Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has sent a strongly couched message to northern youths that the federal government would deal ruthlessly with them should they harass Ibos living in the midst.
He handed down the warning at the flag off a crucial meeting with foremost leaders of thought from the Northern States of Nigeria over the eviction noticed issued to Igbos living in the North by Arewa youths and other groups.
The meeting is a first in a series of consultations to follow with leaders from both the Northern and Eastern regions of the country.
According to his media aide, Laolu Akande, through his twitter handle Tuesday, Osinbajo is expected to first meet each group separately on different days this week and then meet them together afterwards.
In his opening remarks before the meeting went into closed door, Osinbajo said any attempt by any group of people to disrupt peace will be met with stiff resistance.
Osinbajo who expressed his gratitude to the elders for the impressive response despite the fact that it was an emergency meeting, disclosed that similar meetings have been scheduled with Igbo leaders Wednesday while that of leaders from the south east has been scheduled for Friday and that of traditional leaders from north on Sunday.
He explained that those invited have witness landmark milestones in the country some tragic and some joyous moments and government was interested in getting the way forward from their suggestions.
There has been louder noises from the youths in our society. Recently there were loud noises from Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in the south east and and recently the one from the youth in the north who have given Igbos till October 1 to vacate the region.
The Acting President said even though some Nigerians may think it is not important and that the youths should be ignored, he added, “but I think it should be addressed quickly especially from leaders of thoughts who have seen it all.
“Every form of violence, every form of hate speech, any stone that is thrown in the market place will hit targets that are going to be deadly. So I need us to be fully conscious of that and the Nigerian people must be made to be fully conscious of that so that we do not create a crisis that is not intended.
“As part of living together I know that misunderstandings and frustrations will always arise and people will always want to get the best part of the deal but we must be careful to recognize that we can only begin to talk about any part of anything if we are together in peace.
“These days, wars do not end and I am sure that those who have seen or experienced war in any shape or form will not wish it on their worst enemies.
“This is not a time to retreat behind ethnic lines, moments like this are not for isolating ourselves, I want to urge all of us here and the entire Nigerian populace to come together and work together.
“As a government we are determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution and I want to say that hate and divisive speech or divisive behaviour where it is illegal will be met with the full force of the law. “And I want to ensure that there is no doubt at all that it is the resolve of the government that none will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause sedition or that can cause violence especially because when we make these kinds of pronouncement and do things that can cause violence or destruction of lives and property we are no longer in control. Those who make those speeches are no longer in control.
“So I want to empathize that government will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or disrupt the peace of this country. And that is very important because you cannot control violence once it begins.”
Present at the meeting which started at 5 p.m. were Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), former CDS Gen. Martins Luther Agwai and former IGP Ibrahim Comassie.
Others are Prof. Ango Abdullahi, former governor Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamako, former deputy governor of Plateau State, Pauline Tallen, Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Ndah-Isaiah, Paul Unongo, AVM Murkar and Chairman Liberty Radio/Television, Tijani Ramalan, the Editor in Chief of Daily Trust, Dan Ali among others.
The Arewa youth group had issued a three months eviction notice to Igbos living in the 19 Northern States to quit or be forced out after expiration of the October 1, 2017 deadline.
The ultimatum was issued by a coalition of Northern groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum issued the ultimatum.
“We are also telling our brothers (northerners) out there in the South-East to get prepared to come back home,” the National President, AYCF, Yerima Shettima, said at a press conference in Kaduna.
The ultimatum had been issued following a successful sit-at-home order enforced by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra on May 30, 2017 which the five South-East states complied with.