From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Eze-Igbo, Kaduna, Igwe Sylvanus Aneke has said that Arewa youths are too insignificant to tell Igbo to quit the North because of a group of people agitating for the Republic of Biafra in the South East.
Igwe Aneke in this interview with NOAH EBIJE said it is only the Federal Government that has the constitutional power to split the country.
Following the insistence by Arewa youths that Igbo should leave the North, are your people going to abandon their investments in the North by succumbing to the threat?
Naturally we are in shock that such threat message will come from people we have been staying with for years and living peacefully with. We don’t have any problem with them.
As for whether we will leave is not as easy as that. We have spent years working very hard in this country, developing the state, the country in our own way; and of course, we have investments. You don’t leave because of a message that says you should leave. This is still a country that we call our own. If the country tells us to leave, we will leave but if it’s individuals, then it’s a question of the government addressing the issues why they are saying we should leave. What is the problem? Why the agitation? And agitation is not just from one quarter, but in this country, there are agitations from different quarters.
So the government cannot continue to pretend that there’s nothing wrong when there are issues. So my advice is not to the Arewa youths, my advice is to the authorities, the people that are leading this country; they should address the issues that are provoking these agitations – equity, fairness and justice.
The Arewa youths are insisting that Igbo should leave because your people are calling for Biafra Republic, what’s your reaction to this?
The question, is it all the Igbo that are calling for it? It’s a few young men who did not witness the war, that are calling for it. You see, it’s just like a child who wants to put his hands into the fire, the elder knows that if he puts his hands into the fire, it will burn him. So, the elders of the Igbo are not really supporting the IPOB, we identify with the problem. Just like I told you, the issues, what’s provoking the agitation? The agitation is their own reaction. Their way of reacting and that’s not what the elders of the Igbo want. What we want is to address injustice, to have fairness, fair share of whatever. To have that sense of belonging in the country.
There are reasons every day of how the Igbo are being discriminated against. No group can be happy with that. The youths are exploring this way because they feel that we the elders are comfortable with the situation. We’re not comfortable with the situation, but we know that calling for separation or division of this country will not be the solution but unity of Nigeria. We fought a war before and at the end, we accepted that Nigeria should be one. And they say to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.
We’ve accepted that many years ago, so why should we now be asking for that again? If we say Nigeria is one, let it be one. If Nigeria is one, then every person should have fair share of whatever the country has. That’s all.
As the October 1 deadline is fast approaching, do you put any mechanism in place to dissuade your people who are trying to move out of panic?
We are not thinking of doing that. There is freedom of movement but we know that our people are not planning to move. We cannot tell whoever wants to move not to move; but we know because we’re being assured, we listened to Arewa youths, we also listened to responsible Arewa citizens and elders. They’re not saying the same thing. So why must it be that of the youths we should take? We were with the governor of Kaduna State, we know the assurances he gave us. We were with the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, we know the assurances they gave us. Do you think we should ignore all these ones and then obey the command of the Arewa youths? We cannot say nobody should move but we know that unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchmen watch but in vain. Our lives are in the hands of God not in the hands of any man. So people are free to take their decision but as a group, we feel that we have enough assurance from other members of Arewa colleagues who we’ve been living with for years.
How satisfied are you with the way some elders of the North are handling the situation?
Well, you see everybody has his own freedom. We know some elders are behind them. When a bird is dancing on the road, there must be someone drumming, we know that. Of course we cannot be happy that elders who know the consequences of war, who were there, and saw what even Nigeria had to pay to keep Nigeria one are part of the plot. If we wanted the Igbo to go when they went, why do we have to lose lives to bring them back? So if Nigerians lost lives on both sides to be one, it’s so unfortunate for any adult who knew the time to still wish that there’ll be a second war in Nigeria.
Since the event of that quit notice, how frequent does your phone ring?
Oh, that one I cannot just say -the phones are ringing every minute, not just the threat, the threat triggered chains of reaction. I think the worst threat is even the social media. The type of things in the social media which our people read at home, so the pressure is that every five minutes I receive calls, ‘what are you people still doing there in the North ?’ This is terrible but fortunately we are here, so we know the situation more than them that are there. So when they’re telling us they’ve killed someone, they post photographs of people that are killed, and they mentioned the place and these are places where we’re moving freely. So we tell them it is not as bad as they think; but the pressure is there.
The Igbo delegates from the 19 Northern states met here in Kaduna, what were the core issues discussed at the meeting?
To share ideas and experiences. You want to know; when we hear something happened , we may not know. If they said they killed 10 persons in Sokoto, you can’t be in Kaduna and be sure that is not true. So the Eze Igbo Sokoto was here, the leaders in Sokoto came, Taraba, Adamawa from all parts of the North, both Bauchi and Yobe were all here. So, we now shared our experiences and the assurances. These are the things we came together to know what is really happening. And of course we all went enmass to the governor. So, they were all there and the governor of Kaduna State assured them of safety.
Was there any bitter experience from any of the States?
No! None at all. All the representatives that came from different states debunked all the stories we’ve been getting from the Facebook, that nothing like that happened.