The raging violence in the Niger Delta featured prominently in the talks between President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday.
The two leaders examined the issues at stake and sought ways to ensure lasting peace in the volatile oil-laden Niger Delta region where some militants were threatening to declare a separate republic.
Jonathan, who spoke on his mission to the State House with journalists, disclosed that he has been in touch with Niger Delta leaders on ways of resolving the crisis in the region to ensure that Nigeria remains a united country.
After he emerged from the closed-door meeting with the President, Jonathan stressed his strong belief in the unity of the country, cautioning against its disintegration.
Jonathan, who handed over power to Buhari on May 29, 2015, said: “Nigeria’s greatness is in its size, resources and diversity, and it will become insignificant in world politics if it disintegrates.”
Some militants under the aegis of Adaka Boro Avengers (ADA) had slated last Monday for the declaration of the Niger Delta Republic. It later shelved the plan, linking its action to the intervention of Jonathan and other prominent Nigerians in the Niger Delta.
Asked what his role was in resolving the Niger Delta violence that has curtailed Nigeria’s oil export earnings and the economy, Jonathan said he was liaising with traditional rulers and opinion leaders, especially from his Ijaw tribe, to ensure the return of peace in the region.
His words: “It is not just about me but about all the traditional rulers, elders and opinion leaders that are of the Ijaw ethnic nationality; we have been in touch to see that peace reigns in the country.
“Those of you that have followed my talks when I was here (as President), know that my emphasis is that we need a united Nigeria. I always emphasise that Nigeria is great, not just about the oil. So many countries produce more oil than Nigeria and nobody notices them.
“We are great because of our size, the human resources we have and the diversity we have. If we fragmentize the country into small components, we will be forgotten by the world.
”That has been my focal position and without peace there cannot be development anywhere in the world. We are all working collectively to see that the issues are resolved,” he said.