country”.
Noting that much of the agitations had to do with perceived marginalisation, he said, “I want to say the only way to make things right is to do things right. And it will be wrong of us to approach even our grievances by threatening to disobey the laws or by threatening the integrity of our nation.”
According to Professor Osinbajo, keeping the country united is vital because enough blood has been spilt by many and thousands of lives lost for that purpose.
“Many have paid for the unity of this country with their lives and it will be wrong of us as men and women of goodwill in this generation to toy with those sacrifices that have been made,” he said.
“This is the reason why men and women of goodwill in our generation must not tolerate any tendency that drags us in the direction of yet another civil conflict.”
He assured the traditional rulers that the Federal Government is committed to listening “to all the reasons, the various suggestions, the various agitations, and the reasons for those agitations and to ensure that we do justice by all persons regardless of where you are from in this country”.
“That is the commitment of Federal Government which I am able to make to you today,” he added.