By Chioma Gabriel, Anayo Okoli , Ben Agande , Johnbosco Agbakwuru , Joseph Erunke, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu & Chinonso Alozie
KADUNA — Igbo living in the 19 Northern states vowed yesterday not to leave the North on the October 1 deadline given by some Northern groups.
President-General of Igbo traditional rulers in the northern states and Abuja, Chief Chikezie Nwogwu, stated this during a courtesy call on Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, who insisted on having the northern youths that gave the ultimatum arrested and prosecuted.
This came as Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, again warned yesterday that the Federal Government will deploy its apparatus against any group of people threatening the territorial integrity and oneness of the country.
This is even as the Police high command declared that it had not made any arrest, despite the instruction of Governor El-Rufai that the northern youths behind the October 1 ultimatum be arrested.
At the meeting with the Kaduna State governor, Chief Nwogwu said the Igbo would not leave the North because they have contributed immensely to the development of the region.
While expressing appreciation to the governor for his support, Nwogwu said Nigeria is better off as one indivisible country.
He, however, called on government to address some of the underlying factors that had led to the agitations in different parts of the country.
“We are not in support of division. We are saying that things should be done right,” Chief Nwogwu said.
We’ll get authors of quit notice, says Kaduna gov
Addressing the Igbo Northern traditional rulers, Governor El-Rufai said the state has no room for hate speeches and will ensure that those who perpetrated such acts are brought to book.
He also vowed that no matter how long it takes, the state government will arrest and prosecute leaders of the Coalition of Northern youths who gave Igbo three months notice to quit the north.
According to the governor, Kaduna State Government has a duty to ensure that those who fan embers of disunity in the state are made accountable for their actions.
“Nobody can come to Kaduna State and say this nonsense. It is hate speech that kills. We are trying people for that. We have a duty to arrest them and put them before a judge.
“We will tell them that they cannot do that in Kaduna. We will go after them. They have gone underground. There may be reluctance on the part of some people to arrest them but we will arrest them,” he said.
Governor El Rufai said though some people in the South East, especially members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, might have said some provocative things, “two wrongs do not make a right.”
The governor admitted that though the federation might have some challenges, breaking up was not an option.
“Breaking up into small enclaves is not a solution. It is short-sighted and only illiterates behave like that. We all need Nigeria, it is from Nigeria that we can be better. Our federation is not a true federation but the solution is not to break into small enclaves,” he said.
He called on Igbo leaders to rein in their youths, promising that Kaduna State Government was taking steps to ensure that every Nigerian living in the state is safe and secure.
“We will do whatever we will do to protect everybody in Kaduna State. We are watching every body. Every Nigerian in Kaduna State is safe.
“We will do whatever we can to protect you. Relax, continue your normal lives, nothing will happen,” he said.
FG’ll go after those threatening national unity — Osinbajo
Meanwhile, speaking at the ongoing consultative meeting with traditional rulers from the 19 northern states at the old banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, warned again that the Federal Government will deploy apparatus of government against those threatening Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
He also stated that government will not take the diversity of the country for granted.
The Acting President advised the royal fathers to counsel misguided elements among the youths against ethnic confrontation and careless throwing of words without minding the repercussions.
He noted that the country has witnessed enough violence and bloodshed in its history, adding that the price of the nation’s unity had already been paid in the blood and lives of hundreds and thousands of soldiers and civilians.
The Acting President’s warning came against the backdrop of the recent quit notice given to the Igbo in the 19 states of the north by a coalition of 16 youth groups from the north to vacate the region before October 1 and the threat of secession by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
He said: “Your demonstration of commitment and leadership is heart-warming. I have no doubt at all that we will all be enriched by our interaction today. This meeting is the third in the series that commenced last week.
“I have met with the leaders of thought from the North and from the South-East and on Sunday with traditional rulers from the South-East and yesterday you graciously consented to joining us at the Iftar, ahead of today’s (yesterday) meeting. I want to thank you dearly for spending the night in order to be able to attend this meeting.
“We have thought we will conclude this by tomorrow but you very kindly spent the night and several of our traditional rulers have travelled just since morning to be here with us; some travelled overnight to be here with us.
“I am truly grateful for all of your sacrifice and your commitments to dialogue and we hope it will give us all the desired results. As royal fathers and traditional leaders, your place and your roles in our society and nation is significant.
“ You are the custodians of our customs and traditions and living embodiment of our rich heritage. You are by virtue of your vast knowledge and wisdom and experience have a vital link over our past and an important guarantee for the success of our future.
“This is why your role in national affairs is so critical. And the reason for the series of the meetings is of course very well known to all of us. It became necessary in the wake of the divisive statements in recent months and weeks, essentially pitching the South-East against the North.
“We are all aware of the so-called ultimatum issued by a group of northern young men asking that Igbos living in the North vacate the region. And before then, there was a clamour and it is still going on by some South-Eastern youths operating as IPOB and affiliate groups demanding cessation from Nigeria
“In all our previous engagements with the Northern and South-Eastern leaders and indeed with all leaders across the country, we all came to the consensus that Nigeria is stronger and better together, and that these hate-filled and divisive rhetoric and agitations are unjustifiable, they are unacceptable and even in many cases are illegal.
“I like to reiterate that today; Nigeria has seen enough violence, enough bloodshed in its history. The price of our unity has already been paid in the blood and lives of hundreds and thousands of soldiers and civilians. President Muhammadu Buhari spoke of his commitments to one Nigeria as arising from his experience in the military where he fought side by side with Nigerians of every tribe and faith from the 60s in the Congo.”
We need to protect each other
Continuing, he said: “We protected each other, we put our lives on the lines for each other. We were brothers, even in the face of death. This is the type of nation that we must maintain. As royal fathers and leaders, I am sure you will agree with me that we have a role to play in countering the voices of divisiveness and the elements that seek to take us down a bloody path.
“Let us continue to counsel the misguided elements among our youths and think that ethnic confrontation is wrong and that words can be thrown around carelessly without repercussion .
“Having said that let me say that we are not deaf to the legitimate concerns and frustrations arising from different causes across the country at various times and these are not new. In the life of any nation and at various phase of any nation of course there will be frustrations and several complain.
“If you are to ask anyone, everyone and every part has its own grievances but these grievances have to be expressed graciously and managed with maturity rather than with scorn and disdain on the rights, freedom and the peace of others. I like to assure you that we all here are prepared of course to listen and to answer and very importantly to re-assure everyone that we are committed to the unity of Nigeria. And upon that foundation of unity, we can together build a prosperous and a great country.
“But we must never take our diversity for granted and I think it is so important for us to re-emphasis this again and again. We cannot take our diversity for granted. The strongness of our strength lies in that diversity and we must use “As we round off this consultation tomorrow with the meeting with the governor, it is clear to me that we have all resolved to rule by words, by conduct and action to promote the unity of our nation. And on our part of government, let me say that we will ensure that the entire apparatus of government is deployed to ensure that no one threatens Nigerians territorial integrity, that no one threatens the lives or livelihood of any Nigerian living anywhere in this federation.
“Our objective is to provide the environment for prosperous nation, a nation where all regardless of ethnicity or religion can pursue their legitimate aspirations peacefully and securely. That is the kind of nation that we intend to build, that is the kind of nation that we need.”
The Acting President later went into a closed-door session with the traditional rulers.
Some of the royal fathers that attended the consultative meeting included the representative of the Emir of Katsina, Prof. Sung Luka, HRH Alhaji Dr Yahaya Abubakar, Etsu Nupe Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Sule Gambari, Emir of Ilorin, Kwara State, HRH Alhaji Mustapha, Agwai II, Emir of Lafia, Nasarawa State, HRH Alhaji Kyari Umar El-Kanemi, Shehu of Bama, representing Shehu of Borno and HRH Jacob Buba Gyang, Gbong Gwom Jos.
Also present at the meeting were HRH Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar, Emir of Gombe, HRH Ndakwo Ameh, Oboni II, Attah Igala,Kogi State, HRH Alhaji Muhammadu Ibn Abali, Emir of Fika,Yobe State, HRM Alhaji Attahiru Ahmed Muhammed Emir of Zamfara, HRH Prof. James Ayatse Tor Tiv,Benue State, HRH Alhaji Adamu Buba Baba Yinusa,Emir of Abaji,FCT, HRH Alhaji Muhammed Isah Muhammed,Emir of Jama in Kaduna State, HRH Justice Lawal Hassan Emir of Gumi and Coordinator of the NorthernTtraditional Rulers Council,HRH Alhaji Emmanuel, Etsu Karu of the FCT.
From the government side was the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu, Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazzau, National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and the Deputy Majority Leader of the senate, who represented the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Ohanaeze youths write UN, seek protection, referendum
Also yesterday, the Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, said it had written the United Nations, UN, seeking special protection for Igbo people around the Northern parts of Nigeria.
They also called on the UN to facilitate steps towards a referendum in Igboland to determine the fate of the people in the Nigerian federation.
Reacting to a letter written to the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, by Arewa youths who castigated Ndigbo over the continuous agitation for Biafra, Ohanaeze Youth Council asked the United Nations to facilitate the referendum “to pave the way for a final end to the unworkable marriage called Nigeria.”
The letter signed by the National President of Ohanaeze Youths Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the National Secretary, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, the Deputy National President, Amb. Arthur Obiora and Engr. Obinna Adibe, the group’s National Publicity Secretary, was copied the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, the United Kingdom High Commission in Nigeria, the Commonwealth, and Amnesty International, among others.
Entitled “a call for emergency in Nigeria: our two-point demand”, the letter said the life of Igbo people in every part of Northern Nigeria was now at a very high risk.
It read: “It is with great concern that we alert the international community of the looming genocide against the Igbos in the Northern part of Nigeria, occasioned by a well-orchestrated, carefully thought-after plot by the Northern hierarchy, who are hiding under Arewa youths.
“Their latest ranting, which they packaged in a letter to the Acting President, has left no one in doubt as to their motive: a grand design to annihilate the Igbo race.
“This, they want to achieve so easily through the well packaged false history, which they have now dished out to gullible minds in order to create a passion hatred for the Igbos in the minds of their people to easily achieve the October 1 planned mayhem against our people.
“How else could one justify their attempt to stab history in the back by labelling the first military coup in Nigeria as an Igbo coup? How else could people twist history than their justifying the pogrom against the Igbos between 1966 and 1967, which eventually led to the civil war?
‘’In what measure can one justify the insult on our late leaders, in the persons of Late Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi and Late Col. Chukwuemeka Odumewgu Ojukwu?
“In Igbo land, we have respect not only for the elders, but more so for the dead and it if is for that purpose that we chose not to go further into this matter. Truth can never be changed. However, we must let these youths and their pay-masters know that contrary to their claims, our people have made much more sacrifices for the unity of this country, starting from the first President of Nigeria, late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
“To also justify their planned killing of every Igbo man remaining with the Biafra agitation amounts to hypocrisy of the highest magnitude.
“May we remind them that for over a decade now, the Boko Haram did not just declare war on the Nigerian State but has gone ahead to seize territories, killed thousands of thousand and rendered millions homeless, yet nobody has branded it an action signed by the entire North.
“We, therefore, alert your attention to another impending massacre of the Igbos, especially with thick rumour of arms being stock-piled in the North in readiness for action. It is even more painful considering un-denied claims that some security personnel were aiding the smuggling of these sophisticated arms through the porous land borders in the North.
IPOB attacks Osinbajo
Also yesterday, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in a statement in Umuahia, signed by the media and publicity secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, said: “We the members of the indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, under the leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, condemn unequivocally the distasteful statement credited to the Acting President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, to the effect that Biafra agitators who, through the instrumentality of IPOB are exercising their God-given and inalienable right to self-determination, is in violation of the provisions of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
“For such a statement to escape the lips of a learned fellow as Professor Osinbajo confirms the widely held view that African leaders lack the mental capacity and discipline to operate a constitutional democracy in a modern world.
‘’If the corrupt ruling class in Nigeria cannot distinguish between those rights that are sacrosanct, such as freedom of association and freedom of expression under which IPOB operates, then the entire political edifice in Nigeria is a monumental mess.
“It is very shameful that a professor of law cannot situate the Nigeria constitution within the context and meaning of the right to self determination as recognized in international law. Somebody should please draw the attention of Professor Yemi Osibanjo to the provisions of the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which Nigeria ratified and went ahead to domesticate into her local laws.”
Restructure Nigeria, implement report of national conference
However, the Diocese on the Niger, Anglican Communion, has called for the restructuring of Nigeria as a panacea to the economic and political crisis facing the country.
It also said the restructuring must consider the need to have decentralized region or zones akin to the political idea before the Nigerian civil war, for each region to develop at its pace.
This was contained in the Bishop’s Charge delivered by the Bishop of the Niger, Rt. Rev. Owen Nwokolo, during the 2nd Session of the 30th Synod of Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) Diocese on the Niger, held at the Basilica of St Andrews, Onitsha, Anambra State.
According to the Synod, “since the 1914 Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, the country has continued to encounter one form of crisis or another.
‘’The country has fought a civil war, gone through various military dictatorship and weathered many democratic governmental crisis that were built on impunity, marginalization, oppression and injustice.’’
The Synod, however, regretted that “up to this date, the situations that made the country fought the civil war has remained the same, coupled with the politics of exclusion, masterminded by a mafia of political hirelings from a part of the country.”
It said further: “The restructuring I am advocating for is such that will have local and state police forces merging and the monolithic unitary system of government which masquerades as federal system of government, be jettisoned, if Nigerian nation state must survive.”
Okorocha warns Arewa youths
Reflecting on the issue yesterday, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State disagreed with the Arewa youths who ordered the Igbo to leave their region, saying “it is wrong.”
The governor was quoted to have made the statement while breaking fast with some Muslim leaders from Imo and Abia states, according to a statement issued in Owerri by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo.
According to Okorocha, “Nigeria is the home of the Igbo; Muslims in Imo State are safe.”
The statement read: “Governor Rochas Okorocha has said that every part of Nigeria is a home to every Nigerian and it is totally wrong for Arewa youths to have asked Igbos in the North to go back home, Nigeria has grown beyond all these petty sentiments.
“We are here as a tradition to break the fast with our Muslim brothers who have been fasting for so many weeks now.
“We are here to dramatize unity and love for one another. We, Nigerians, must learn to respect each other’s religion because religion has a lot to do with every individual or society.
“We should also be our brothers’ keeper as preached by every religion. I want to assure all Muslims in Imo State that you are safe in the state. Let no one leave the state for any reason at all. This is Nigeria and Nigeria is one nation, indivisible and indissoluble.”
We are yet to make any arrest-Police
Also yesterday, the Police said they were yet to effect arrest persons in connection with the threats issued the Igbo in the 19 northern states.
Recall that shortly after the action of the Northern group, Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, who was peeved by the development, had ordered the security agencies not only to immediately arrest but also prosecute all those behind the declaration.
Force Public Relations Office, Jimoh Moshood, a Chief Superintendent of Police, who spoke in Abuja, during an interview with newsmen, insisted that so far, no arrest had been made, following the governor’s order.
He, however, said the police were working very hard to ensure that they maintained law and order not only across the 19 northern states but also all other states of the federation.
Moshood noted that the Inspector General of Police had directed all commissioners of police in the northern states and across the federation to beef up security to ensure that they did not allow the threat to be actualised.