President Muhammadu Buhari says his government does not discriminate against the south-east region or any part of the country.
He said this on Tuesday while addressing a crowd during his two-day working visit in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
The President also noted that his visit was a symbol of a strong belief in the Unity of Nigeria, and therefore, encouraged the youths to dismiss any calls for secession.
“My presence here today is a demonstration of a strong belief in the Unity of Nigeria as the most populous country in Africa with over 300 ethnic groups – our diversity is almost unique among nations.
“The people of the South-East are known for their ingenuity, industrial and commercial talent.
“There is no part in Nigeria where you will not find Igbo entrepreneurs, both men and women contributing to the development of their adopted communities.
“So I am asking you all not to buy into the senseless propaganda on secession. Igbo is Nigeria and Nigeria is Igbo. Both are Inseparable.
“We must, therefore, continue to commit ourselves to the development of Nigeria while we sustain our unity without compromising on our cultural identities.
“We must work towards building a Nigeria that we can sleep at night, knowing that tomorrow will be better than today.”
The President also stressed the need for nation-building and the need for leaders at all levels to teach their subjects the importance of unity, starting from the home-front.
“The task of nation-building is a continuous one, it relies on the successful transition of factual knowledge from one nation to the other. This means it is our collective responsibility to ensure we do not betray our founding fathers as we transform the Nigerian project from one generation to the next.
“As our national anthem says, the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain – So parents, speak to your children on the importance of their heritage, culture and being open-minded.
“Teachers, teach your students about the history of this nation, and leaders, we must lead by example and show tolerance and acceptance of diversity.”
Buhari also expressed gratitude to the government and traditional leaders of Ebonyi State for conferring on him two traditional titles.
“I’m delighted to be in Abakiliki today, to interact with the good people of this state and indeed the south-east region as a whole.
“I want to express my gratitude for their hospitality and the warm reception since our arrival in Abakiliki Some Hours Ago.
“In the last few hours, I have commissioned some landmark projects and laid the foundation stone for the Ebonyi City Mall and fly-over bridge projects.
“I commend his Excellency, Governor David Umahi for his vision and commitment to the development of his state.
“In the course of my visit, I also had the honour and privilege of unveiling the statue of a great Nigerian – Sir Akanu Ibiam, whose notable record of humanitarianism and advocacy of free primary education will continue to be an inspiration to all.
“I am also grateful to the people of Ebonyi as well as the southeast traditional rulers who today bestowed on me, traditional titles. I am Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi (A good Friend) and to the South East and I am Ochioha NdiIgbo. I thank you for this honour and the kind gesture,” he added.
Buhari was also honoured with two chieftaincy titles in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State.
One of the titles, Ochioha NdiIgbo 1 (Igbo Warrior), was conferred on him by South East traditional council of rulers led by Eze Eberechi Dick, while the other, Enyioma 1of Ebonyi (A good Friend), was conferred on him by the Ebonyi traditional council of rulers led by Eze Charles Mkpuma.
The President who arrived in Ebonyi on Tuesday was received by the governors of Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia states.
He made a stop at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu after which he proceeded to Ebonyi. He is also expected to visit Anambra State.
This is the first time he is visiting the south-east region since he became president, a move which he hinted, is aimed at reassuring the region that his government does not discriminate against any part of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Presidency has denied claims that President Muhammadu Buhari visit to the South-East region is politically motivated.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina rejected the claims in a phone interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“If some people are infusing such motives, they have a right to their thoughts. As far as the President is concerned, this is a state in the country he has been invited to come on a state visit and commission some projects,” Mr Adesina said.
In the defence of his principal, the presidential spokesman explained that the state in question (Ebonyi) is under the control of a party in the opposition, the People’s Democratic Party.
According to him, the President’s visit, therefore, shows that he means well for all parts of the country regardless of political affiliations.
Mr Adesina rejected reports that the Buhari-led administration sidelined the zone in his appointments.
“Talking about appointments from the region, if you were here today in the places where the President was received, what is just the general opinion, what they have been asking for is just ‘more.’ It is not as if we have not gotten anything, they say thank you for the ones we have but we want more.
“And if you ask people from other parts of the country, it will be the same request, it will be the same sentiment. Thank you for what you have given us, but we want more.
“So, it not only one region of the country that has issues about being under-appointed or under-represented in govt, almost every region can lay claim to that,” he added. – Additional report from Channels.