The 90-day quit order ultimatum handed down to Nigerians of Igbo extraction to leave the North, by a coalition of Arewa youths rankles common sense as it runs against the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which guarantees freedom of movement, association and place of abode for all citizens, including the Igbo.
Nigerians and the world were alarmed, when, recently, a coalition of Northern youths rustled the peace of the nation when, at a news briefing in Kaduna, gave the Igbo living in any part of the North three months to leave the territory, after which, they would be mopped up.
The coalition was peeved by the agitation for a Biafran Republic by Igbo youths under the auspices of Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB), and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB. They were particularly miffed by the 50th anniversary of declaration of Biafra by the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the sit-at-home order that accompanied the event.
The quit order, has been roundly condemned by well-meaning Nigerians, including governors from the North such as Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai – who has ordered the police to arrest those behind the quit order, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who has assured the safety of Ndigbo in the state, among others.
Many have described the notice as treasonable and demanded the arrest of the Arewa youths – who issued it. Gov. el-Rufai has insisted on the arrest of those who gave the quit order.
It is nonetheless sad and regrettable that a leading light like Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria did not see anything wrong with the idea of a quit notice to citizens of the country living in the North. He has hinged his support of the treasonable action on the grounds that Igbo elite had done nothing to stop their youths agitating for a Biafra Republic.
But Abdullahi is clearly wrong because the Igbo socio-cultural body – Ohanaeze Ndigbo – which speaks for all Igbo has never supported the call for a Biafra state as demanded by IPOB or MASSOB so the claim by him and some others in the coalition is absurd and typical of giving a dog a bad name to justify its hanging.
Dr. Nnia Nwodo, President-General of Ohanaeze, has never ceased to insist on the restructuring of the Nigerian Federation to enthrone true federalism. Like most honest and sincere Nigerians, including South West leaders have observed, the current federal structure is lopsided and unjust and can only continue to cause hiccups in the wheel of progress, development and growth of the Nigerian state.
Even at a recent public forum, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, the party that produced President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, challenged the government to initiate moves to restructure Nigeria.
But these eminent Nigerians including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida do not see any reason why the federal structure being run as a unitary system of government should remain.
According to them, having operated the current system with little progress, constant stress and strains, it is only reasonable to try another system. Indeed, it is only a fool that thinks that he would obtain a different result from the same process repeatedly. This axiomatic expression is symptomatic of the Nigerian state today.
All the same, the Arewa youths cannot justify their action by the activities of IPOB and MASSOB because they have never applied any force of action and are never armed.
Despite the fact that they had, in the past, been confronted and allegedly killed by the military, they had gone about their agitation without arms and had never molested anybody, including Northerners living in the South East. Even when their leader, Nnamdi Kanu was incarcerated, their protest for his release had always been peaceful. They have also demanded for a referendum to determine their fate in the Nigerian state.
These are legitimate demands and internationally acceptable process for self-determination. Why should any citizen be vilified, hounded and discriminated against for making a legitimate demand? The unity of the country can be negotiated, in the same way that its unity is never cast in gold. The Russian Federation is a case in point.
It is therefore unconscionable for any group of persons to order another group to quit any part of the country for calling for referendum or for demanding for a negotiation of the country’s unity.
Whereas, the current condemnation of Arewa youths is a welcome development, the point must not be lost on everybody in the country that the Igbo do not need any special protection to live in the North or any other part of the country, for that matter. What has played out this period will continue to resurface insofar as the government continues to pretend that everything is well with the country.
Therefore, rather than seek special protection for the Igbo, the APC-led Federal Government should go ahead to initiate moves aimed at restructuring Nigeria. If the country is a Federation, then it must be run as a Federation, where the federating units cede certain powers to the centre while running their respective regional affairs as it’s done in the United States of America, USA, whose system of government the country has copied.
We challenge the National Assembly, NASS, to also see reason why the country must be restructured. The NASS should work in agreement with the Executive to bring about a Nigeria where every component part is not treated as a second class citizen.
Meanwhile, we demand the arrest and prosecution of all those who were behind the quit notice to the Igbo in the North. Unless this arrant lawlessness is punished, another group of persons could wake up another day to do similarly. The Arewa youths cannot be above the law.
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