The Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday branded as treason, the recent quit notice issued to the Igbo resident in the north by a coalition of Arewa youths.
More worrisome to Ohanaeze is “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.”
The President General of the group, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, likened the Arewa youths, utterances to the events preceding the mayhem against the Igbo in 1966.
“Are the rhetoric of today not similar to the rhetoric before the 1966 pogrom? If there should be a repeat performance what explanation can we make to our people?” Nwodo said at the inauguration of a 100 member National Executive Committee to formulate economic and political policies for Ohanaeze.
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 the Igbo to leave Northern Nigeria.
“Whilst 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.
“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 Igbo.
“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.
“If our security forces, firmly in command and control by mainly officers of Northern Nigeria, fail to carry out lawful and needful arrests of criminals amongst Arewa youths, or coup plotters in the army and their civilian collaborators, how can we expect them to heed to the orders of the Acting President to protect our people in the North? What should we advise our people in the North to do in the circumstance?
“Against this background our young men and women are spiralling out of control. The jury is still out in Igbo land regarding the choice between self-determination and restructuring as a solution to our current impasse.
“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.
“How do we resolve this duplicity that gives the impression that we all are on one of the sides depending on who is making the assessment?
“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 life 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 and the Chief Security Officer of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai?”
Nwodo hailed the ‘solidarity’ of Afenifere and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) with the Southeast on the quit notice, stressing: “We acknowledge and fully associate Ohanaeze with their stand that any quit notice to one Southerner is a quit notice to all Southerners.”
Inaugurating the Professor Charles Soludo-led committee, Nwodo said the task before it in the political sector was more urgent in view of the quit notice served on Igbo living in the North.
His words: “Your Committee is faced with a very delicate assignment in advising our National Executive Committee and Imeobi on our appropriate response to these developments.”
The Ohanaeze president urged the committee members to weigh the issues and allow them to engage their attention in the days, weeks and months ahead.
He said the group has an understanding with the Southeast governors that the recommendations of the committee would be used where found useful to formulate integrative economic programmes for the five states in the geo-political zone.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Responding, Soludo thanked Ohanaeze for giving them the opportunity to serve the Igbo nation.
He said that the extra-ordinary number of the members of the committee and the calibre of persons in it bore eloquent testimony to the tasks they have been assigned to carry out.
Soludo said that the committee would try its best to deliver on the mandate given to it while calling on other Igbo to send in memoranda.
Present at the inauguration were Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, 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, and Prof Joy Ezeilo, among others.