The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Wednesday said Nigeria would remain a united country.
Speaking at a meeting with the 36 state governors in Abuja, Osinbajo said they “must ensure the security of lives and property” in their states, adding “Nigeria is indissoluble.”
The meeting is part of a series of meetings the acting president is having with ethnic, religious and political leaders to douse tensions in the country.
The tensions got worse after a Northern youth coalition asked all Igbos living in Northern Nigeria to leave.
The call has been condemned by local and national officials including the federal government.
“We must not allow careless use of words to degenerate into crisis,” Osinbajo told the governors.
Osinbajo also said that he reached a number of agreements with a cross section of leaders from the north and south-eastern part of Nigeria, whom he met with earlier in the week.
He said the meetings with the two sets of leaders agreed that “Nigeria’s unity should not be taken for granted,” adding “no one wants to see us go down the path of bloodshed or war.”
The acting president also said the meetings agreed on the Nigerian 1999 constitution as the basis for the country’s unity. He said it was agreed that the constitution is the basis for the legal contract that exists between all Nigerians.
“Our meetings were frank and open as I hope this will be. We were able to agree on most of the critical issues that were discussed and in most cases changed perceptions that may have been long embedded in their minds.
“We also agreed that under no circumstances should we condone hateful speeches and that governments should take all steps necessary to bring to book all those who preach violence, in particular the kind of expressions of dissent that can cause violence.
“We also agreed that we need to do more to engage our youth productively, create some jobs and multiply the economic opportunities available.
“More importantly we agreed on the need for leaders to speak out forcefully to counter divisive speech or any kind of war mongering.
“We agreed that leaders at all levels speak out forcefully against any kind of divisiveness or divisive speech. And we expect that our political leaders will do so without waiting to be prompted,” he said.
The acting president said most of those who spoke expressed the view that sometimes when leaders do not speak up promptly, the problems degenerate no matter what they are.
This applied to both the statement made by the young people in the south-east as well as the youth in the northern states.
“We discovered that there was a need for much greater resonance in the way that these things are done and for the leaders to speak up more forcefully.
“We believe that if the leaders do not speak up forcefully enough, if for any reason matters are allowed to degenerate, not only does leadership lose their legitimacy, they run the risk of things going completely out control,” Osinbajo said.
He commended the leaders from the North and South for their openness at the consultations saying “that they were extremely responsible even in their criticisms of what they felt were issues that should have been better handled.”
“I think that their criticisms were fair and balanced. I must commend them for their sense of responsibility and their leadership,” he said.
Osinbajo urged the governors to unite with themselves and the federal government to “resolve various challenges that arise on a constant basis for the benefit of all Nigerians regardless of party affiliations”.
He called on the governors to resist the temptation to play politics especially with matters of security.
“Sometimes intensions are perceived on the account of the fact that they have wrong perception about a particular thing.
“I think it is in our place to ensure that we dig down the fact and ensure that people are given the fact and ensure that we don’t colour them with politics,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by some ministers, heads of the nation’s security agencies, and top officials in the presidency.