By Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA—Chairman, Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Professor Ango Abdullahi, yesterday, gave reason why the Forum supported the quit notice handed down to Igbo resident in the North.
This came as he said NEF would work with the Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Communities Landlord Association of Nigeria, OMPALAN, to build bridges across the country and strengthen corporate governance.
Professor Abdullahi spoke during a meeting with OMPALAN’s leadership led by the Chairman of the board of Trustees, Bishop Udo Azogu, in Zaria.
The meeting, convened by OMPALAN, was aimed at dousing the rising tension in the country and to foster a cordial relationship among ethnic nationalities and pursue good corporate governance in the country.
Professor Abdullahi, who was a former Vice Chancellor of Amadu Bello University, Zaria, while welcoming the OMPALAN proposal on peace, said his decision to support the Arewa youths on the quit notice issued to Igbo in the North, was borne out of perceived betrayal of the South Easterners and particularly their political leaders, for allegedly failing to caution Nnamdi Kanu, and other Biafra agitators, but instead gave them full support in their struggle.
According to him, ‘‘I am particularly worried that notable political leaders in the South-East like Dr. Elex Ekwueme, Emeka Anyaoku, Jim Nwobodo and Mbazulike Amaechi, among others failed to speak out when the ovation was highest, but kept mute while the new Biafra agitation spread like wildfire and raged on.
“I was baffled when people started condemning me for coming out to support the Arewa Youths, unlike other leaders who pretended about it. The Northern and Eastern Nigeria have come a long way in terms of building political bridges, starting from the First Republic, when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe conceded the position of Prime Minister to Tafawa Balewa.
“In Second Republic, Dr. Alex Ekwueme was supported by the North to become Vice President to Shehu Shagari. This is the kind of relationship the North have always wanted to resuscitate despite the setbacks it suffered from the three years civil war.
“We felt that Zik made the first political sacrifice in this country by conceding the position of Prime Minister to Tafawa Balewa. He fought for independence, floated the Pilot Newspaper to fight the British and was well experienced and qualified to be the Prime Minister. But he sacrificed for a united Nigeria.
“We thought the North and South-East will sustain that relationship, but that did not happen. We had expected the political leadership in the South-East to come out to denounce this secessionist movement, but that did not happen.
“So we felt the Igbo elders were behind the Igbo youths. When Kanu was released, a convoy of Igbo political class accompanied him.
During the Civil War…
“Part of our grouse against the Igbos was their failure to appreciate the love shown to them by the North after the Civil War by returning all their abandoned properties to them in addition to rents collected on their behalf by various caretakers assigned to supervise the affected properties.
“This is a favour they (Igbo) could not get from their South-South neighbours, who confiscated their abandoned properties in Port Harcourt and other Southern cities. The Igbo should reciprocate the gesture of the North by supporting them politically rather than turning their back against them when they need them.”
He cited two instances where Igbo allegedly showed total rejection of the North when President Muhammadu Buhari chose late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Umezeoke as running mates, but were rejected by the Igbo, which led them to switch over to South-West in 2015.
He added that “Buhari chose late Chuba Okadigbo and Umezeoke as running mates until they met a brick wall before we switched to South-West.”
Earlier, Bishop Azogu said the mission of OMPALAN was to unravel the root causes of the rising cases of agitations and hate speeches, which had raised tension in the polity and to seek possible means of addressing them.
He said: “I want to tell you the proponents of the preset Biafra agitation do not enjoy the support of most Igbo and hence the need to refocus your anger on the political class rather than the innocent and poor Igbo.
“I have been saying it that the South-Eastern political class failed us for not taking a common position to condemn the new Biafra struggle ab initio.
“But Professor, I also blame you for supporting the action of the Arewa Youths Coalition. You should not have given that support. You have to retract that statement for the sake of peace. That your support amount to making a blanket condemnation of the entire Igbo race.”
At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed that the various crisis across Nigeria were as a result of leadership failure; that the bond of unity in Nigeria is stronger than divisive forces; that the North loves the Igbo, which was exemplified by restitution of all properties belonging to Igbo in the North after the Civil War.
They also agreed that OMPALAN and Northern Elders Forum will set up a joint peace committee to douse tension generated by hate speeches and secessionist rhetorics; that there is not enough evidence on ground to justify trillions of naira disbursed through robust palliative programs to oil producing states.
The meeting also agreed that oil is a national issue and that due recognition should be given to impacted areas; that Nigeria has been stagnated for over 60 years by corruption and bad governance; that the teeming helpless Igbo people cannot be made to pay for the ineptitude of the region’s political leadership and isolated secessionist rhetorics; that Nigeria to remains as one united and indivisible country where all law-abiding citizens can live and do business in any part of the country without fear of molestation or intimidation; that the quit notice to Igbo’s living in the north to serve as clarion call to the nation’s leaders; that there should be tolerance, accommodation and forgiveness amongst Nigerians.