Biafra: Yoruba groups urge caution
In their reactions to the Arewa youths’ ultimatum, which has already raised tension and threatening to bring the country back to the pre-civil war period, two Southwest groups, the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) and the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), have call for caution among all stakeholders to protect the nation’s unity.
The two groups described the demand of the northern youths as outrageous, provocative and treasonable just as prominent industrialist and Yoruba leader, Alhaji Imail Adetola Lawal, called on Southwest leaders to be wary of their call for the dismemberment of Nigeria.
In an interaction with The Guardian yesterday, Lawal said it is necessary for the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, call the northern youths to a meeting, listen to them and “find out from them reason behind the ultimatum and advise them to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace and unity of the country.”
He also urged the government to extend such meeting to the Igbo leaders, particularly Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for proper dialogue stressing that “the Igbo leadership has distanced itself from the activities of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu and the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASOB) and has also pledged to support the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria after which we can now look for a way for national integration dialogue.”
While he said no force could divide Nigeria at the moment because the efforts of the heroes who staked their lives to keep the country united during the civil war should not be in vain, Lawal also cautioned some Yoruba who were supporting separatists’ agitation to check their activities and comments.
Describing what is happening in the country as mere flexing of muscles because of the various defects in Nigeria’s structure, Lawal said, “Agitation for true federalism does not entail secession. When the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola was annulled, an unfortunate development which was considered as a direct affront to the Yoruba, the Southwest did not demand to secede but rather, they fought to actualise the mandate, even the Niger Delta region, despite its long time agitation for resource control, has never for once taken any step tantamount to secession.
“It is therefore unacceptable for some groups who are not even old enough to know anything about the civil war, to be demanding for secession. The Yoruba nation has paid its dues to keep the country united and it will never be party to any attempt to dissolve it.”
He insisted that the restructuring Nigerians clamour for could not be done “with arms and ammunition but through dialogue and engagement. Some Yoruba, who were supporting the call for secession, are in fact senseless and I recommended they learn from the experience of those that witnessed the civil war to reframe their thinking.”
Lawal, who is also the chairman and managing director of IAL Nigeria Limited, said it is necessary for Igbo leaders to start educating their people, saying in all honesty “the Southeast people have been very fortunate and were more accommodated by other regions in the country more than other set of people.”
Listing why he felt the Southeast should change its demand approach to whatever it desires in the Nigeria federation, Lawal said, “It would be out of place to say that the Southeast has been relegated or marginalised looking at the sensitive positions its people have occupied in the history of the nation. For instance, Igbo have been President, Vice-President, Speaker, President of the Senate, Finance Minister, Governor of Central Bank, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and they are doing well in businesses across the country and also living in peace.
“The Igbo can boast of more investment in other parts of Nigeria more than they invested in their region and even at present an Igbo man, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu is the Deputy President of the Senate and so on. I see no reason why ‘secession’ should be the weapon through which they want to pass across whatever grievances they nurse. The Igbo nation have benefited tremendously from national patronage.”
He added that the ultimatum of the Arewa youth must have been triggered because action and reaction are equal and opposite saying, “they must have their reason, as they didn’t give such to other people residing in the north.”
The Secretary General of YUF, Senator Anthony Adefuye said all those behind the ultimatum should be brought to book otherwise it can plunge the country into ethic tension.
He said YUF condemns the call in its entirety, saying: “It is provocative and insulting and should not be treated with kids’ glove. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees free movement of all Nigerians to any part of the country.”
In another reaction on the ultimatum, the founder and President of OPC, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun sued for peace, saying, “considering the current travails of Nigeria, everyone owed it a duty not to complicate matters by opening new vistas of trouble that could take it back to the civil war era.”
In a statement yesterday, Fasehun wondered what would have happened should the Yoruba decided to issue similar ultimatum to Northerners living in the Southwest and the Igbo give a deadline to the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba residing the Southeast and the Middle-Belters now decide they do not want to see the Hausa-Fulani and Igbo groups.
Fasehun said, “It is paradoxical that while the great nationalist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, wanted a united Africa, his followers and disciples were clamouring for a shredded Nigeria.”
According to him, “Any call to division is unfair, uncalled for and ill-advised in this age of anomie, when Nigeria needs everyone’s energy, cooperation and prayers to build a nation where peace, happiness and plenty will reign.
“As small nations can only aspire to become great, not vice versa, Nigeria’s greatness will come about as a function of the mutual understanding, love and cooperation of her people. Let us all bear in mind that no nation or part thereof is great without pervasive cooperation among her citizens.”
He urged the likes of spokesman of Arewa elders Dr. Ango Abdullahi, who has been backing the ultimatum to stop fanning embers of division in the country.