Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has expressed worries over the failure of security agencies to arrest leaders of the Arewa youth groups that recently issued a quit notice to Igbo to leave northern Nigeria before October 1, this year, in spite of the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai.
President General of the organisation, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who spoke yesterday during the inauguration of a committee to advise the body on economic and political issues affecting the Igbo, at the Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu, said they were concerned because they don’t know whether the Arewa youths were acting out a plan that may spiral out of control.
He told the over 100-member committee headed by former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, that they have “a very delicate assignment in advising our National Executive Committee and Imeobi on our appropriate response to these developments.”
He said: “Quite recently we have witnessed very provoking and unpatriotic remarks from Arewa youths. Their remarks have grown from whispers to a national quit notice to Igbos to leave northern Nigeria. While we applaud the immediate and unequivocal condemnation of their utterances by the Governor of Kaduna State, the Northern Governors Forum, the Middle Belt Forum and the rather mild and equivocal condemnation from the Arewa Consultative Forum, the defiance of the Arewa youths by threatening and daring the police to arrest them, the clear incapacitation of the police and unwillingness to arrest them, their renewed aggression following the issuance of another statement involving an association of wider youth organisations in the North and the support offered to them by splinter elements of the Northern Elders Forum point to a swell of reasonable support from a section of northern Nigeria.
“We commend the solidarity of Afenifere and Pandef in standing together with us in this impasse. We acknowledge and fully associate Ohanaeze with their stand that any quit notice to one southerner is a quit notice to all southerners.”
Nwodo, who also lauded Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the efforts he has so far made to bring the situation under control, however, wondered why it was difficult for the police to arrest leaders of the Arewa youth groups behind the impasse.
“What remains worrisome is the incapacity of the police to make needful arrests in this situation pointing to double standards from our security forces. A desire and public proclamation for the State of Biafra cannot be too different from a quit notice, which amounts to a declaration for a new state of Nigeria without the Igbos.
“In the latter case, an obvious violation of our constitution points to treason; a declaration to take inventory and acquire property not belonging to one amounts to conversion; and a declaration to commence ‘mop up’ action if the quit notice is not complied with at a certain date is a declaration of war.
“We have as Ohanaeze maintained absolute restraint in our public utterances. The Acting President by his interactions with all concerned groups shows that he is prepared to engage everyone in order to ensure that justice is done. His proclamation that government will guarantee the security of lives of all Nigerians and their properties wherever they live is reassuring.
“What worries us, however, is whether the Arewa youths are acting out a plan that may spiral out of control. Why have disclosures that some soldiers are talking with politicians not led to any arrest? Why has none of the Arewa youths been arrested in spite of the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and the Chief Security Officer of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai?” Nwodo asked.
Nwodo noted that “whereas a lot of the elderly, the business class and the professionals want to preserve our continued existence as one indivisible, united and restructured Nigeria, a number of the young ones are resolute about self-determination.”
He urged the newly inaugurated committee members to weigh the issues and allow them to engage their attention in the days ahead.
He also disclosed that Ohanaeze has an understanding with the South-east governors that the recommendations of the committee would be used by their secretariat, where found useful, to formulate integrative political and economic programmes for the respective states, adding that they would also pursue the understanding with the governors of Delta and Rivers states. “In the economic front, it is obvious that our people are in the main sustained by the private sector. In an era of declining oil revenue and low capital allocation by the various governments, the private sector remains our most reliable engine for growth.
“Our people are highly versatile, economically enterprising, but fiercely individualistic and unaccustomed to joint corporate ventures that will improve management efficiency and catalyze growth.
“No meaningful economic growth can therefore be achieved here without our developing policies that will change our mind set and encourage the build-up of capital for gigantic economic programmes,” he said.
In their acceptance speech, the leader of the committee, Soludo, thanked Ohanaeze for giving them the opportunity to serve the Igbo nation.
He said the number of the members of the committee and the caliber of persons in it bore eloquent testimony to the tasks they have been assigned to carry out, adding that the committee would do its best to deliver on the mandate given to it.
Some of the prominent Igbo who attended the event included Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Amb. Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Adolphus Wabara, Chief Ferdinand Agu, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, Prof. Aloy Okoli, Dr Emma Ajero, Prof. Osita Ogbu, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, Chief Onyemauche Nnamani, Prof Joy Ezeilo, Chief Val Kenechukwu, Chief Chudi Ofordile and Dr Pauly Emenike, among others.