Days after the threat by the Arewa Group on the Igbos to leave the North, the Eze N’digbo (traditional rulers) and leaders of Igbo socio-cultural associations in the North have vowed to resist any attempt by the Coalition of Northern Groups to chase them out of the region.
The coalition groups are: Arewa Citizens Action for Change, led by Nastura Ashir Sharif; Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, led by Shettima Yerima; Arewa Youth Development Foundation, led by Aminu Adam; and the Arewa Students Forum, led by Alfred Solomon.
Others are, Northern Emancipation Network, led by Abdul-azeez Suleiman; Northern Youth Vanguard, led by Joshua Viashman; Northern Youth Stakeholders Forum, led by Mohammad Mohammad; North-East Assembly, led by Mohammed Tasiupantami; and North Central People’s Front, led by Nathaniel Ajegenaadigizi.
Concerned by the outrage that greeted the declaration, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ordered the arrest of the signatories to the declaration, but none of the youths has been apprehended as of Saturday.
The tension generated by the declaration of the northern youths worsened on Friday afternoon, when a prominent member of the Northern Elders’ Forum, and former Ahmadu Bello University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, threw his weight behind the coalition.
The group of northern elders also expressed “disappointment” with the Northern Governors’ Forum for disowning the coalition, insisting that it was hypocritical for the Igbo to continue to live in other parts of the country while agitating for Nigeria’s breakup.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the Eze Ndigbo of Kano, Boniface Ibekwe, said the over three million Igbo indigenes in Kano would not leave the city with all their investments acquired over several decades.
He said, “We have advised our people to remain calm and that nobody should travel. The lives and property Igbo are secure. As far as I am concerned, no Igbo man has relocated with his family to the East. We are here and going about our normal business. The northern groups fanning the embers of war have never experienced the pains and after-effects of war because, if they had, they would always pray for the sustenance of peace, unity and stability.’’
Also, the Eze Ndigbo of Kaduna, Igwe Sylvanus Aneke, told one of our correspondents that his people were not afraid of the plans of the Arewa youths, especially when the Federal Government had stepped into the matter.
He said, “The youths have asked us to leave, but their parents, the police, the state government and the Federal Government have asked us to ignore the threat. We will rather listen to the elders and the government.
“Ango Abdullahi merely expressed his opinion. We are not taking him seriously because we are used to his antics. We are watching the events for now. We will take our decisions after we have watched, prayed and discovered that nothing has changed.”
The President General of the Igbo Community Welfare Association in Kaduna State, Chris Nnoli, also urged Igbo in the North to stay still.
He said, “It (the ultimatum) is a serious issue that should naturally be taken seriously. We are concerned, but since the Kaduna State Government has assured us of safety, we want to hold on to this assurance. I am greatly worried that up till this moment, nobody has been apprehended over the issue. We are watching events and we believe that government will intensify action and get the youths arrested. It is when we have seen that the government and the IG’s assurances are not effective that we will start to think of other means of seeking protection.”
The Eze Igbo III, Jos South in Plateau State, Lawrence Onwudinjo, who is also the President, Igbo Cultural Association, said no Igbo person would leave the North on account of any threat from any northern youth.
He said, “Igbo people in Plateau State are going nowhere. There is no right-thinking human being that will ask people to leave where they are living. This is one Nigeria where we are living. Nigeria belongs to all of us. I believe that if any part of the country needs anything, they should sit down together to discuss it. Everybody should come to a roundtable to discuss it.”
Another Igbo leader in Lantang, James Abraham, said no Igbo would relocate and that if they would have to move, northerners in the South-East should be waiting for their quit notice too.
He said, “If the Arewa youths tell us to leave the North, their kinsmen in the South-East should also be ready to leave. Do the Arewa youths have representatives in Plateau State? They should not be taken seriously.”
The President General of the Igbo community in Sokoto, Onyebuchi Uwaga, told SUNDAY PUNCH that, following the assurance from the government and the police, no Igbo would leave the North.
Also, the Ezeigbo I of Nasarawa State, Nathaniel Nduba, in calling for the immediate arrest of the Arewa youths in the interest of peace, pointed out that no Igbo person would leave the region, despite the threat given by the northern coalition.
A yam seller in Nasarawa, Mrs. Amaka Chukwudi, also said, “The threat by the AYCF was an empty threat. They forget that they have their brothers and sisters spread across other states. Has anybody asked them to leave? Why should the northerners give such an ultimatum?”
Igbo in Bauchi State, in reaction to the ultimatum, also stated that they would not leave the North.
One of them, Joshua Chukwu, said, ‘’For me, I will not take laws into my hands but will remain law-abiding, as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees everyone, irrespective of tribe or origin, the right to reside in whatever part of the country he deems fit to pursue his legitimate business.”
Similarly, Igbo in Niger State told SUNDAY PUNCH that they would ignore the threat and carry on with their legitimate activities without exercising any fear.
A businessman, Tochukwu Chikwem, said he had no plans to send his family back to the East.
Another Igbo man in Minna, Felix Irojiogu, said, “They are seeking recognition or attention which they don’t deserve. They are wasting their time; government should arrest them for trying to cause problem in the country.”
In Katsina State, the mood of defiance was also noticed when a businessman, Jude Eze, said, “How can I listen to the rantings of those rascals? You should know they don’t know the consequences of what they are saying. It took our leaders and elders years of sweat, and some even paid with their lives, to get Nigeria to this stage and some boys who have never gone beyond their villages are saying we should pack our belongings and go. We are not going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, has assured non-indigenes in the state of their safety.
But in Sokoto State, some Igbo men have made up their minds to leave, stressing that anyone who ignores the Arewa youths’ threat would do so at his peril.
One of them, Uchendu Sunday, a father of three, who operates a patent medicine store at Mabera, in Sokoto, said, “I grew up in Kano. Sadly, my elder brother was killed there during a violent demonstration against the United States of America, when Osama bin Laden was declared wanted in 2001, after the bombing of the World Trade Centre.
“It was this sad memory that haunted me out of Kano to Sokoto. This is why I have decided to end my sojourn in the North and return to the East with my wife and three children. One thing I can assure you is that there will be an exodus of Igbo from the North, based on this ultimatum.”
In the East, various groups and associations said they had no intention of issuing a similar ultimatum to northerners living among them.
Speaking for Igbo youths, the President of Ohanaeze Youth Council, the youth wing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said, “We will not ask northerners to leave. We will continue to show them love, as Igbo have done in the past.”
Reacting to the ultimatum, the leader of the northern community in Enugu State, Sarkin Hausawa, Idris Ado Suleiman, stated that they exercised no fear of any tit-for-tat response by their eastern hosts.
Suleiman said, “We have heard about the ultimatum. They said Igbo in the North should leave in three months. But we know it is not something that is possible.”
Source: ( Punch Newspaper )