By Chris Onuoha
The leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, who led a coalition in 2017 to ask Igbo people living in the North to quit the region or be forced out, says he now has a deal to protect Ndigbo in the North.
But he says he will not beg the South-East for the 2017 statement.
The northern youth leader also gave the condition that will make the North vote for Igbo candidate in the 2023 presidential election.
Shettima spoke on the heels of his recent rapprochement with Igbo group, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and the subsequent meeting held in Owerri, Imo State tagged: ‘Handshake across the Niger’.
The meeting deliberated on how to achieve peace and co-existence among ethnic groups in Nigeria.
In the 2017 episode, the coalition had given all Igbos resident in the 19 states of the North a three-month ultimatum to quit or be forced out after the expiration of the October 1, 2017 deadline.
“We are also telling our brothers (northerners) out there in the South-East to get prepared to come back home,” Shettima said.
The ultimatum followed a successful sit-at-home order enforced by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) on May 30, 2017 which the five South-East states complied with.
But the AYCF leader was quoted as apologizing for the 2017 statement at the Owerri parley.
“There was no apology in the first place. I was misquoted by the reporter who said I did”, he told Sunday Vanguard last week.
He also slammed IPoB.
“The truth of the matter is that there was no offence committed by any group and nobody apologized to anybody in that regard. We were in Owerri to extend hands of fellowship to MASSOB.
“We had a meeting to seal a deal and it went well. The essence was to expose the threat by IPOB to Nigeria.
“IPOB is doing all sorts of things in the name of struggle. But we are identifying with MASSOB because they are not violent. We don’t have problem with MASSOB.
“We just hope that they will one day have a rethink and join hands with us to build our country instead of thinking of breaking away. “They (MASSOB) agreed that there should be peace as much as we in the North will protect the interest of the Igbo in the North.
“We asked them to look after our people residing in their region as we do the same here in the North.
“It is not that I am too big to apologise but I did not see anything to apologise for. Our statements are clear and we want peace to reign.
“We totally took charge and that is why we move around the country to meet our counterparts in other regions and to assure Nigerians that nothing unusual is happening”.
Speaking on the summit organized by the National Alliance for Development (NARDEV) in Lagos last week, Shettima said, “Yes we had a one-day summit on Monday in Lagos where a new movement, National Alliance for Development was formed.
“Various ethnic nationalities attended the event. We also had civil society groups, rights groups and others in attendance.
“Most of us are faces that are not regular in the news but are well known in the country.
“We mean serious business and have come up on what to do especially in the area of insecurity in the country.
“We are of the view that this is about a country where all of us have a stake and role to play. “Gone are the days when a political party or an individual can go ahead, do what they like and bring about what we call a gentleman agreement to grab power at the federal level
“We are more concerned about competence in the country and not based on zonal arrangement.
“Anybody from South-East, South-West, North-East or anywhere else with competence can rule.
“We are looking at competence without zonal arrangement and this is one of those arrangements that political parties adopt leaving competent people and fielding characters that are not fit to rule.
“On the clamor by the South-East to be allowed to produce the president in 2023, we are not concerned about which zone is president. We are talking about competency here. If the South-East region will bring out their candidate based on competence, we will vote for him”.