Nigeria is a country with three major ethnic groups, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa/Fulani. The suspicious cordiality that had until recently bonded the three major ethnic groups together with other minority groups in the Nigerian federation recently came under the searchlight when a group of Hausa/Fulani youth groups called on the Igbo in the North to leave the region on the claim that the crave for Biafra made the Igbo as a people undeserving of relevance in Nigeria.
The claim by the Northern groups has been sharply denounced by state and ethnic groups, but the groups remain undeterred. The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-cultural group for the Igbo, Nnia Nwodo in this interview rebuts the eviction order and addresses what he asserts as distortions in the Nigerian federation, just as the scribe of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Ahmed Sule reiterates the eviction order.
A chieftain of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Dr. Amos Akingba on his part dissects the issue saying that the country must be restructured.
DO you think that Ango Abdulahi and the Arewa youths have the mandate to speak on behalf of the north?
I think we have several reasons, from their discordant voices, Ango Abdullahi speaking on behalf of the Northern elders. It does appear that even if he doesn’t have the mandate, a number of incidences that have happened prior to the outburst of the Northern youths indicate that the governors and those who have spoken to the contrary may not have the capacity to stand the budding hate that may precipitate insecurity to the lives of non-Northerners in the North.
Since 2015, five Igbo people have been lynched and murdered in Abuja. On September 23, Arinze Chukwem from Enugu State on an errand to buy rechargeable lantern and on demand for balance was accused of being a thief and was stabbed 47 times; the police has been unable to do anything.
In September, Maduabuchi Ezenwa, from Imo State was lynched following an argument with an Hausa trader. On March 25, Ikechukwu Ogbo from Enugu State after barbing entered a keke and paid money and asked for balance, that was refused. He was accused of being a barawo and was lynched. Police claimed it was a mob action.
On November 27, Ndubisi Ogbuka from Abia State was beheaded in his farm in Abuja; his head was not found until two weeks later. In May this year, a young man pressed to urinate, urinated in a gutter close to a mosque in an area in Abuja called Gwagwa. He was lynched and nobody has been arrested or prosecuted.
In October 2016, Sylvester Ozuari from Anambra State was killed in Balado in Dutse Local Government Area in Jigawa State. In Niger State, on May 28, Emmanuel Chukuwma Ije from Enugu State was killed in Pandogari, in Rafi local Government. He was accused of blasphemy, properties and shops belonging to Igbo in Pandagari worth over N200 million were burnt. The Local Government chairman said the young man was innocent; no compensation has been paid.
Just last Thursday, a young man called Ikenna Nwabueze from Orlu while all this was going on was killed in Kano, and the police have not arrested any of the suspects. You know about the case of Bridget last year June in Kano who someone went to do ablution in front of her shop and noting has been done till date.
Can these cases be linked to this current threat?
Yes, it can. First of all, I see this threat as a quintessence of a budding hate, despise for Ndigbo and a seeming acquiescence by the Federal Government to enact a mission like the Animal Farm in which some animals are more equal than others. The young men in the North see the country as an empire and see any agitation from any part of the country that is not fairly treated as dissatisfaction, and this has pervaded the youth, and we cannot discard this as a minority group. There is a budding crescendo all over the country of a disposition that is anti-thesis to the national unity and a docility of the government and law enforcement agencies.
Who do you think in the North can caution against such hate statements?
Right now it does appear that hell has been let loose as the young men as reported in Vanguard said they dared the police to arrest them. The young men in the South East are saying there is nothing more threatening to the national integrity than this.
The act is completely committed; they have declared a new state that excludes the South East from the state of Nigeria; they have gone on to describe measures to actualise this. Everything in that speech shows a concluded crime. They have declared an intention, consummated it, and they have begun to take inventory of properties. No state is achieved by property acquisition or by a mere declaration that people must obey eviction notice; this is what the young men have done.
It does appear that the police are helpless, the federal government is helpless, and the federal executive council met, but we didn’t hear anything about it. The Inspector General called all Commissioners of Police and issued an order, that order has been challenged by the young men. The governor of Kaduna State has issued an arrest order, but it has not been carried out.
Are you saying that the authorities fear the youths?
I am saying that it does appear that there is a budding crescendo of hate in the North amongst the youth in the North that has reduced the authorities to being ineffective in this circumstance, I would like the federal government to take charge and show that they are in charge.
There was a Supreme Court justice who said that when you no longer allow freedom of information in public, you give room for incubation of revolution in that country. I believe that all right thinking Nigerians have said the same thing, the unanimity of views in the public domain, from the socio-cultural organisations, the Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum and the enlightened intelligentsia and the Northern Governors Forum.
The unanimity of views that we need to preserve our country…and this government is not working, not just this government but the entire structure of Nigeria is not working. The time we had regional governments in the country, every area of the country was financially independent and capable of propelling development to the highest level. In the North there were groundnut pyramids, Ahmadu Bello University was built, and textiles industries were built.
In the South West, there was cocoa, the first television station in Africa was built, the first stadium in Nigeria was built, there was free education at all levels. In the South East palm oil was a source of revenue, Nsukka University was built, and Presidential Hotel was built in Port Harcourt and Enugu and a robust industrial policy that produced the best steel industry in black Africa.
I don’t see how you can leave a workable system for an unworkable system. The constitutions of 1979 and 1999 were handed over by the army. It was their after war package to be able to manage the country in a unitary form after distributing loot of war by way of state and local government. Can they tell us the parameter local governments were created in this country? Bayelsa with its high production of oil but which is taken automatically to the distributable pool of Nigeria has about seven local governments, but Kano has about forty and local governments are used as an index for revenue distribution. It destroys productivity, and I don’t see any country called a federation like this in the world.
What is Ohanaeze’s stand on this new agitation for Biafra?
Ohanaeze feels that the agitation for Biafra in the South East is a by-product of the series of intimidation, of treatment as second class citizens which the people of the South East have been subjected to. The young men in the South East are the main purveyors of the demand for Biafra. Ohanaeze has not yet endorsed that demand but we understand why they are doing this and we find it almost impossible to control them because they have passed vote of no confidence on us their elders for not having the capacity to right the wrongs that are being meted out on our people.
I think it was Ozhekome, (Chief Mike) a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who visited the South East recently and he wrote a very interesting article about how there was a siege in the South East. In every major city of South East, there is a combined army and police check point. Road check points, they will not search you for illegal weapons and drugs or anything of national security, they are toll gates, they are robbing our people in broad day light without caring whether there is an Inspector General of Police coming in convoy right behind them.
Look at the appointments that are done in federal service. No arm of the security services in the Federal Government of Nigeria is handled by anybody from the Southeast, a clear vote of confidence that you are not trusted enough to be anywhere. They have pushed these boys to do what they are doing.
Are you saying the manner in which the agitation has come is justifiable?
I am saying that the children have no choice but to say, if we are treated as second-class citizens in this country, we have no choice but to declare self determination. And I am saying to the government and people of Nigeria, why can’t we sit together and dialogue. I said it in my speech in Yara dua centre the other day….
I have said, and I hope you will quote me correctly if the present condition in Nigeria persists, self determination becomes inevitable. But it is in the interest of all of us to build a united Nigeria. Our strength is in our diversity; it is in our capacity to build a strong county out of these entities. Look at India what it has built in spite of its population, look at China what it has built in spite of its population, look at the United States what it has built in spite of its population. We make self determination inevitable if we do not revisit the structure of this country.
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