General Yakubu Gowon, who led Nigeria through a 30-month civil war, yesterday, lamented that the country had fallen into full scale civil war with the spate of crises in the northeast.
His assertion was corroborated by the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU.
The assertions came as the governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shetima lamented that the last seven days have been the worst in his life following the abduction of 129 girls from a secondary school in the state. He disclosed that seven more girls had escaped from the hideout of the Boko Haram insurgents bringing the number of those remaining in captivity of the Islamic insurgents to 77.
Meanwhile, despite Saturday's formal lapse of the state of emergency in the troubled Northeast, the military remained fully deployed in the three states with strict restriction on the movement of persons in the states.
However, telephone communications which were once curtailed after the proclamation of emergency rule by President Goodluck Jonathan last April have noticeably improved.
Nevertheless, opinion on the sustenance of the state of emergency remained mixed among stakeholders from within and outside the troubled states. While some called for the full implementation of emergency rule with the suspension of the elected political institutions, other stakeholders differed. All parties were nevertheless agreed that the soldiers deployed to the region should remain.
The president has not given notice of his inclination towards renewing or suspending the state of emergency. A security meeting between the president and the nation's governors is expected to hold on Wednesday following which a formal announcement on the issue would be clarified.
The state of emergency was first proclaimed by President Jonathan in April 2013 and renewed after six months last November.
Gowon, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard on the sideline of events marking the 75th birthday of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, said it was imperative for the government to firmly deal with the rising wave of terrorism in the country so as to keep the country one.
The former head of state pointed out that what was going on in Nigeria was close to the challenges the 30-month civil war posed to his administration.
He said that it was necessary for all Nigerians to team up with the government to ensure that the forces opposed to the continued unity and progress of the country were roundly defeated.
Describing the insurgents as enemies of a united Nigeria, Gowon enjoined Nigerians to support the federal government with necessary prayers to God to end the cycle of violence being unleashed on the nation by the insurgents.
It's civil war -- Gowon
Gowon said: "What we are witnessing today is not too different from what happened during my administration as head of state and we moved ahead to checkmate the insurgency.
"We need to pray and work with the government to ensure that this ugly cycle of violence comes to an end so that the unity of Nigeria is not threatened. It is therefore imperative for the government to take appropriate decisions to deal with the spate of violence sweeping through the country so that this country can remain as one united entity," he admonished.
While speaking at the birthday celebration, Gowon had said that he stood his ground to ensure that Nigeria remained as one during the civil war because he believed in the unity of the nation.
He pointed out that although he was not the one who coined "Go Ahead With One Nigeria, GOWON", the coinage significantly inspired him to resist all attempts by certain elements to divide the country.
The former head of state therefore appealed to Nigerian leaders at all levels to ensure that they render quality service to their people and also resist the temptation to stay in office beyond the stipulated terms in the constitution.
Gowon, who poured encomiums on Chief Ekaette, who had served him as Private Secretary between 1968 and 1975, said the former SGF was an embodiment of loyalty, hard work and transparency, who should be emulated by all well meaning Nigerians.
NASU in a statement recalled the April 14, 2014 bombing at Nyanya Motor Park, Abuja, which claimed over 100 lives with over 250 others injured, and the abduction of several female students from a Government Girls Secondary School, GGSS, in Chibok, Bornu State, 24 hours after the Nyanya bombing.
Speaking through its General Secretary, Peters Adeyemi, NASU, argued that it was unbelievable that one week after, the whereabouts and safety of some of the abducted students had remained unknown till today, calling on the Federal Government especially, the military to live up to its responsibilities of protecting the nation both internally and externally.
My worst days ever -- Shetima
Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima has described the last one week as his most troubling moment since he took over the mantle of affairs in May, 2011.
The statement came as seven more girls escaped from captivity, bringing the total number of those who have escaped to 52 leaving 77 still in captivity.
Shettima's expression of feelings was contained in his Easter message released by his spokesman, Isa Gusau and followed the abduction of 129 school girls in the early hours of last Tuesday at Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.
The Governor said though he had witnessed very dark days of insurgency inherited by his administration, none of the attacks had been more troubling for him as the abduction of the school girls.
"I am also very much aware that the girls abducted consist of not just those with origins traced to Chibok but also from other parts of the state and the country which is typical of a good secondary school that should unite Nigerians. I am also aware that the abducted students include both Christians and Muslim faithful.
"I am made to understand that the Ameera (spiritual head) of the Muslim Students Society in the school is among those abducted and yet to be freed. She was abducted alongside her Christian and Muslim colleagues without the insurgents worried about the religion any of the students practice. We must therefore remain united in our shared grief to pray vehemently for our girls as well as the patriotic security agencies and civilian volunteers currently in relentless search and rescue efforts.
"Between last night and this evening, seven more girls escaped from captivity, bringing to 52 the number of those with us out of 129 students that were at the hostel on the day of that attack. This means 77 students are yet to be found."
CAN declares fasting, prayers, appeal for their release
Meanwhile, the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Borno State, yesterday, called on all Christians in the state and Nigeria to begin fasting and prayers for the release of all the secondary school girls kidnapped by insurgents in Chibok.
State chairman of the association, Rev. Titus Pona at a press briefing in Maiduguri yesterday equally appealed to members of the Boko Haram to release the school girls.
"We are calling on all Christians in Borno state, Nigeria and the world to fast and pray for the release of the girls.
He also called on the insurgents to lay down their arms and channel their grievances through dialogue with the federal and state governments.