The Northern Governors’ Forum at the weekend held two days dialogue with key leaders of coalition of Arewa groups which issued eviction notice to Igbos in June, asking them to vacate the nineteen States of Northern Nigeria before October 1, 2017.
Chairman of the Northern Governors ‘ Forum and Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima represented the nineteen northern Governors at the two day dialogue while the coalition was represented by five key leaders that included the coalition’s spokesman, Abdulazeez Suleman who read the eviction notice in June, tagged ‘the Kaduna declaration’. The coalition’s key leaders at the dialogue include Balarabe Rufai, Yerima Shettima, Ashir Sherrif and Aminu Adam.
The meeting between the coalition and Shettima began on Saturday in Kaduna, a day after the northern Governors held two-day meeting in Kaduna. Governor Shettima had through the mediation of a journalist reached out and hosted the despite initial hesitation by leaders of the groups. After hours of meeting in Kaduna which didn’t end, Governor Shettima invited the coalition’s leaders for conclusion of their dialogue in Abuja on Sunday.
On why the Governors chose to dialogue with the same youths they had ordered for their arrest last month, Governor Shettima told a State Television reporter that the dialogue option was chosen because a political problem often requires a political solution”.
“It is only a fool that doesn’t change his mind to review decisions and strategies. There is never a limit to who should be engaged in dialogue no matter what the situation is. After all, even armed conflicts of deaths and destructions often end through dialogue with persons who took up arms against a State. Some people may think the withdrawal of eviction ultimatum by the coalition wouldn’t mean so much but to us as leaders and from our experiences, it is always dangerous to underestimate the capacity of any group of youths especially when youths come together and seem determined. There are millions of other youths that might have been following and supportive of the activities of the coalition of Arewa groups and as we know, issues relating to ethnicity and religion mostly get out of control. As Northern Governors, we do not take chances on potential violence unless on issues beyond our control” Shettima explained after the Saturday meeting in Kaduna.
At the resumed meeting in Abuja on Sunday, the Governor held meeting with the coalition leaders during which he persuaded them to announce the withdrawal of their eviction ultimatum for the stability of the country. The Governor and the coalition’s leaders later brief journalists at the Governor’s lodge.
“The youths held prior meeting with His Eminence, the Sultan in previous time. Yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday) We had a very fruitful discussion and I believe in the coming days, there will something positive from them. In our dialogue they explained their position and I also explained the position of the Governors and why we differed. They demonstrated patriotism and commitment to the unity of Nigeria and progress of the country” Shettima said.
Abdulazeez Suleiman, spokesman of the coalition who addressed journalists in the midst of his co-leaders said the meeting came they met with the Northern Governors out of respect for their leaders.
“We have listened to Governor Kashim Shettima. This is the first time we are meeting any leader in Government and doing it before the media. It is a major development and we are going to make some consultation with other representatives of different groups in the north after which we will make our resolution known by addressing the media” Suleiman said on behalf of the coalition.