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Now that Nigerianism has failed


The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

Last week, the movement for the restructuring of Nigeria got more converts from an unlikely quarter. Some 16 youth groups in the North rose from a meeting late on Tuesday to declare the unwillingness of the North to continue in a Federation that has the Igbo as part. The groups, which met in Arewa House, somehow the symbolic throne of the Northern establishment and which gave the meeting added significance, were actually more far-reaching.

As if they were the appointed deciders of the fate of Nigeria, which has been hanging precariously on a balance for more than a century, they gave till October 1 for every Igbo man, woman and child in Northern Nigeria to leave for the ‘Republic of Biafra’. Next day, some Northern elders including Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna who said they were taken aback by the action of the youths dissociated themselves from the quit notice and even called for the arrest and prosecution of members of the groups.

Nothing happened. Instead, the youths returned a day after to reinforce their declaration. For opposing the declaration, Nasir el-Rufai and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State were isolated for some tongue lashing. A statement signed by spokesman of the Northern youth coalition, Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman said: “we are particularly disappointed by the treacherous positions assumed by Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai and Kashim Shettima who in pursuit of their blind ambition for the vice presidency chose to side with secessionist Igbo against the interest of peace-loving Nigerians.”


The statement said there was nothing altruistic about the position of el-Ruffai and Shettima on the quit notice because both governors “are openly known to be waiting in the wings for President Muhammadu Buhari to die so they can further their plot to seek the presidency.” Specifically on Shettima who spoke on behalf of the 19 Northern Governors, the youth said: “Shettima has disconnected from reality as he gets intoxicated by immoral wealth and property acquisition at the expense of people of the state suffering the devastation of Boko Haram.” This was what Robert Louis Stevenson described in Treasure Island as ‘quarrel among the pirates.’

Somewhere in-between, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris entered and ranted angrily. He made it look as if hell was about to break loose on those boys. He ordered the commissioner of police in Kaduna State to investigate and arrest leaders of the Northern youth groups. He said: “As commissioners of police and assistant inspectors-general, we have the responsibility to stop this group of persons from carrying out their threats.”

Again, nothing happened! Instead, another Northern elder, apparently of a different hue and shade, came with a position to underscore the suspicion that the youths did not act alone. The name of the elder is Prof. Ango Abdulahi, who is also spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum. Overall, he revealed a disturbing overlap in the thinking of the Northern youths and Northern elders.

He said: “The northern youths are voicing their anger and frustration over the irresponsible behavior of Igbo youths and elders. The Igbo elders cannot pretend or say that they do not know the history of this country. We all know how the first coup was hatched against the north. We know who masterminded that political coup and the aftermath. But we the northerners endured it and carried on as if nothing happened in the spirit of brotherhood. That was why in the Second Republic, an Igbo man, Chief Alex Ekwueme, became a deputy to President Shehu Shagari. I have never seen a country where there was a civil war and somebody from the part of the country that waged the war against the nation became a leader in the country so quickly.”

As if in a lecture theatre back in his days at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and the entire Igbo race sat in front of him as his students, the agric scientist ruled: “The Igbo should remember that politics of democracy is politics of election, not agitation.”

By the way, Prof Ango Abdullahi was the vice chancellor of ABU between 1979 and 1986. For more information about him, read the history of ABU between 1979 and 1986. Meanwhile as undergraduates in the 80s, we used to sing one song and it went thus: When I remember ABU, water run away my eyes O, ayeee, ayeee, water run away my eyes O. The song was a dirge created by us at the University of Calabar to commemorate the killing of innocent students by police in ABU in 1986 under Prof Ango Abdullahi as VC. I wouldn’t know if Unical students still sing the dirge in memory of the slain students of ABU.

Back to the Igbo quit notice. It is beginning to look like the bombardment of uranium or hydrogen atoms. You can only determine the beginning, the end is eternally unpredictable. More youth groups from different geo-political and ethnic belts have issued statements on the same subject matter of residency in Nigeria or Biafra. In fact, for clarification, it has just been said that the North does not include the region of Nigeria comprising Benue, Plateau, Kwara, Nassarawa and Niger States otherwise known as Middle Belt.

Youths from this belt have issued their own statement saying, “if Arewa youths are sending away Igbos from their states, we in the Middle Belt are ready to offer them accommodation in our land, which is an inheritance from God and nobody will take it away from us, for them to continue with their life and business.” They tried to push home the point that the MASSOB/IPOB agitatiom is only a metaphor of the injustice in the Nigerian arrangement. Hear them: “Middle Belt has been at the receiving end of this inequitable arrangement in which our people in Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Borno, Southern Kebbi, Adamawa are under constant alienation and annihilation. Therefore Middle Belt strongly stands for the reconstruction of Nigeria, not only restructuring. We’ll join hands with Southern Nigeria to actualize it.”


Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) spoke in a similar tone. “The Arewa Youths that spoke lack the mandate to speak for all the people of the north, and, certainly not for Southern Kaduna people. We insist that all Nigerians have the right to live and carry out legitimate affairs in all parts of the country” SOKAPU said. It seems therefore that youths and elders in the north exist in ideological cells and even in matters that are seemingly exclusively north, achieving a workable consensus could be difficult. Enough to say more people than just members of MASSOB and IPOB are angry with the state of things in Nigeria.

The question to ask therefore is, where on planet earth, did the Arewa youths get the inspiration to ostracize only the Igbo from the union and then hope to build a better Nigeria with other stakeholders? As of today, Nigeria has no stakeholders because nothing is at stake for anybody. For instance, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), which can also be called the Southwest, is also not a willing stakeholder in the Arewa project. Gani Adams said so. The South-south geo-political zone, which seems to always have good reasons to agitate, is improving along that trajectory. Now there is a strong mention of the Republic of Rondel (Region of the Niger Delta) in the latest wave of agitation, which started after the Kaduna Declaration by the Arewa youth groups.

In a nutshell, there is big confusion in the land. The North cannot even hear itself not to talk of hearing the South. The South cannot hear the North either. And here finally is the Nigerian Tower of Babel. The only discernable voice in the deafening staccato is the 2014 Confab report which President Buhari has said he will not touch even with a long pole. He must change his mind and not only touch but open and work with the report.

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