Outrage, condemnation, defiance and tension have continued to trail the October 1 ultimatum issued by the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY) to South-easterners living in the North to move out.
Reacting to the order, yesterday, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) said with over N44 trillion investments in the North, Igbo were going nowhere.
It said Igbo must be ready to defend themselves, in the event of any provocation and attack.
Speaking to newsmen after an emergency meeting, tagged: “Igbo mandate against genocide,” OYC National President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the ultimatum was a declaration of war and should be treated as such by security agents.
“This is a sad development, considering efforts being made to unite this country; this is a sad commentary, considering the sacrifices Igbo have made in this country. We, however, wish to state unequivocally that Igbo are not cowards. We are not afraid of Alhaji AbdulAziz Suleiman, Yerima Shetima and their cohorts.
“Ndigbo want to make it categorically clear that we are ready; we cannot be intimidated by their ranting. The era of taking properties belonging to Ndigbo by force is gone. We won’t let that happen again.”
An amalgamation of various youths groups in the North had on Tuesday, in what it called ‘Kaduna Declaration,’ ordered Igbo to commence relocation out of the northern states before October 1, over the agitation for a sovereign nation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Similarly, the Igbo National Council (INC) reminded the northern youths that nobody had monopoly of violence and warned against any attack on the properties or businesses of Ndigbo in the North, even as Oganihu Igbo Roundtable demanded the arrest and detention of Yerima Shettima within 48 hours, in the interest of peace and unity in the nation.
National President of the organisation, Chilos Godsent, told those fanning the embers of ethnic war, “Igbo would not fold their arms and watch lives and properties in the North destroyed.”
He called on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to immediately declare a state of emergency in the North to forestall avoidable breakdown of law and order in the country.
Meanwhile, an apparently miffed Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has ordered the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the masterminds of the ‘Kaduna declaration,’ just as the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) disowned the youths.
El-Rufai said the ultimatum issued violated the laws of the state.
According to Governor El-Rufai, in statement issued by Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), “preparatory to prosecution, the police have been directed to immediately arrest, interrogate the signatories to the statement and investigate all the circumstances and persons that may be implicated in the matter.”
The Kaduna State government urged all residents to ignore the threats.
The statement added: “We are in contact with the leadership of the Igbo community in Kaduna and we are delighted to say that this community, like all our other communities, believes in the strength of the constitutional order to protect all citizens.
“KDSG wishes to encourage all our people to celebrate the diversity with which the Almighty God has blessed us, continue to shun agents of division and to stand firm in upholding a common humanity. Everyone has a right to live in peace and harmony.”
El-Rufai said it was the constitutional right of every Nigerian to stay anywhere, live in peace and move freely in the state.
“The Kaduna State government takes exception to the fact that the so-called northern youths did their irresponsible press conference in Kaduna,’’ the statement said.
In a swift reaction, the Northern Youth Council (NYC) said El-Rufai was not qualified to order arrest of the promoters of the CNY.
The group’s Vice President, Abdulsalam Muhammed, who said he spoke in his personal capacity, stated that the arrest order should have come from Chairman of NGF or the Federal Government. He flayed El-Rufai for being “too forward.”
He askedon Igbo leaders to call Nnamdi Kanu to order because Nigeria belonged to everyone.
The Northern Governors Forum (NGF), which reacted to the Kaduna declaration through its Chairman and Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, called the bluff of the northern youths, saying they lacked capacity and mandate to issue such threat to any section of Nigeria.
“Governors of the states in the North have contacted me and expressed their worries about threat issued on Igbo extraction living in the North to leave. We unequivocally condemned the order or threat by the groups of clowns claiming to be speaking for the North. This group has no mandate or capacity to make such loud pronouncement. We, therefore, disassociated ourselves from the threat and we urge all our brothers and sisters Igbo residing in the North to stay and all northerners to stay in the South East,” he declared.
Shettima said the threat was not only lousy and satanic but also capable of inflaming disunity and passion in the country, even as he called for caution and maturity by all.
“We don’t want anybody to enact what is happening in Afghanistan or Syria here and people should not inflame passion,” he said.
He called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to arrest those who made pronouncement in the Kaduna Declaration, insisting that people should be made to account for their utterances.
However, the Federal Government has vowed to deal with perpetrators of renewed ethnic tensions in the country.
According to the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, security agencies were on top of the matter.
“The issue of one or two groups issuing statements that is capable of destabilising the polity and then being responded to by another group, I think did not just start today or did not start yesterday. What I want to assure you is that security organisations are very much on top of this matter,” he said.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in the 19 northern states and Abuja and Second Republic senator, Dr. Walid Jibrin, also condemned the eviction order.
CAN, in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, described the quit order as evil and threat to national security and unity.
He said: “Leaders of this group and their sponsors should be arrested and prosecuted immediately.
“If we may ask, which North do they claim to be speaking for and making these evil threat?
“We are northerners and cannot recall any meeting where such decision was taken and we will never support or encourage anyone to champion such evil idea…
“The police should arrest them now without delay. They are not representing the North but some enemies of Nigeria.”
Dr. Jibrin, who described the order as childish, noted that those issuing it had no understanding of civil war experienced in the 60s.
“The Igbo are very broad-minded people who have helped to develop the economy of the North. There is no village, ward or town where you will not find an Igbo race living peacefully with the people. Igbo and the South-East people have always remain the allies of the North since independence. Any action that will lead Nigeria to another civil war should never be entertained, especially now that Nigeria needs unity from everyone.”
In their reaction, lawyers under the aegis of Otu Oka-Iwu (Law Society) described the order as “reckless and provocative,” and asked the Federal Government to unmask those behind the groups as well as their sponsors.
The association, in a statement signed by Emeka Nwadioke, described as “curious” the fact that the declaration was made inside the symbolic Arewa House in Kaduna State.
“We hereby call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to arrest and prosecute the authors of the hate declarations and inciting statements, which are capable of throwing the country into a needless conflagration that will do no-one any good,” he said.
Also reacting, the Middle Belt Youth Council (MBYC) said it would not turn its back on Igbo, while saying that as part of the North it objects to the order.
In a statement signed by its president, Mr. Emma Zopmal, MBYC said it would continue to offer accommodation and the needed support to the Igbo to enable them carry on with their lives and businesses.