There will no longer be any hiding place for hate preachers and divisive elements in the country as the Federal Government on Tuesday vowed to deal mercilessly with individuals or groups that thrive on heating up the polity with their disruptive narratives.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who issued the warning at a consultative meeting with Leaders of Thoughts from the 19 Northern states, declared Government’s resolve to ensure that those with penchant for promoting hate speeches and divisive affinities pay dearly for their unpatriotic acts.
Professor Osinbajo said government would enforce its full constitutional powers to whip into line individuals or groups deliberately promoting hostilities and perpetrating hatred among Nigerians of all creeds and divide.
“As a government, we are of course determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution. I want to say that hate or divisive speech, or divisive behaviour, where it is illegal, will be met with the full force of the law”, he told the august gathering at the Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to the Acting President, Nigerians should not be in doubt about government’s determination hold people responsible for speeches that tend to cause division, or violence in the country, adding that, “when we make these kinds of pronouncements and we do things that can cause violence or disruption of lives and property, those who make those speeches are no longer in control”.
For him, “government will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or to disrupt the peace of this country. That, I think is very important because we cannot control violence, once it begins.”
“In the past few weeks, I am sure many of us have noticed that there have been louder noises of hate, of division, especially from the younger persons in our society. Much louder noises than perhaps had been the case in the past. Recently of course there was the loud agitations about secession from some of the groups of some young people in the South-East, IPOB and groups that are affiliated with them but also and perhaps more recently, the call by a group of young persons from the North, who claim to have given an ultimatum to all of those who are from the South-East who live in the North to vacate the North by October 1st, 2017”, the Acting President said.
Again, for those saying hate speeches that convey intolerance and promote divisions should be ignored, Professor Osinbajo said, “Living in a diverse country such as ours, of course as most of us who are here know, is one that will give rise to unique challenges, several challenges and several issues. Most, who are here today, have been witnesses to practically all phases of Nigerian history, which is one of the reasons we have asked that you come today.”
On the need to promote unity across board, Professor Osinbajo said, “I want to say that our defining strength is what our constitution calls the sovereign “nation under God.” There are multitudes of people from the North and multitudes of the people from the South who live in either the South or the North. There is no homogenous society in Nigeria; the North has several people living there from different parts of the country. Every form of violence; every form of hate speech; every stone that is thrown in the market place will hit targets that are not even intended. And I believe that the Nigerian people must be made very conscious of that, so that we do not create a crisis that is un-intended,” he said
The Acting President further stated that, “As part of the reasons of living together, we must know that misunderstandings and frustrations would always arise and that people would always complain that they are not getting the best part of the deal. But we must be careful to recognize that we can only even begin to talk about getting any part of anything (only) if we are together in peace”.
In warning those that are inadvertently fanning the embers of discord and beating the drums of war from their enclaves across the country, the Acting President said, “These days, wars do not end and I am sure that all of those who have seen or experienced war in any form would not wish it on their worst enemies. This is not the time to retreat behind ethnic lines. Moments like this are not for isolating ourselves and I want to urge all of us who are here, and of cause the entire Nigerian populace, that it is a time for us to come together and to work together”.
While commending the Northern leaders for their attendance and frank deliberations at the meeting, the Acting President said the consultations that slated to continue with royal fathers and religious leaders from both the South and North, will be concluded on Sunday, June 18, 2017.
Dignitaries at the Forum included President of the Nigerian were Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon Yakubu Dogara; National Security Adviser (NSA), Major Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd); Ministers of Interior and Defence, Lt Gen Abdulrhaman Dambazau (rtd); and Brigadier Gen Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olanishakin; Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Comassie; Deputy Leader, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Paul Unongo; and Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern Nigeria, Yakubu Pam.
Also at the Forum were former Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin Agwai (rtd); Spokesperson of NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi; former Governor Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamako; former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Pauline Tallen; Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Ndah-Isaiah; Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Muktar; Fatimah Abubakar; Mohammed Hyatudeen; Chairman Liberty Radio/Television, Tijani Ramalan; Editor-in-Chief, Daily Trust Newspaper, Dan Ali; Bashir Ibrahim, Kabiru Chafe, and Ibrahim Wushishi among others.