By Wilfred Eya, Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Chinelo Obogo
The leadership of Ijaw nation has solicited the support of the British government to break away from Nigeria.
A delegation led by the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Okaba, made this known during a meeting with representatives of the British High Commission led by Mr John Kekeh, at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
In a seven-page address he presented on behalf of the Ijaw nation, Okaba lamented that the British government has abandoned the Ijaw people after deceiving them to join Nigeria with the assurance that they would be well taken care of.
He said the people were no longer at ease with the contraption called Nigeria.
“Again in the light of truth, good conscience, fairness, equity and justice would the British people and her government be perpetually silent and feign ignorance to the excruciating plight of the Ijaw people.
“Furthermore, perhaps the once colonial masters would with all intent and purpose act to rescue the ugly situation- may we ask if not now then when?
“We are indeed eager and anxious to know: Is your intervention coming when we are completely ripped off of our God-given oil and gas natural resources and abandoned to our fate in a wallowing and criminally degraded environment without remediation?
“In all honesty, would that not be a crime against humanity where the British government would be seen as accomplices,” he said.
Okaba while reiterating that the Ijaw people would leave Nigeria peacefully and legally called on the British government to come and undo what they did decades ago by forcing them into Nigeria.
“The visitation is about us telling them that you (British) brought us into Nigeria and they should play their role to take us out of this country. The British have the moral duty to take us out. We were deceived to join Nigeria; they abandoned us and deceived us. Let them do the needful. As Ijaw people, we are tired of this country. We have suffered in this country; we have carried the burden of this nation on our shoulders for too long. We have placed minimum conditions. The first condition is the restoration of true federalism. Number two, we have to be placed not as balkanised people. We cannot be scattered into different states and make us minorities and slaves. We cannot be slaves in a place where our resources are used to sustain the people. It is unacceptable. So, Ijaw people are saying to the Federal Government that if this minimum requirement is not met, we are no longer committed to the Nigerian project. And that if we are leaving as Ijaw republic, we shall do it peacefully and legally. This is the message we are sending to British government to come and undo what they did.”
Kekeh promised to deliver the message back to the leadership of the British High Commission.
However, spokesman, Coalition of Northern Youth Groups, Alhaji AbdulAziz Suleiman, said any tribe or unit that wanted to leave should be allowed to do so to douse the rising tension in the country.
He called for a general referendum, saying the North was 100 percent in support of any region which wants to secede in peace.
Alhaji Suleiman regretted that there had never been a time Nigerians genuinely sat down to discuss the future of their country.
He said: “Every unit that wants to leave should leave. That is why we have supported the people of Biafra to leave. If we allow these old folks to continue to have their way, Nigeria would not go anywhere. Among most African countries, it is only Nigeria that is still clinging to the name given to it by the British.”
But for the Middle Belt Forum, President Muhammadu Buhari should facilitate the restructuring of the country to halt the quest for secession.
President of the forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus said the spate of agitations was because “Nigeria is not working for everybody.”
He called on President Buhari not to midwife the disintegration of the country.
The Ohanaeze, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Igbo and Afenifere, the umbrella Yoruba organisation, said they believe in one Nigeria that is restructured for fairness, equity and justice.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Chidozie Ogbonna said the Igbo wants a restructured country that gives equal opportunities to all citizens.
His colleague in Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, said Yoruba did not want to leave Nigeria as it has contributed more than any other group in the development of the country. He said those calling for secession were doing that out of frustration.
Reacting, former member of the National Assembly representing Kano Central District, Senator Rufai Hanga, urged President Buhari to immediately call for a national dialogue to address the calls for secession from different parts of the country.
“Buhari is a very stubborn man who lacks capacity and that was why he lost his position during the military regime. If someone is as stubborn as he is, he does not usually see the implication of his actions. I believe that every group has the right to agitate but if I were Buhari, I would call for a National Conference that would lead to a referendum to know which way we are going. Do we want Nigeria to be separated and what would the modalities be? That is the first thing that someone who knows what he is doing should do. You can’t rule people by fiat or force people into doing what they don’t want to do. If you do that, you are inviting perpetual trouble and that is why we are having these problems.