From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu, Desmond Mgboh, Kano, Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin, Gyang Bere, Jos, Ahmed Abubakar,
Dutse, Magnus Eze, Abuja, Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Foremost political leaders, religious organisations and groups have warned those beating the drums of ethnic tension to tread with caution as their action could throw the country into another bloody civil strife.
Those who spoke yesterday included Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, former Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, former Jigawa governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Arewa Youth Development Association of Nigeria (AYDAN), Aka Ikenga and the Yoruba Unity Forum.
They were reacting to last week’s quit order given by Arewa youths under the aegis of the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY) to South-Easterners to relocate to their region within three months as well as other secessionsts agitations.
Okowa kicked against anything that could result in the division of the country.
“In this time, we don’t need another war. It is time for us to think and reflect on the past and build a greater, more united country. Nigeria needs God to survive and by the grace of God, Nigeria is one and will remain as one. Christians should continue to pray for the country, we don’t want to see war.
“It is time to re-examine ourselves, examine our homes and to think of our existence; we need to reflect on things we do as parents and what we are inculcating in our children because, as parents, we must build in our children the knowledge of God for us to have a better society,” he said yesterday in Asaba at the second anniversary thanksgiving service of the sixth Assembly of the Delta State House of Assembly.
Also reacting, Prof. Gambari warned that recent developments in the country were reminiscent of the antecedent situation of the 1967 civil war.
He warned against the prevailing growing hate speeches, increasing ethnic and regional irredentism and deepening intolerance.
“These nonsense must stop. It must stop because Nigeria cannot afford it. We can’t afford it because it is distractive. At a time when we seek to reposition our country for stronger national cohesion and economic resurgence, to play our destined role in Africa and the world, we do not need this distraction. Governments across the country need a peaceful political and security atmosphere that allow them to concentrate on delivering the promised dividends of democracy to the people.
“We can’t afford it because it is disruptive and dangerous. Divisive agitations and violent conduct or call to violent conduct, can result in unexpected and undesirable consequences. The little fires starting to burn across the country must not be allowed to result in a conflagration from which none can escape.
“We can’t afford it because it hurts our image in the region, in Africa and around the world. What investor, donor or ally would confidently associate with a country under threat of disintegration, confusion or instability? None. If we are to leverage on our considerable economic potential and human capital, we have no choice but to demonstrate to the world that we are a viable destination and ally. Our size and diversity should, therefore, be taken as advantages that help us to build a great economy with huge political influences.
“It worries me that some of our compatriots seem to have forgotten so soon the great price we paid fighting the civil war; lives were lost, properties were destroyed and nation building was stunted,” he declared.
He appealed to political, traditional, religious and business leaders, to not only speak out against the negative developments, but also to take immediate positive action to bring an end to them.
Director General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Prof. Oshita Oshita, said the institute would soon dialogue with leaders of youth groups identified to be making inciting statements.
He condemned a statement credited to Dr. Ango Abdullahi of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) supporting the eviction notice.
“Nobody is above mistake; somebody may have misunderstood or rather may be uninformed because if there are such elders behind this call, then I am worried as to the understanding of such elders. I don’t think that there is a nation anywhere in the world that is a brick wall that people from other parts can’t be there. I see the statement itself as childish, to ask people to leave their place; you can declare your independence and manage your place with the people that are there. So, why target a particular group; we have people from other parts of this country in the north; why should it just be one group? That’s my worry,” he said.
Oshita applauded the Northern Governors’ Forum and other well-meaning groups and Nigerians that have unequivocally condemned the “subversive call” by the northern youths.
In his reaction, Alhaji Lamido said the CNY’s ultimatum was shocking and scary for the continued unity of the country.
“The statement was one that got me frightened as a Nigerian,” he said at the weekend at his Bamaina hometown while breaking fast with his supporters.
“It is easier to say pack and leave but would our leaders be able to contain the consequences that may ensued? Can the chiefs, the obis, the obas, the emirs, the legislators, the governors and the president really contain it when the fire engulfs?” asked Lamido.
Lamido, who has recently declared interest to contest for the presidency under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared: “We will use this month of Ramadan to pray to God first and console ourselves and pacify our hearts because the Nigerian hearts are boiling; we need to cool our tempers so that our hearts could become more circumspect.”
He argued that the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration lacked the wherewithal to maintain the unity of the various ethnic groups of the country.
“The authority under the APC has no capacity to keep Nigeria united because they daily breed nepotism. The division is becoming bigger and bigger every passing day,” he stated.
He called on Nigerians to pray for the continued unity of the country.
“Let us pray and be bound by our own common humanity against the backdrop that our division is a major source of embarrassment to the Europeans that cannot distinguish the differences within us”, he said.
Also reacting, a conglomeration of 15 denominational churches under the aegis of Tarayar Ekklisiyoyin Kristi Nigeria (TEKAN) in the 19 northern states described the Kaduna declaration as a threat to national security.
TEKAN, in a statement issued in Jos by its General Secretary Rev. Moses J. Ebuga, called on security agencies to arrest northern elite teleguiding the action of the youths.
“The ultimatum issued by some northern youths to Igbos to quit the northern states is provocative, and a threat to national security capable of instigating crisis in the country, especially now that Nigeria is experiencing relative peace. We condemn the action in it entirety.
“The statement issued in Kaduna doesn’t reflect the opinions or views of Christians in Northern Nigeria and we stand against such evil plans and disassociate the church from their views.
“We also condemn in strong terms statements by some political elite and elder statesmen, which have consequences of further heating the polity and we call on the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to immediately direct security agencies to arrest all those trying to breach the peace of Nigeria.”
TEKAN said Nigerians from every ethnic groups have the constitutional right to reside in any part of the country without any fear of intimidation or harassment.
While calling on all Christians in Nigeria and Igbo to disregard the quit notice and unite irrespective of religion, tribes or regional divides and work together for the unity of the country, TEKAN commend the proactive response of all groups and the leadership of Northern Governors Forum under the leadership of Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, for condemning the “so-called Kaduna Declaration.”
Also, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu said the resolve of Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmuminu Kabir to protect the Igbo living in the state with the last drop of his blood demonstrated his uncommon patriotism in the face of unfortunate crisis being simulated by fringe groups and politicians whose objective was personal and inimical to the collective existence of Nigerians.
“I salute the Emir of Katsina and all those patriots in both South and North, who preach peace and recognise the truism that the hardship and misery in the land today is temporary and cannot truncate our corporate existence.
“We cannot fall victim to minority and fringe groups in the South-East who call for secession and their ilk in the North who gave the quit notice. Civil war is not a panacea to the misery and hardship in the land, which is temporary and transient, given the infrastructural renewal going on in our dear country,” Okechukwu said.
The Onyedu Ndigbo of Ibadanland, Chief Alloy Obi, said no amount of provocation would incite the Igbo to fight any form of civil war again.
Obi, who threw his weight behind the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, for his tough stance against proponents of disintegration, tasked the northern youths to read history and find out the implication of their actions. He enjoined northern leaders to warn the youth groups for peace to reign in the country.
He said the threat would not make the Igbo to succumb to a situation whereby they would also ask their kinsmen to return to the South or ask the northerners in the South to quit the region too.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Youth Development Association of Nigeria (AYDAN) has distanced itself from the quit notice.
National Chairman of the Association, Alhaji Salisu Magaji Mohammed, said in Kano, yesterday, that the views proclaimed by the coalition of youth groups did not represent the opinion of a vast majority of youths of the region, many of who had abiding ties with their friends from the East and the rest of Nigeria.
“They don’t have a known office address before now. They were not known anywhere in the North and cannot mobilise even the members of their families talk less of Arewa youths,” he stated
“They are not speaking for the entirety of Arewa youths. They are speaking for the elders. They are not speaking for the Emirs neither are they speaking for the members of the academics in the North. So why take them that serious?” he added.
He said Igbo were safe in any part of the North and had the right as Nigerians to freedom of movement and to engage in any lawful business of their choice like any other Nigerian, insisting that no Igbo man or woman should return to his home state on account of the threat.
In its reaction, Yoruba Unity Forum, described the order as outrageous, provocative and treasonable and should not be treated with kids’ glove.
“All those behind this show of shame should be brought to book, which if not quickly checked, could plunge the country into ethic tension,” it said in a statement signed by Senator Anthony Adefuye.
Aka Ikenga, a think tank of Igbo professionals also called for their arrest and prosecution, in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Sam Anyanwu.
“We believe that they are sponsored agents provocateur intent on sparking conflagration against an innocent group of Nigerians pursuing their rights of residency and to own property, as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”, it said.