From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammedu Buhari has insisted that the country’s unity is not negotiable.
Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, said President Buhari made the point when the Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, led him to brief the president on the suspension of blockade of 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 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 would not want to toe the line AFUCDN and make similar demands, Bello said: “ 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…
“They are demanding that the various extortions that take 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 traders are not 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 sympathise 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 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 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 highly placed, divide us again, it is not possible. So, I think, if the Federal Government or the authorities take responsibility and do or attend to it, such a strike will not repeat itself.”
He dismissed insinuations that his intervention was to oil his 2023 presidential ambition.
“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.”