Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday, read the Riot Act to all those beating the drum of war across the country, saying the full force of the law would be applied where necessary.
Osinbajo gave the warning while addressing leaders of thought from the Northern part of the country at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting which was held behind closed doors was called in the wake of the recent quit notice youths from the Northern part of the country handed down to people from the South East to leave their region.
Osinbajo, however in his opening remarks before journalists were excused from the venue, said the Federal Government was determined to ensure unity in the country.
He said hate speeches and other divisive behaviours would be met with the full force of the law.
He said the government would take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or disrupt the peace of the country.
The Acting President said, “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.
“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.
“This is 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.”
Osinbajo likened violence or hate speech to a stone that is thrown in the marketplace which will hit targets that will be deadly.
He said Nigerians needed to be fully conscious that they do not create a crisis that is not intended.
Osinbajo admitted that as part of living together, misunderstandings and frustrations will always arise and people will always want to get the best part of the deal.
This notwithstanding, he said Nigerians must be careful to recognise that they can only begin to talk about any part of anything if they 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 appealed.
Those at the meeting included President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin; Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum and former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Comassie; spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi; and a former governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamako.
Others are 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, and the Editor in Chief of Daily Trust, Dan Ali among others.
Osinbajo is expected to meet with leaders from the South East separately before he will eventually meet with both groups together.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, confirmed this in a series of tweets on his Twitter handle. (Punchng.com)