Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Arewa youths provocative quit notice to Igbos

June 6, 2017 is an ominous day in the history of Nigeria. On that day, a coalition of Northern youth groups   addressed a press conference at Arewa House in Kaduna where they issued a proclamation that the 19 Northern States of Nigeria are pulling out of the country as they can no longer co-habit with the Igbos whom they labeled as being acrimonious, ingrate, violent and the architect of the 1967 – 1970 civil war. They therefore gave three months quit notice to all the Igbos living in Northern Nigeria to relocate elsewhere while also asking all Northerners living in the south-eastern states to leave the region and return to their respective states. The youth groups accused Northern elders of being unperturbed with the secessionist activities of the Igbos and pursuing a fruitless pacifist agenda with the Igbos.
 According to Alhaji Abdulaziz Suleiman who spoke on behalf of the groups, “We are hereby placing the Nigerian authorities and the entire nation on notice, that as from the 1st October, 2017, we shall commence the implementation of visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbos. From that date, effective, peaceful and safe mop-up of all the remnants of the stubborn Igbos that neglect to heed this quit notice shall commence to finally eject them from every part of the North. And finally, all authorities, individuals or groups are hereby advised against attempting to undermine this declaration by insisting on this union with the Igbos who have thus far proved to be an unnecessary baggage carried too far and for too long.”
Since it was made, this infantile and provocative declaration by the misguided Northern youths has generated heated controversies. Many political watchers have labeled it as treasonable and called for the arrest of the leaders of the youth groups. The Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir while  addressing  leaders of Igbo community and other Nigerians residing in Katsina State called the Northern Youth Group who issued quit notice to Igbos as ‘enemies of peace’ and  promised to protect the Igbos. He was quoted to have said emphatically that “Here in Katsina, I am ready to sacrifice my last drop of blood to ensure peace and protect all Nigerians residing in the state’’.  While many well-meaning Northerners including the Northern Governors Forum have disowned and condemned the reckless and inflammatory declaration of the Northern youths, some of the elders of the region have openly expressed support for them.
For instance, the Northern Elders’ Forum expressed support for the call by the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups for Igbos to leave the region within three months. Prof. Ango Abdullahi, the NEF spokesperson told newsmen in Zaria on June 9, 2017 that it was hypocritical for the Igbos to continue to live in other parts of the country while agitating for Nigeria’s break up.
Now this is my take on all these ruckus and brouhaha.  If you must blame the hawk for wickedness, first blame mother hen for exposing her children to danger. The agitation by Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and that of its offshoot, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for self-determination provoked the Northern youths to issue the quit notice. Over the years, Igbos have complained of being marginalised in Nigerian federation. The declaration of the Biafra Republic and the eventual fratricidal civil war of 1967 – 1970 were borne out of perceived marginalisation and discriminations against the Igbos. The reemergence for the agitation for Biafra by MASSOB and IPOB in the recent past is also linked to the same issues of injustice, inequality and unfair treatment.  
The arrowheads and masterminds of these militia groups are quick to point out lack of federal presence in the South East Nigeria, bad state of infrastructure in the zone, discriminations against the Igbos in federal appointments under this All Progressives Congress government of President Muhammadu Buhari, lack of support for Igbo presidency, the fact that South East has the least number of states among the six geo-political zones are some of the reasons cited to back their claims for secession and self-determination.  The members of House of Representatives from the South East recently made a heavy weather of the rejection of South East Development Commission in the green chamber. They claimed it is part of the marginalisation of the South East to prevent the region from developing.
There is also an element of politics in what is happening between the Arewa youths and the Igbos. The latter is angling for presidency in 2019 and the Northern elite will have none of it.  The PUNCH of Wednesday, June 14, 2019 reported that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council said the Ndigbo must produce the country’s President in 2019.  “It is Igbo Presidency in 2019 or Biafra 2020,” the OYC, the umbrella body of Igbo youths allegedly declared in a communiqué signed by its General Secretary, Okwu Nnabuike.
My reading of this whole saga is that the Igbos stepped up agitation for self-determination in a similar manner that the Yorubas and Ijaws did to attain the presidency of Nigeria. As I noted in a piece entitled “Restructure for Inclusive Governance, Justice and Development” published in The PUNCH of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, “The point being made in reference to the emergence of pressure groups and ethnic militias is that they are ‘children of necessity’ formed to demand for the redress of certain inequalities, injustices, discriminations and marginalisation.  The Yorubas were demanding for the Oodua Republic until the atonement of the annulment of June 12 election was done by first naming Chief Ernest Sonekan who is also an Egba man like the late MKO Abiola as the President of the Interim National Government and later in 1999 the fielding of two eminent Yoruba sons (Chief Olu Falae and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) as presidential candidates out of which the latter became the first president of the Fourth Republic Nigeria. The emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan first as Vice President in 2007 and later as Acting President in 2010 and eventually as an elected president in 2011 cannot be devoid from the agitations for the emancipation of Niger Delta by Isaac Adaka Boro and his group, the Ken Saro Wiwa and his Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People’s lieutenants and the activism of MEND”.
Now, with the debilitating health of President Muhammadu Buhari keeping him out of the saddle and leaving power in the hands of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba man who is acting president, the North is afraid of the repeat of 2010 scenario when due to the death of President Umaru  Musa YarAdua power was reluctantly transferred to Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Acting president who after serving out the remainder of YarAdua’s presidency sought and won a fresh mandate in 2011 and even put himself forward to contest in 2015 against the gentleman’s agreement he allegedly had with the Northern elite. To me, Arewa youths are a counterforce to IPOB and MASSOB. Thus, all the agitations and vituperations by the Northern and South Eastern youth groups and militias are manifestations of power struggle for 2019. That needed to be understood.
Secondly, the power struggle is also geared towards arm-twisting the North to support the restructuring of Nigerian federation in order to ensure justice, equity and fair play. In restructuring, part of the issues that need to be taken on board is power rotation and zoning, not between North and South but among the major ethnic groups in the country, devolution of power from the omnibus exclusive legislative list with 68 items to the concurrent legislative list with about 12 items, review of the revenue sharing formula in favour of states, scrapping of local government while making states federating units with each state at liberty to establish the number of local government it can cater for, diversification of the economy from oil and gas dependence to agriculture, solid minerals, tourism, sports, entertainment and manufacturing .
In restructuring, I do not support the convocation of sovereign national conference. The 2005 National Political Conference Report and 2014 National Conference Report should be distilled by a small technical committee within two months with some of the key recommendations that will ensure inclusive governance, justice and development sent to the national assembly as executive bill to be passed expeditiously. Failure to restructure this country may lead to either a military coup or balkanization of this country. Already, the indigenous people of Abuja have commenced their protests against their perceived marginalisation in terms of appointments and provision of welfare services.

It is commendable that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has commenced wide consultations with various interest groups starting with Northern Elders and South-East leaders. While the peace talk is a soothing balm to calm frayed nerves, the ultimate solution to rein in agitations which is driving the country to the precipice of war is good governance, justice to all and egalitarian society where none is oppressed or suppressed.