Signatories to that statement asking Igbos to leave the north, deserve a cranium check after they've been arrested.
“With the effective date of this declaration, which is today, Tuesday, June 06, 2017, all Igbo currently residing in any part of Northern Nigeria are hereby served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the East are advised likewise,” read Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman on behalf of the youth groups.
The ultimatum was issued from the Arewa House in Kaduna and was signed among others by the Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum and Northern Emancipation Network.
According to the Arewa youth, the ultimatum to the Igbos became necessary following the recent sit-at-home directive enforced in the east of Nigeria by secessionist groups like the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
IPOB and MASSOB often declare May 30 annually as a work and business free day to commemorate the declaration of a Biafra republic in 1967 by then Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Ojukwu’s declaration led to a bloody civil war between Nigeria and pro-Biafra forces that lasted all of three years.
The Arewa youth are miffed that this year’s sit-at-home turned out a resounding success and are asking the Igbos to empty out of their territory as a consequence.
Parts of the statement from Arewa youth reads in part: “The persistence for the actualization of Biafra by the unruly Igbo of South-Eastern Nigeria has lately assumed another alarming twist which involved the forceful (sic) lockdown of activities and denial of other people right to free movement in the South-East by the rebel IPOB and its overt and covert sponsors.
“This latest action and similar confrontational conducts which amount to a brutal encroachment on the rights of those termed as non-indigenous people residing and doing lawful businesses in those areas illegally demarcated and defined as Biafra by the Igbo, are downright unacceptable and shall no longer be tolerated.
“This is happening irrespective of the undisputable fact that Igbo have done and are doing more damage to our collective nationhood than any other ethnic group; being responsible for the first violent interference with democracy in Nigeria resulting in a prolonged counter-productive chain of military dictatorship.
“It is on record that since the inception of the current democratic dispensation, the Igbo have shown and maintained open contempt and resentment for the collective decision expressed by majority of Nigerians at various stages via generally acceptable democratic processes.
“The North hereby openly calls on the authorities and other national and international stakeholders to acknowledge this declaration by taking steps to facilitate the final dissolution of this hopeless union that has never been convenient to any of the parties.
“As a first step, since the Igbo have clearly abused the unreciprocated hospitality that gave them unrestricted access to, and ownership of landed properties all over the North, our first major move shall be to reclaim, assume and assert sole ownership and control of these landed resources currently owned, rented or in any way enjoyed by the ingrate Igbo in any part of Northern Nigeria.
“We are hereby placing the Nigerian authorities and the entire nation on notice that as from the 1st October 2017, we shall commence the implementation of visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbo”.
Who are these guys who think they can just wake up and order whole ethnic groups out of a section of the country?
To add salt to injury, MASSOB has welcomed the idea. The group has asked all Igbos doing business and residing in northern Nigeria to return home.
“MASSOB gladly received the good news of quit notice order to the people of Biafra living in Arewa land. We pledge our total support towards this divinely approved quit notice. MASSOB congratulates the Arewa political, religious, and traditional and opinion leaders who sponsored their youth wing by using Arewa House in Kaduna for this greatest meeting of a coalition of Islamic fundamentalists”, MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, said.
“MASSOB is hereby advising the people of Biafra; mostly the Igbo living in Northern Nigeria (Arewa land) to take this quit notice serious (sic) as the plan to violently kill your children, wives and demolish your investments are already perfected”.
What the heck did we just read?
It was a sickening way to commence my day and I’m still sick in the stomach from going through the statements and counter statements from purported representatives of both ethnic groups.
The point to be made here is that what we refer to as the ‘north’ of Nigeria isn’t even homogenous. There are different ethnic groups and tongues in what we call ‘north’ and the same applies to the Utopian Biafra. A bunch of signatories to a silly statement do not speak for hundreds of ethnic groups and minorities in both geopolitical zones.
However, like I wrote only last week, it has reached the point where we have to sit down and discuss the terms of our union as candidly as possible.
This discussion has got to have restructuring and resource control as the immediate targets to be met.
The center is too powerful as it stands and the various contending units of this union will continue to bay for blood just to get their hands on the national cake.
We can’t have a nation where a people still feel this genuinely aggrieved and hurt, 50 years after.
At the core of the agitations for secession is the failure of leadership and the erroneous soundbite from the ruling class that “the unity of the nation is non-negotiable”.
Everything in life is negotiable and Nigeria shouldn’t be an exception.
Nigeria has failed just about every ethnic group. Development indices in the core north are just as horrible as they are in the south. Minorities have been treated even worse by the state.
There are genuine grievances amongst the people who inhabit the geographical region called Nigeria—grievances the state has to address as soon as possible.
In the interim, the federal government has to realise that these inciting statements from groups in the north and south are capable of morphing into yet another round of crises or internecine skirmishes. Acting president Yemi Osinbajo has to deploy relevant organs of the federal government to nip doomsday in the bud.
Northern elders who have been vocal when it comes to discussing the struggle for power, have to distance themselves from what their young have put out and show greater restraint in heating up the polity.
The young men and women across the country who issue these banal statements should be made to realise that war is never a pleasant experience for anyone and that we stand to lose more if we head our separate ways.
Law enforcement should also not hesitate to pick up and interrogate members of these groups who fan embers of war at a whim.
We have a nation to build and Nigeria is relatively young.
On the road to nation building, mistakes will be made, there’ll be false starts here and there and millions will understandably lose faith in the union. Whether you choose to believe it or not, there’s enormous strength in our diversity and we should be proud that we aren’t a homogenous entity.
Learning from mistakes will be key and on no account must we resort to another war like we experienced in the ‘60s.
Shutting out hateful and inciting comments will be required, going forward.