By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja
Youths from the Northern part of the country have appealed to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to allow a complete separation of the Southeast states presently agitating for biafra republic from the federal republic of Nigeria through a peaceful political process.
According to them, taking steps to facilitate the actualisation of the biafran nation in line with the principle of self-determination and as an integral part of contemporary customary international law is the solution to incessant agitation from that part of the country.
This is contained in a letter by a coalition of Northern youths to the acting president signed by Ambassador Shettima Yerima, Joshua Viashman, Aminu Adam, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman and Nastura Ashir Sharif.
In the letter, the Northern youths contended that the principle of self-determination has since world war II become a part of the United Nations Charter, which states in Article 1(2) that one of the purposes of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”.
They submitted that this protocol envisages that people of any nation have the right to self-determination, adding that even though the Charter did not categorically impose direct legal obligations on member states, it implies that member states allow agitating or minority groups to self-govern as much as possible.
Commending Osinbajo’s efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the lingering Igbo-induced crises, which they is undoubtedly overheating the polity, the youths acknowledged the acting president’s good intentions as shown by his prompt and genuine actions towards ensuring peace and stability in holding talks with leaders of the North and the South-East.
They said, “Though we do not doubt Your Excellency’s bona fide concerns for the peaceful resolution of the crises, we nevertheless have reservations as to the efficacy of this approach in ensuring lasting solutions. Our doubts are informed by the following historical antecedents that have characterized the behavior and conduct of the Igbo in Nigeria and previous efforts at containing them.
“The Igbo of Eastern Nigeria manifested their hatred for Nigeria’s unity barely five years after we gained our independence from the British when on January 15, 1966, their army officers carried out the first-ever mutiny that marked the beginning of a series of crisis which has profoundly altered the course of Nigeria’s history.
“By that ill motivated cowardly and deliberate action, the Igbo killed many northern officers from the rank of lieutenant colonel upwards and also decapitated the Prime Minister and the political leadership of the Northern and Western regions but left the zenith of Igbo leadership at the Federal level and the Eastern region intact”.
In the missive made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the Nothern youths continued: “In line with the Igbo plan, General Aguiyi-Ironsi took advantage of the vacuum and, instead of returning power to the remnants of the First Republic government, he appropriated the coup and attempted to consolidate it for his people.
“Army officers of the Northern Region were eventually compelled to execute a counter coup on July 29, 1966 following a coordinated series of brazen provocations from the Igbo who taunting northerners on northern streets by mocking the way leaders of the region were slain by the Igbo. This unfortunately resulted in mob action which resulted in the death of many Igbos.
“And when Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, from the North took over as Head of State following the counter coup, the Igbo through Lt. Col. Ojukwu, characteristically refused to recognize Gowon. Ojukwu declared the secession of the Igbo people from Nigeria and the formation of the republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967 resulting in a civil war that led to the tragic deaths of more than 2 million Nigerians”.
They reminded the acting president that the Igbo eventually capitulated and conceded defeat in an unconditional surrender and not an armistice, which renders any talk about biafra at any other time a repudiation of the terms of that surrender signed by Phillip Effiong and other biafran leaders.
The northern youths regretted that in a shot out of the blues, the Igbos have in the past two years regrouped and fiercely and openly discussed biafra again under Ralph Uwazuruike of the movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of biafra (MASSOB).
According to them, this was given greater impetus by a more furious Igbo rogue group called the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) under Nnamdi Kanu who also operated an illegal radio station spreading hate and war messages across the nation, as well as calling other ethnic groups all sorts of names and threatening them with violent extermination.
They argued that the activities of the Igbo under Kanu’s IPOB had grown from ordering people of other regions out of the Southeast , particularly the Yorubas and Hausa /Fulani from the South West and the North respectively to an open declaration of the amassing of arms and forceful total shutdown of the entire Southeast.
The Northern youths told Osinbajo that, while Kanu and IPOB have declared full allegiance to a so called “Republic of Biafra” and have continued to preach hatred and war on a daily basis, no Igbo leader has call them to order for once.
They said rather, many of the leaders, including the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu who is the most senior elected Igbo paid Kanu courtesy calls to prove that he is speaking for the entire Igbo.
According to them, it is becoming clear to all that Kanu has serially breached all the terms of his stiff bail conditions in total disregard to the sanctity of Nigeria’s justice system.
They warned that given the unrepentant antecedents exhibited by the Igbos, they strongly believe that the gruesome picture that the biafran agitation represents is beyond a few people showcasing to the acting president that the Igbos will eventually heed the call for peace and desist from their dangerous campaign against Nigeria.
They said the seed of hate planted in the name of biafra was evidently so deep that the ongoing interaction between the acting president and the leaders from the Southeast cannot address the underlying problems.
The stated: “Concerned by the fact that the Biafrans have confessed to arming themselves for a violent breakup, we feel that it is risky for the rest of the country particularly the North to go on pretending that it is safe for us to co habitate with the Igbos given how deeply they are entrenched in our societies .
“And since evidently the Igbo have not been sufficiently humbled by their self imposed bloody civil violence of 1966, we are strongly concerned that nothing short of granting their Biafran dream will suffice.
“ And since the Igbo have virtually infiltrated every nook and cranny of Northern Nigeria where they have been received with open arms as fellow compatriots, we strongly believe that the region is no longer safe and secure in the light of the unfolding threats and the fact that for a long time, the Igbo have gone to extra ordinary lengths to ensure that in their domain in the South East, Northerners and Westerners are as much as possible disenfranchised from owning any businesses whereas in Kano alone, they own not less than 100, 000 shops across all the business districts.
“That since the younger generation of Nigerians makes up for more than 60 per cent of the nation’s population, it is our hope that they inherit this country in better shape so that they can build a much better future for themselves and their offsprings in an atmosphere that is devoid of anarchy, hate, suspicion and negativity that characterize the polarized, and clearly irreconcilable differences forced on us by the Biafran Igbos”.
Urging Osinbajo to let the Igbos go, the Northern youths said, “As the Igbo agitations persist and assume threatening dimensions, we submit that there is need to ensure that they are given the opportunity to exercise the right to self-determination as entrenched under the aforementioned international statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“Aware that the right of self-determination in international law is the legal right for a “people” that allows them to attain a certain degree of autonomy from a sovereign state through a legitimate political process, we strongly demand for a referendum to take place in a politically sane atmosphere where all parties will have a democratic voice over their future and the future of the nation.
“The Igbo from all over the country and in the Diaspora should be advised to converge in their region in the South-East for a plesbisite to be organized and conducted by the United Nations and other regional bodies for them to categorically to decide between remaining part of Nigeria or having their separate country. That government should at the end of the plesbite implement whatever is agreed and resolved in order to finally put this matter to rest.
“Lastly, we pray His Excellency to study the references forwarded with this letter dispassionately and decide who is more in the wrong between those who openly pledge allegiance to a country other than Nigeria backing it up with persistent threats of war and those of us whose allegiance remains with the Nigerian state but simply urge that the secessionists be allowed to actualize their dream peacefully throw universally entrenched democratic options”.
Osinbajo Meets With S’East Traditional Rulers
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has regretted that enough blood had been spilled for Nigeria’s unity and many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost already for any anyone to think of starting another violent crisis.
Osinbajo who stated this while making his opening remarks at the consultation meeting with traditional rulers from the Southeast noted that many have paid for the unity of this country with their lives and it will be wrong for people in the present generation to toy with those sacrifices that have been made.
He said agitations for secession and the ultimatum to leave the Northern states are also wrong and a violation of the Nigerian constitution.
Last week, the acting president had met with leaders of thought from the North and South East respectively.
Addressing the royal fathers yesterday, Osinbajo stated that in planning these meetings, he was conscious of the fact that he should have a separate set of meetings with traditional rulers because of the peculiar and the unique positions that they hold, especially in their relationship with those that live in their kingdoms.
According to him, this was the reason why he chose to have two separate meetings, one with the Southeast traditional rulers, while tomorrow evening he will be having one also with traditional rulers from the North.
He emphasised that it was the unique position that traditional rulers occupy that is behind separate consultations and that government wants to take much advantage of it as much as possible.
Osinbajo said, “Most of us are aware especially for those who have been following the consultations, we have worked very hard to ensure that the representations across the two zones that we are interested in consulting with initially is as wide as possible and we have tried to inculcate that even in our traditional rulers today.
“As you are aware, there has been agitation from some of our youths in the south east urging secession, the creation of Biafra. In apparent response young people in the Northern states, under the aegis of Arewa youths have purportedly issued an ultimatum where they have said set a date for the eviction of persons from south east region who live in the northern states.
“Those agitations, the manner of those agitations, the method and objective are wrong, unlawful and the violation of the laws of Nigeria and the constitution of Nigeria. I want to repeat that both the agitations for secession and the ultimatum to leave the northern states are wrong and a violation of our constitution.
“Our constitution says in Section Two that Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name the federal republic of Nigeria”.
He warned that anyone who violates the law in the manner such as they are seen all over the place will be met with the full force of the law.
He stated: “And the reason why it is so is because for Nigeria’s unity, enough blood has been spilled and many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Many have paid for the unity of this country with their lives and it will be wrong of us as men and women of goodwill in this generation to toy with those sacrifices that have been made.
“This is why men of goodwill in our generation must not tolerate any tendency that drags us in the direction of yet another civil conflict”.
…Blames Political Elite For Tension In Nigeria
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has attributed the current ethnic and regional tensions in the country to the handiwork of some political elites.
Osinbajo made this known at a meeting of regional youth leaders organised by the office of the special assistant to the president on Youth and Student Affairs at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Osinbajo, who was represented by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the special adviser to the president on political matters, urged the youth to shun such questionable personalities in the interest of peace and progress of the country.
He noted with concern that the elites were only using the youth to score cheap political goals.
He, therefore, advised the young people to shun any act capable of polarizing the country along ethnic, sectional and religious lines.
He said, “It will be worst for us if we allow some selfish people to push us to unnecessary war. Nigeria holds a lot of promises for all of us. I know and we all know that a lot of you have been excluded from the good things of this country and of course we can trace that to poor and bad governance over the years.
“But again, what we should be clamouring for is good governance, not separatism, not secession. his is all about elite competition. The youth are only being used as tools to promote socio-political disorder. Only God knows how much some elites, who hid behind the curtains, paid those who made that declaration in Kaduna.
“Okay, if I don’t want to be importing things from Singapore, I can use this idea of Biafra to make money and some people are making huge money from it. Those, who were agitating and calling for Biafra before, are now singing another tune after building their palaces”.
Nnamdi Kanu Not Southeast Leader – Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency yesterday explained why the leader of the indigenous peoples of biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was not part of the ongoing consultations with leaders of the Southeast.
It said the main reason for his absence is that he was not considered as a leader of thought in the Southeast region.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had last week started series of conversation meetings with leaders of thought, politicians, traditional rulers and the clergy over rising ethnic tensions in parts of the country.
The special adviser to the president on political matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, in a statement said that the IPOB leader was not invited because the presidency does not regard him as a leader of thought in the Southeast.
According to him, a window of possibility would be opened for Kanu to meet with the federal government for discussion should the need arise in the future.
He said, “Well, the thing is that we were looking for leaders of the people, leaders of thought and we do not see him as a leader of thought in the East. Maybe opportunity will come at one time or the other for him to be engaged.
“But so far, what we have done is to look at people who have influence in the communities, whether it is religious, whether it is traditional, whether it is political, social or governance. These are the people we brought in for discussion”.