By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
…Ndigbo to decide this week …
AS the death toll in last Monday’s bomb blasts at a bus park in Kano rises to 80, President of the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, Evangelist Elliot Uko, has urged Igbo youths to remain calm and await the decision of Igbo leaders this week. In a chat with reporters, Uko holds northern leaders and politicians responsible for the Boko Haram insurgency, saying that sponsors of the sect have murdered sleep. Excerpts:
After the blasts, the IYM held a closed-door meeting with youth groups and since you maintained closed lips…
We said something, we called for calm and restraint. We are still consulting. Ndigbo will take a solid decision this week. The sponsors of Boko Haram have murdered sleep. Kano bombing is unpardonable, but we will not scream in the media. It serves no useful purpose. The strategy to deliberately attack Ndigbo and draw us into the fray is evil and heartless. We hold northern leaders and politicians responsible. I doubt if Nigeria will remain the same.
We will not dance to the script of political strategists of Boko Haram. We will not react the way they hope we will react. We will not kill innocent Northerners; it is not in our character anyway. Book Haram cannot manipulate us to dance to its script and set Nigeria on fire on their own terms. We will not do their bidding.
Screaming in the media
But Ndigbo will take a decision after several meetings next week. We have gotten past the stage of screaming in the media and afterward nothing happens. We will not shout in the media anymore. We call for calm and restraint. Ndigbo will meet soon.
How do you view the Federal Government’s perceived helplessness on the Boko Haram matter?
Exploiting religion and ethnicity has always been the Northern politician’s card for decades. It is purely political they are struggling for power with President Jonathan and as usual Ndigbo becomes victim. It is all about 2015, it is all about political power. Discerning Nigerians saw through this desperation for central power long ago. Boko Haram is merely a tool in the hands of ruthless politicians who promised to make Nigeria ungovernable. We believe President Jonathan understands the dynamics. We sympathize with him, but we will no longer wait for him to protect Ndigbo.
At your 14th annual convention at Nike Lake resort, Enugu recently, all the speakers demanded for a National conference before 2015 elections. Do you think the National Assembly will agree with you?
It is not a matter of National Assembly agreeing with anybody. Rather, it is the issue of truth and reality. Does anybody really believe Nigeria will move ahead without a National conference? Without restructuring? Does any one really think postponing it would make the demand for it die down? Truth is truth. No matter how long you try to stifle it. Truth is Nigeria cannot move on without a fundamental restructuring through a National conference. It is the only road map to a truly greater Nigeria.
From the volume of emails and calls we’ve received from eminent Nigerians who are really excited and supportive of the Nigerian project agenda of a National conference before 2015 elections, you could tell that the National Assembly will see reason.
Those afraid of a National Conference fall actually into two categories: Our compatriots who fear for the survival of the entity Nigeria and politicians who are blinded by their desire for self accommodation in the present Nigerian system that they can not see the danger ahead if a dialogue is delayed. Both groups are wrong. Only a National Conference will same Nigeria. That is the truth.
Professor Ben Nwabueze’s comments at the event that Nigeria was becoming a failed state elicited angry response from one of President Jonathan’s aide, Dr. Doyin Okupe. What is your take on that?
What Nigerians saw was an overzealous Okupe abusing Prof. Nwabueze. But events have since covered Okupe with shame. Gen. TY Danjuma used words like “Total Anarchy” “Civil War”, “Human life Cheapened” to describe the country and Okupe has not told him his remarks are irresponsible and unpatriotic. Governor Suswam of Benue State said in Kaduna exactly the same thing Professor Nwabueze said; that Nigeria is drifting towards a failed state status. Other commentators are telling us all by the day that our categorization with Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, etc is a situation Nigerians would want to come out from. There is only one way out. A National Conference.
Don’t you think that with the on-going constitution amendment exercise of the National Assembly there is really no need for a National Conference?
Let them call for a referendum asking Nigeria whether they want a National Conference or not. I assure you that 98 percent will vote for a National Conference. Nigerians want to save Nigeria and everybody understands that only a National Conference will move this great country forward.
What is your take on fears in some quarters that the confab could dismember the country?
Democracy is about letting the will of the people prevail. For how long are you going to suppress the will of the people? Refusal to restructure Nigeria peacefully through a National Conference could prove costly sooner than later. Just look at the gains: Government will become closer to the people at the regional level and more responsible and more responsive; people will have more confidence in the regional governments.