THE recent exchange of visits by some Northern and South East leaders has undoubtedly reignited the spirit of brotherhood which reckless acts of some elements in authority and youths in the wider society had sought to break over the Biafra agitation.
First was the visit to the East by a delegation of Northern governors led by the Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, Governor Kashim Shettima, to Port-Harcourt, Owerri and Umuahia, in late September 2017. In the delegation were also Governors Aminu Masari of Katsina State, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
The essence of the visit, according to Governor Shettima, was to promote peace and foster cordiality between Northern communities and their hosts in the visited states. During the visit, the governors urged members of the Northern community in the three states to maintain good neighbourliness with their hosts. They also encouraged their host governors to pay similar visits to the North and by that, reassured the Igbo living in the North of their safety.
Within 48 hours of that visit, a delegation from the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by its President-General, Dr Nnia Nwodo, was in Sokoto and other Northern states at the instance of the South East Governors, where the same message of national unity was reiterated.
In the face of the descent of public discourse into acrimony and the abundance of hate speech in social media which nearly precipitated national upheavals, these visits by Northern and South East leaders are deeply encouraging.
As Governor Shettima said, the visit to the South was to show solidarity with the Southern governors who, in the face of pressures from some agitated youths, refused to play to the gallery. Particularly heart-warming was the unanimous decision by the South East Governors to distance the Zone from the separatist agenda of some groups choosing, instead, to stand with a united Nigeria. These efforts showed the determination of Nigerians to stay firm with the project to make Nigeria work in spite of daunting challenges.
We commend the National Assembly, the Northern Governors and the Eastern leaders for taking the bull by the horn in dousing the tension through constructive dialogue. This is further proof that leadership in a democracy is a collective venture and should never be left in the hands of any single authority.
Now that tensions have gone down, we urge the Federal Government to learn from this experience and do everything in its power to create an atmosphere that will give all Nigerians a sense of equity and full belonging to our national commonwealth.
President Muhammadu Buhari should take the lead in this effort and bring everybody back on board.