By Our reporters
•Ndigbo should start packing to leave the North —IPOB
•Says Biafra agitators are vindicated
•S/South leaders warn: Time-bomb ticking on Nigeria’s disintegration
•Northerners’ move to expel south-easterners unconstitutional —Yakassai
Four days after the police said it had launched a manhunt for the leaders of the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups that warned the Igbo to leave the North within three months, no member of the group has been arrested.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the coalition were said to have been seen holding meetings at Arewa House in Kaduna after last Tuesday when they issued their threat at a press conference. A police source said they had continued to meet in the Arewa House daring security agents to arrest them.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State had, on Wednesday, ordered the police to arrest the leaders of the coalition. The police said the order would be carried out. But the situation took a twist on Friday, after the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, backed the youths’ call on the Igbo to leave the North.
A source close to the NEF told Sunday Vanguard, last night, that the elders’ group’s position was a strategy designed to embolden the youths coalition.
Separately, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), one of the groups spearheading the agitation for the separation of the South-East from Nigeria, yesterday, asked Igbo and other southerners resident in the North to start packing to leave the region.
IPoB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, the Director of Radio Biafra, who was recently released on bail after several months in detention on the grounds of his secessionist agitation, said the northern groups’ coalition had vindicated its position.
Some South-South leaders also joined the fray, saying the northern groups’ position indicated that a time-bomb was ticking that may lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
Sunday Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that though the order to arrest the leaders of the coalition behind the quit order to the Igbo in the North was issued by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, no fruitful results appeared to have been made as of yesterday, regarding the arrest, just as no team had been assigned to handle the case.
A source at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, who spoke anonymously said: “As soon as we get strict official orders on what to do, we will not hesitate to take action because the anti-Igbo coalition leaders are well known, their activities are not hidden. So, I am sure we will do the needful as soon as practicable”.
Persistent calls to the telephone of the Force Public Relations Officer, FPRO, Jimoh Babatunde, to comment on the development were answered but he insisted that the matter will be discussed today (Sunday) when he will be in Lagos for a parade.
IPOB, in a statement, yesterday, said the October 1, 2017, deadline given by the Arewa coalition for the Igbo to vacate northern states was a justification for its demand for the Ndigbo freedom from Nigeria and its call for a referendum to decide the fate of the ethnic nationalities.
The statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr Emma Powerful, thanked the Arewa Elders Forum, AEF, Arewa Youths and Arewa Consultative Forum, “for seeing sense in what IPOB has been saying about the need for a referendum to be conducted in Nigeria to decide the fate of the component ethnic nationalities criminally lumped together by the British in 1914.”
It went on: “Biafrans in general also wish to thank these vocal Northerners for at least having the courtesy to issue advance warning this time before embarking on their routine massacre of Igbos and other Biafrans living in Northern Nigeria.
“We are particularly grateful to Arewa Youths and Elders for having the decency to give us prior notice before their routine slaughter commences. We promise to adhere to your warning to leave northern Nigeria because a word is enough for the wise.
“Biafrans and other southerners should start packing their properties to come down to the South. We also advice the Northern youths and their Elders to keep it on because all they have done is exercise their right to free speech which is not a crime under any law known to man. We are therefore against those calling for the arrest of these Arewa Youths and their Elders.
“It is abundantly evident from the genocidal statements coming from certain influential segments of Northern Nigeria that the British socio-political experimentation and economic fraud we know today as a country, should not have been created in the first place. IPOB is very much aware of the covert blackmail and implied threat inherent in the utterances emanating from Northern Nigeria.”
Joining the fray, South-South leaders, traditional rulers, clergymen and rights groups, lashed out at NEF, accusing it of setting a potential time-bomb for the break-up of the country with its support for the Northern Youth Coalition on the quit notice to the Igbo in the North.
A former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State and leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga; Bishop of Anglican Communion, Calabar Diocese, Rt Rev Tunde Adeleye; Ibedaowei of Opokuma, Bayelsa State, HRM King Okpoitari Diongoli, among others, said it was indecent for northern elders to also claim that the resources used to develop the country before the advent of oil were from the North.
But a former Secretary General, NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, also from the South-South, and a few other leaders, said they did not believe that anybody could break Nigeria.
Nkanga said: “If they said they used their groundnut and other cash crops to develop Nigeria, let us use the same formula we used at that time, in the First Republic where 50 per cent was shared to states that produced groundnut and cocoa and share the remaining 50 per cent to the rest. That will be fair, that will be justice.”
Diongoli stated: “It is rather an unfortunate and sickening situation. It is a violent breach of the country’s constitution, which guarantees citizens’ rights to live and eke a living in any part of the country. The action of the Northern youths which has the subtle support of some of their elders is a potential time-bomb for the disintegration of the country if this dangerous trend is not nipped in the bud.
Adeleye said: “If it is true that they are supporting the Igbo quit notice, then it is the greatest miscalculation and catastrophe that has happened in recent time.
“I do not know how many of them witnessed the civil war because no one would really want that incident to be repeated, no one would want to ever witness that any longer. As elders their job is to direct, advice and guide these youths, their support of that move is a very bad misdirection.”
Adeleye, who is the South-South President of Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, added: “Nigeria is already suffering from Boko Haram, kidnapping, insecurity, darkness, and poverty, now we want to add disintegration. My position is that until and unless Nigeria adopts true federalism, the problem of our country may never be solved, we need to be loosely together, the centre is just too powerful, the flanks are too weak, they are suffering. NEF should take note that once Igbos leave the north as they are advocating, then the northerners in other parts of Nigeria will also go back to the north and this is disintegration,” he stated.
Secretary, Bayelsa Elders Forum and member, PANDEF, Chief Thompson Okorotie, said: “First of all it is inconceivable that Arewa Consultative Forum and the Northern Elders Council are not on the same page. It is a mutual deceit of each other by two groups with the same goal. All ethnic nationalities have a sacred duty to ensure unity of this country. Activities to the contrary will attract consequences. God help Nigeria.”
‘Nigeria won’t split’
Kokori, on the other hand, told Sunday Vanguard: “To me, just like MASSOB and IPOB, I regard all of them as the same type of unserious people who just want attention. Nobody can break Nigeria, everybody in Nigeria is being marginalised as there is no tribe in Nigeria that is not marginalised, I blame MASSOB for saying they want to break away from Nigeria when they own almost half of the properties in Nigeria?
“I do not think they are serious characters, the likes of IPOB and MASSOB are just seeking attention, they are not serious people, but Nigeria should not take them lightly especially with what we know historically about the North.”
Renounce stand, Aginighan tells northern coalition
A former acting Managing Director, NDDC, Pastor Power Aginighan, called on the northern youths behind the threat to the Igbos to beat a retreat.
“I call on the northern youths who are the signatories to the said ultimatum to renounce their stand as it is clearly misguided and ill-conceived. The inalienable right to self-determination of peoples all over the world is well guaranteed under international law. The Biafra agitation should be seen purely as an exercise of this right. It does not warrant criminalization by any other Nigerian,”he said.
Quit notice unconstitutional – Tanko Yakassai
Also speaking on the quit notice, a northern leader, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said it was against the nation’s Constitution which guarantees the freedom of movement to all Nigerians. “Even state laws enacted to deny Fulani herders from grazing their cows constitutes an infringement on the provisions of Nigerian Constitution. The quit notice given to the Igbo and the purported denial of Fulani herdsmen to drive their livestock for grazing in free areas are mere exercises in futility”.
Statement provocative – Yoruba Forum
The Yoruba Unity Forum called the quit notice outrageous, provocative and treasonable.
“All those behind this show of shame should be brought to book. If not quickly checked, it could plunge the country into ethic tension”, a statement by the group’s Secretary General, Senator Anthony Adefuye, said.
“The Yoruba Unity Forum condemns this call in its entirety. It is provocative and insulting and should not be treated with kid’s glove. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees free movement of all Nigerians to any part of the country.
“Every Nigerian is free to pursue his or her legitimate business devoid of any hindrance or molestation by anybody in any part of the country.”
Strengthen cord of unity – Osinbajo
In a related development, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo played the statesman when he called on ethnic groups in the country to strengthen the cord of unity that binds them together.
He made the call at the wedding ceremony of Wuraola, the daughter of a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, in Ibadan.
While calling on the ethnic groups to give peace a chance irrespective of their differences, he said quarrels and agitations could come up at any time but the most important thing is to forge ahead as one indivisible entity.