Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday read the riot act to purveyors of hate speeches, saying they won’t be allowed to destabilise the country.
The Federal Government, he said, would ensure the country’s unity, adding that nobody would be allowed to get away with seditious speeches.
“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 speeches or divisive behaviour where it is illegal will be met with the full force of the law,” the Acting President said at a meeting with some elders from the North at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Some members of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), among other groups, were at the meeting.
It was the first in the series of meetings with leaders from the six geo-political zones over the brewing discontent between the North and the Southeast.
Last week, the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY) gave easterners in the North 90 days to quit.
The ultimatum followed the May 30 sit-at-home observed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the east to mark the 50th anniversary of Biafra.
Also yesterday, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha described as nonsensical agitations for Biafra.
Osinbajo said those pushing for disintegration by ordering other Nigerians in their domains to quit would face the law.
The government, he said, would not fold its arms and allow peace and order to be disrupted in any part of the country.
The Acting President said: “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 recognise 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.”
He added: “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 emphasise 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.”
At the meeting were ACF leader Ibrahim Coomassie, NEF leader Prof Ango Abdullahi, who gave his backing to the Arewa youths’ threat, former Sokoto State Governor Aliyu Wamakko, former Plateau State Deputy Governor Pauline Tallen, Second Republic Minister and Benue State elder Dr. Paul Unongo, Leadership publisher Sam Ndah-Isaiah, Liberty Radio/Television Chairman Tijani Ramalan and Editor-in-Chief of Daily Trust Dan Ali, among others.
The acting President was supported by the Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olanishakin.
Today, Osinbajo will meet with leaders from the southeast; the region’s traditional rulers will take their turn on Friday. On Sunday, the acting president will meet with traditional rulers from the North.