Quit notice: Gauging the mood of non-indigenes in the North
Following the recent quit notice by some Arewa Youth Organisations, asking Igbos resident in the North to leave the region before October 1st, there has been palpable tension and fears over the safety of all non-indigenes in the region.
Exacerbating the situation was the backing the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) gave to the action of the youth groups.The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) expressed support for the call by the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups for Igbos to leave the region within three months. The group made this known despite widespread condemnation that followed the ultimatum earlier handed by the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum.
The forum further expressed disappointment with the Northern Governors’ Forum for disowning the youth groups.Speaking the NEF spokesperson, Prof Ango Abdullahi, said it was hypocritical for the Igbos to continue to live in other parts of the country, while agitating for Nigeria’s break-up.
Abdullahi said: “I am disappointed in the decision taken by Northern Governors’ Forum disowning and condemning the agitation by this young agile and progressive youth groups.
“Let me ask these Northern governors, whom are they representing, are they representing spirits, ghost or people of the north?“Recently, people from eastern part of this country, specifically Igbo, were busy calling for the Sovereign State of Biafra and from all indications their leaders, including governors, are behind them.”
According to him, whoever feels Nigeria is not conducive for him, let him quit, adding that what the northern youth groups did was not a sin.He lamented that none of the Northern governors reacted to the persistent calls for the actualisation of Biafra and other agitations.
Abdullahi said when Nnamdi Kanu was released on bail recently, over 100 vehicles followed him to his residence, including big personalities from the southwest and southeast.
“This is somebody who has been agitating for the breakup of Nigeria but his people were behind him, therefore, I am behind the youths.“This is because the Northern youths are being pushed to the wall, we have been calming them down in any event similar to this,” he said.
Speaking on the Igbos, Mr. Abdullahi said the people from the south were always pretending that people from the north were cheating them,” he said.Abdullahi’s utterances and the Arewa youths’ action have been trailed with strong criticisms and mixed reactions, even from his Northern brothers, who described the action as unfortunate, unconstitutional and capable of plunging the country into major crisis. Some Igbo groups have urged Igbos in the North to return home, but some of their Northern counterparts have assured them of safety and protection.
Different ethnic groups and their leaders have expressed disappointment and shock over the development, stressing that immediate restructuring of the country and the enthronement of true federalism is the only way forward.
Being disturbed by the development and its likely consequence, the Federal Government has stepped into the matter, by engaging leaders of different ethnic groups in the country.
In a separate meeting with the leaders of the North and Southeast in Abuja this week, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, strongly warned against making hate and divisive speeches capable of snowballing into a conflagration. The Acting President, who said the federal government was committed to the course of unity and peace of Nigeria, said anyone caught in the web of offensive and divisive speech would be made to feel the full weight of the law.
The acting president, who said he knew that misunderstandings and frustrations might arise among the people, was swift to add that such situations must be carefully managed to ensure they don’t degenerate into a monumental crisis. He said those who had witnessed war in the past would dread the same experience, even for their worst enemies, insisting that this was not the time for anyone to play the ethnic card.
Noting that hate and divisive statements could lead to violence and destruction of human lives and property, the acting president vowed that anyone who resorts to making volatile speeches capable of plunging the nation into sedition or violence would be adequately dealt with.
“As part of living together, I know that misunderstandings and frustrations will always arise and people will always want to get the best part of the deal, but we must be careful to recognise that we can only begin to talk about any part of anything if we are together in peace.
“As a government we are determined to ensure the unity of the country along the lines of our constitution and I want to say that hate and divisive speech or divisive behaviour, where it is illegal, will be met with the full force of the law.
“And I want to ensure that there is no doubt at all that it is the resolve of the government that no one will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause sedition or that can cause violence, especially because when we make these kinds of pronouncements and do things that can cause violence or lead to the destruction of lives and property, we are no longer in control. Those who make those speeches are no longer in control.
“So I want to emphasise that government will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or disrupt the peace of this country. And that is very important because you cannot control violence once it begins,” he warned.
Despite all these warnings and assurances by the Federal government and some Northern state governors, Igbos in the region seemed not to be sure of their safety in the area. This is especially as the Arewa youth groups are yet to recant the quit notice or arrested for interrogation.
Many believe that until those who issued the ultimatum and their backers are brought to book and punished accordingly, the tension created by the action may not douse soon. The question is, for how long will the non-indigenes, especially Igbos in the North live in apprehension? Should they relocate home to avoid being taken unawares? Can the government adequately protect them as promised? What is the way forward in this situation?