From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammedu Buhari has urged Nigerians to go about their lawful businesses as the country’s unity is not negotiable.
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, said President Buhari stressed this when the Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, led him to brief the president on the suspension of the strike to block supply of foodstuffs and cattle to the southern part of Nigeria by the Amalgamated Union of Food and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AFUCDN).
Addressing State House Correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, Bello Buhari who commended the efforts to resolve the crisis said: “Mr. President expressed concern over the insecurity in the land. As the commander in chief, he has assured everyone of us based on his security meeting yesterday, that Nigeria is going to be secured, safe and prosperous and I believe in him 100 percent.
“He urged everyone of us to continue to go about our lawful businesses in the country, that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable, that Nigeria must be united, peaceful and that Nigeria must be prosperous.”
Asked if other parts of the country will not want to tow the line AFUCDN and make similar demands, Bello said: “ And as regards the issue of the strike that took place and efforts to make sure it does not happen again, there were demands that were put forward by the amalgamated union, which has to do with compensation for lives and properties lost. Because, these are people who never requested that the government should give themselves subvention, this is their personal wealth and income and they are carrying on their lawful and peaceful businesses. But criminals took it upon themselves to hijack the process, kill these people in their hundreds destroyed properties worth billions of naira. Those that were killed, their families, the properties that were lost, where are they going to start from? They are demanding that federal government should do something and remember they’ve gone round the country, met various authorities and you know, they never received any attention. Hence, they embarked on that particular strike.
“They are demanding that the various extortion that takes place on our roads, starting from law enforcement agencies in some cases, and touts in most cases be stopped. And I thank God, Mr. President, has given directive to that effect, that all law enforcement agencies should ensure that traders should not be extorted on the road again. Yes, of course, from the point of loading and point of offloading they can pay the tax as required and they’ve been compliant. So they are asking that extortions be stopped and also that those who kill their members be brought to justice. I don’t think they’re asking for too much. So if those demands are met, or at least, attempts have been made to meet those demands, and if they can graciously respect, Mr. President, respect us and sympathize with Nigerians and call off their strike and begin the supply of food, and other items to all parts of this country, I think it behooves on us to equally meet them midway so that there’ll be no such occurrence again, anyway.
“And remember that the crisis was snowballing into a major national catastrophe whereby some other parts of this country were gearing up for reprisal attacks in this country and setting us up for crisis. Meanwhile, those who set up the crisis, that is what they want to achieve.
“We can’t afford to allow this country to snowball into civil war again, not this time around. We are so much interwoven that we are inseparable, again, by marriage, by business investments, by politics, and every other form of development. Nigeria is so much interwoven that we shouldn’t allow any few bad elements, however, lowly placed or however highly placed, come and divide us again, it is not possible.
“So this, I think, if the federal government or the authorities take responsibility and do or attend to it, I think such a strike will not repeat itself again.”
On insinuations that his intervention in the crisis of as to oil his 2023 presidential ambition, he said: “Thank you very much. I am not running away from the fact that numerous teaming youths, Nigerians, both women, youth, leaders,and followers, various groups are calling me to contest for the presidential election in 2023. That is their rights, it is within their purview to ask for that of demanding that I run as their representative in government today. “But I have an assignment to carry out, the assignment of ensuring that my state is safe and secured. We’re doing that effectively by providing leadership in Kogi state. We’re taking Kogi state from where it used to be in the past, to a more united prosperous, safe and secured Kogi state. Today, they’re asking me to replicate the same in the national level, that is within their rights. But to say that, when there is another call of an assignment from the commander in chief on me, to ensure that a little problem that can be solved, should not be allowed to snowball into a larger crisis that would put this country on unknown collision cause, I think I will never hesitate to take up that responsibility, and that I have done successfully to the glory of God and to the satisfaction of majority of Nigerian and Mr. President.
“Today, the north and south are having free flow of food, goods and services and we are on the path of ensuring that this lasting peace and tranquility in the country is sustained, what will happen in 2023 still remains in the hands of God Almighty. And I think God will do the best for me and for Nigerians in 2023.”
On if he would mediate in the farmers herders crisis threatening food crisis as well, Bello said: “The issue of insecurity generally, is what has been bothering the country, it has been affecting not only food as a supply chain, including production. Is a headache for Mr. President, for every leader in this country. And in Kogi state we have handled the issue of herders and farmers clash effectively. And we have reduced that incident to the barest minimum. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us, not only the federal government alone, including community leaders, from bottom up. It cannot be the responsibility of a president alone, not even law enforcement agencies alone. But all actors, so long as we are in Nigeria, it is your responsibility. Let us ensure that our communities are secured. We must, as citizens, ensure that we volunteer information and not indulge or harbour criminals amongst us. If we handle this issue on our own effectively, and then involve the federal government, I think the issue of herders, farmers clash, all forms of insecurity will reduce to the barest minimum.
“What am I doing in Kogi State, is no magic. I simply ensure that all the citizens are involved in the security architecture. Starting from your own home to the community, to the ward you come from, to the local government or to the state, everybody is involved, by way of voluntary information, credible information, and those of us in authority to ensure and encourage, enhance and embolden the law enforcement agencies to go for the criminals and deal with it within the ambit of the law.
“So, as a governor, today, I am urging each and every Nigerian to please take this matter very seriously. We shouldn’t just be relaxing at home and be calling Mr. President, calling the police or law enforcement agencies, the situation decayed long before now to solve it is not going to be overnight. But we must all put hands on deck to make sure we solve it. When we solve it. The issue of food production, food supply chain and other service goods and services will flow.”