•Disagree with Buhari on Nigeria’s unity
From Ali Abare, Gombe
The Arewa Youth Coalition has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari over his insistence that the unity of the country is non-negotiable. The group urged the government to conduct a referendum to provide an exit door for those who did not want to be part of Nigeria.
Buhari, who returned on Saturday, after 103 days in London, for medical treatment, said in a nationawide broadcast on Monday that the country was better off staying together.
But rising from a town hall meeting for the North East geopolitical zone, yesterday, the coalition disagreed with him on the non-negotiability of the unity of the country.
National Chairman of the coalition, Alhaji Yerima Shettima told newsmen in Gombe, yesterday, that Nigeria should create an exit door for the Biafra agitators by convening a referendum.
“The president just came back from his medical vocation. In normal circumstances, one should have expected him to take some time to have a clear review of situations in the country after spending 103 days abroad.
“His statement is a welcome development to some extent because there are issues; the unity of the country is being threatened. I think the focus of the president was basically on the threat to our national unity and those were the key issues he spoke about. In addition, that we would no longer tolerate anybody undermining the security of the country. Certainly, agreed, it should be that way as he felt. But I feel also that on the side of international law to which Nigeria is signatory, it is expected that government must create an exit door for those who feel they want to leave through a referendum and as stipulated in the 1999 constitution.
“It would not augur well if we insist on living with people who do not want to be part of the country and they keep threatening the unity of the country. It may even appear to the international community like a mockery.
“If the government is up and doing, let us abide by the demands of the international law by creating an exit door for those agitating for self determination,” Shettima said.
The Arewa youth coalition chairman, however, said he was optimistic that with a referendum, the Igbo people would chose to remain part of Nigeria.
“Certainly, the IPOB cannot be said to be speaking for the South-East because they are less than ten percent of the Igbo communities who are willing to remain in Nigeria,” he said.
He explained that the meeting in Gombe was continuation of the coalition’s resolution to go round the geopolitical zones in the north to sensitise the people and discuss with them with a view at arriving at decisions. The North West and North Central meeting had earlier held in Kano and Nasarawa, respectively.
Shedding light on the October 1 quit notice issued to Igbo, Shettima lamented that the group’s message in the Kaduna Declaration was misunderstood.
“An individual cannot hold the country to ransom. We felt patriotic individuals from the South East should have lent their voices to safeguard the unity of the country by condemning the IPOB agitators. If, however, some individuals so much believe in their Biafra, let such people go to your Biafra. Don’t bring war to the North, to Nigeria,” he explained.
He noted that people in the North actually desire a united Nigeria, a country he said where all would come together to build a virile nation.
“Our call is being misunderstood. We have been misquoted by mischief-makers who made it seem we are calling for violence. That is why we are not faceless and we respond to calls anywhere for dialogue with elder statesmen.”
Shettima said to some extent, the coalition concurred with the President, particularly on the issue of security but not on the non-negotiability of the unity of the country.
Those at the meeting in Gombe were representatives of youths cutting across segments of the society including representatives from religious organisations like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Jamatul Nasirul Islam (JNI).