The coalition of Northern Groups on Thursday announced withdrawal of quit notice it issued against Ibos living in northern Nigeria back in June when the coalition first addressed a press conference in Kaduna. Spokesman for the coalition, Abdulaziz Suleiman said the withdrawal was as a result of series of consultations and pressure from different groups particularly from the Northern Governors through their chairman and Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima as well as meetings with some Northern traditional rulers, the Director-General of the DSS and some officials of the Presidency.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima represented the Northern Governors’ Forum at the press conference which held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, during which he explained reasons for his presence.
The Governor who is Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum said he was at the press conference to monitor and ensure that the coalition withdraw the quit notice as agreed in his series of meetings with them on behalf of majority of Northern Governors. He also explained his series of dialogue with the group was based on mandate given to him by majority of Northern Governors who wanted a peaceful resolution of the issue.
“First of all, my interest in this issue is borne out of the position of majority of Northern Governors. I am acting based on a mandate given to me by some of my colleagues in the Northern Governors ‘ Forum. We are here principally as a pressure group to support the reverse position taken by the Coalition of Arewa groups. We are here to politely but meticulously ensure that this press conference holds as planned and to politely monitor and ensure that the quit notice was publicly withdrawn the same way it was publicly declared in June.
“As you might have been aware, if you followed our discussions, this quit notice was supposed to have been withdrawn weeks back, we met with them on four occasions and on each, we wanted them to announce the withdrawal but obviously, the coalition had some constraints. They needed to consult widely to avoid rebellion by some members of their coalition. So we kept the conversation opened and we continued talking and monitoring them every step of the way.
“Some people might ask, why should we be interested in these Arewa coalition withdrawing the quit notice. We simply want to prevent a situation where some hoodlums would take advantage of the quit notice to go after the lives or property of any Nigerian living in any of the 19 Northern States. We also don’t want to create room for reactions in any of the 17 States in Southern part of the country. The entire country could explode.
“The fact is that the coalition only has control over their own ultimatum before it expires. In this country, issues of religion and ethnicity are usually catalysts of violent crisis. As Governors, we are close to the grassroots through local government and ward systems. We know the extent of sentiments and followership generated by both the ultimatum issued by the Arewa Youths and the agitation in southeast, we know this country could boil when the ultimatum expires and this is why we insisted on political solution.
“The Northern Governors were initially of the view that they should be arrested soon after they issued that ultimatum but after very careful analysis, after putting our ears to the ground and monitoring the sentiments built especially from the social media, we changed tactics to deploying a political solution because even if we had resorted to coercion, we probably would have still ended up on the negotiating table.
“The bloody crisis of the Niger Delta which recorded high toll of deaths and destruction of National assets for years, ended on the negotiating table. Even the Biafran civil war ended on the negotiating table. If we could negotiate before blood is shared, before property is destroyed, before millions of people are displaced, why must we wait till after the situation gets out of hand?
“As we speak, the military has what they call operation safe corridor which gives room for a sort of amnesty of moderate elements of the Boko Haram who took up arms against the people of Borno State and the country. It is a strategy of reducing fighters of the insurgents. So, in leadership, every situation is handled with the appropriate measure. Unless attempts for peaceful resolution fail, then there will be no option than to use force. What is most important now is that the Federal Government has taken measures that clearly categorizes hate speech as a form of terrorism. This is a great move that should be preventive of any future situation,” Mr. Shettima said.
The Governor also took time to explain the roles played by the three most dominant tribes in Nigeria, the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, noting that Nigeria’s future lies in its unity and prosperity. He said all ethnic groups have equal stake in the Nigerian project.