The controversial Kaduna declaration of June 6, 2017, during which a Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), ordered Igbo’s residing in the 19 Northern states to quit and relocate to the South East before the 1st of October, 2017 or be forcefully ejected has come and gone, but the ripples generated by the order still hangs in the air.
According to the group, “the persistence for the actualisation of Biafra by the unruly Igbo of South-Eastern Nigeria” necessitated the declaration, that “from the 1st October, 2017, we shall commence the implementation of visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbo’s,” the Kaduna declaration reads.
The declaration was further followed up with correspondences to the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the United Nations asking that Ndigbo be assisted to actualise their Biafra struggle while Nnamdi Kanu should be treated as a terrorist.
The Kaduna Declaration
Arewa youth claimed that the declaration was consequent upon the “abusive and confrontational ideology promoted and campaigned for by IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu which has brought to the fore some of the most scariest and unacceptable treatise” such that they were left with no option than to come together and form the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) to begin charting a new future for the population of Northern Nigeria.
The CNG accused the Independent People of Baifra, (IPOB) of rolling out drums of war, calling for violence on other tribes, making fake and exaggerated claims of marginalisation, alienation of other countrymen from gaining access to trade and industry in the South East.
“While the Igbo are accommodated in every corner of the country to the point of owning landed and other immovable assets, they have on their part foreclosed all reciprocal possibilities by denying non-Igbo’s access to property all over the South-East” CNG stated.
Another sin Ndigbo committed was that they refused to let the Fulani herdsmen overrun their region and allow cows feed fat on their farms.
“The claim that some of the Fulani herdsmen were involved in the commission of some crimes is a mere smoke screen as there is no law that says the offense of an individual shall be blamed on his entire race.
Besides Igbo men are severally found responsible for the commission of many vices, yet they are tolerated and accommodated in other Nigerian cities, towns and villages without blanket stigmatization,” they stated.
Further, the group alleged that the Igbo’s peddled hard drugs and infiltrated markets in the North with fake and hard drugs, subjecting Northern youths to the menace of hard drugs.
They said, “The infiltration of Northern pharmaceutical markets with fake, substandard, adulterated and hard drugs by some Igbo traders which persist despite modest efforts by some state governments to stamp it.
“Drug abuse and supply of substandard drugs are used as political weapons to smear the North. The National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency has placed Kano State, and by implication the North, as the first in terms of drug abuse in the country consecutively for several years while a World Health Organization research has pointed Kano as the location with the highest rate of fake anti-malarial drugs in Africa and by extension the world.
“While the North is the largest consumer of such products, its economic involvement is less than 5 percent of the total market value, with the rest hijacked and monopolised by people from the South-East of the country,” CNG stated.
The Abuja counter-declaration
The group admitted that they “came under intense persuasive pressure from genuinely concerned national, political, traditional, religious and cultural leaders prominent among which were a section of the Northern Governors forum under its Chairman, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Northern traditional rulers and the Directorate of State Security” to reverse the order.
“As a consequence of these vigorous engagements and as cultured people with a tradition of respect for our national values, leaders and elders, we are today pleased to announce the immediate suspension of the relocation clause otherwise referred to as the quit notice from the Kaduna Declaration.
“We are also pleased to announce here that the Kaduna Declaration has achieved most of its major objectives, chief among which include forcing the hitherto deliberately neglected dangerous Biafra issue to the front burner of the nation’s discussion agenda,” the group stated.
Caveat to the Suspension
Although the CNG gave no conditions for the suspension of the order, some terms were attached which government was expected to address immediately.
Government, they said, should support and allow Ndigbo to hold a referendum to decide their future either as Nigerians or as Biafrans.
“One of the key reasons why Biafra should be allowed to hold a referendum is because the principle of self-determination has, since World War 11 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 people.”
The group equally called for disarmament of all Ndigbo in the North alleging that they are stocking arms to attack the North as well as the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and sanction on members of the National Assembly who endorsed his bail bond.
“We insist on immediate steps to be taken for the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and for his appropriate prosecution while calling on the Nigerian Senate to demand that all Senators who stood surety for him in court rescind their bond or be suspended accordingly.”
Igbo’s speak on some of the issues.
Some people have debunked the allegations leveled against IPOB and Igbo’s by the Arewa youths as vague and false.
The Ohaneze Youth league, led by Chuks Dike, responding to the allegations that IPOB was going about their agitation in a violent manner, challenged the Arewa youths to produce any evidence of violent attack on any person or public utilities by IPOB.
“The IPOB group has been conducting their activities in a peaceful manner. Nobody has been molested or killed. No public building, vehicle, police station, hospital or school has been burnt down.
There is no record of molestation of any Hausa or Yoruba man living in the South East or constraining them to join the IPOB group” Dike stated.
The Chairman of Ndigbo in Nasarawa, Ekene Okwuoto said that the greatest fear of the Northerners was the success recorded by the seat at home order organised by Ndigbo for those who lost their lives during the civil war and explained that it was not part of the agitation.
“Ndigbo just recognised some Biafra veteran who lost their lives during the civil war. The Federal Government also does same during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
“Ndigbo just decided to seat at home that day, suspend all activities and dedicate that day to pray for our brothers who died fighting for what they believe in and nobody is compelled to obey the order.
So our brothers in the North should not be threatened by that show of solidarity,” Okwuoto said.
Nosa Akingbola in his reaction said that there is no evidence that Igbo’s are the sole marketers of hard drugs in the North, arguing that if they have facts, then they should approach law enforcement agencies for sanctions instead of quitting an entire race including those involved in legitimate businesses.
“I stay in Kaduna and everybody knows that illicit drug is highly consumed in the North. The level of consumption has more to do with illiteracy and idleness as most of them do nothing.
“Most of those drugs are sold in shanties and even the police cannot even go there to arrest the dealers because they have the backing of highly placed persons. Often foreigners are not involved in illicit selling of drugs because the consequence will be so grave for a foreigner to handle,” Akingbola stated.
Reactions on the quit notice
Controversy has since trailed the Kaduna declaration. The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, however, commended the coalition for withdrawing the quit notice, stressing that Igbo’s are very resilient and hard working people who build business bridges across the country.
Speaking in Abuja during the reversal of the notice, Governor Shettima said, “I am here to ensure that the quite notice is publicly withdrawn the same way that it was publicly declared in June.
I don’t believe that majority of the Igbo’s subscribe to the Idea of Biafra. It is a tiny minority, vocal minority that is fermenting all these mischief.
“The hope of the black man rests with the Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria, very economically enterprising, prosperous indefatigable race, a very proud people and I am proud to call them my brothers and sisters,” Shettima stated.
Also reacting, the former Kaduna State governor, Balarabe Musa, condemned the quit notice, saying that “saboteurs” were behind the declaration which was a threat to Nigeria’s unity.
“The quit notices are designed to escalate tension in the country and promote disaffection among citizens. Clearly, the issuers of such notices are irresponsible groups being backed by some people in their respective regions to issue the notices.
Such backers and saboteurs are ready to undermine the unity of the country for their own parochial ethnic and political interests.”
An Igbo elder who resides in Kano, Eze Dr. Boniface Ibekwe, Eze Ndigbo in Kano and President General of all the Eze’s in diaspora commended the coalition for suspending the notice and pledged to dialogue more with Kanu so that he can drop his agitations.
In the same vein, Nathaniel Ajegena Adigizi, the leader of North Central Peoples Front, described Ndigbo as a people with traversing business spirit.
“It is always better to have peace. The level of investment of Igbo’s in Northern Nigeria is extremely high. We have two classes of nomadic, we have the nomadic Fulani and we have the nomadic Igbo’s.
Everywhere you go in any constituency in Northern Nigeria, you find an Igbo trader there and we have been living together for years.”
Yerima Shettima, the Leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and the voice behind the Kaduna declaration, appealed for calm and re-assured Ndigo of their safety in the North after the declaration was reversed.
“There is no need for them (Igbo) to go anywhere. Before we arrived at our decision, we consulted widely. Our people are not violent. We have leaders and when they speak, we obey them,” he said.
IPOB rejects withdrawal of quit notice
But IPOB has rejected the withdrawal of the quite notice by the Arewa youths. In a statement the IPOB’s spokes person, Emma Powerful, said the withdrawal was inconsequential as far as IPOB aspirations were concerned.
“It is inconsequential to IPOB whether the ‘quit notice’ was rescinded or not because it will in no way impact the pace and direction of our effort to restore Biafra. If they had any honour, they will ‘stick to it,” he said.
However, Balarabe Musa said that such rejection was not relevant because IPOB cannot force Igbos, who had chosen to live in the North to leave by October 1, explaining that the Northern youth group that issued the quit notice did not have the power to implement their threat.
Uncertainty even as quite notice is suspended
Despite its withdrawal of the notice, there is still apathy among Igbo’s resident in the North that the region may still be unsafe for Ndigbo and all foreigners as the October 1st deadline approaches.
This may have led Governor Shettima to stress the importance of withdrawing the quit notice publicly and early.
“We simply want to prevent a situation where some hoodlums will take advantage of the quit notice to go after the lives and properties of any Nigerian living in any of the 19 Northern states.
We further don’t want to create room for reaction from any of the 17 states in the Southern part of the country as the entire country could easily explode,” Shettima said.
But IPOB’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, has advised Southerners living in the North to vacate the region despite assurances by the coalition on their safety.
”Southerners were massacred in the pogroms of 1966 and 1967 after similar assurances were issued then that people should remain in the North.
“The presence of a serving governor and senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the supposed press briefing confirms what we have always known that the incitement to genocide, which is what the ‘quit notice’ is all about, has the blessing of the Arewa political class.
“We urge all Southerners in the core North to return home before October 1 as history will most definitely repeat itself,” he added.
Averting further crises
Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, one time Permanent Representative of Nigeria, at the United Nations, during a Justice and Peace Conference in Abuja recently, stated that war and crisis re-occurs if issues that led to the crisis were not properly addressed.
Some have also postulated that to avert further crisis from the declaration, government must as a matter of urgency set up a special task team in the 19 states of the North to beef up security in the region as a signal to those who intends to ferment trouble, else, the North will still experience a panic exodus of Igbo’s and other non-Northerners before October 1st due to security concerns.
There is no doubt that Nigerians are more divided now, due to allegations of lopsided distribution of wealth and appointments and bad governance incubated by some anti-development policies in the system which has remained for decades.
The issue of restructuring is one of the challenges this administration must tackle. The how, when and extent may vary but the fact remains that restructuring which according to Oxford Dictionary means “to organize something such as a system or a company in a new and different way” is inevitable if we must remain a peaceful, progressive and united nation.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) has already taken the right step by setting up a committee to articulate the position of the party on restructuring, and there is hope that the committee will come out with a popular position that will douse the tension.
Recall that when former governor Adams Oshiomhole during the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) colloquium tried to muddle the issue of restructuring as a creation of politicians who lost elections, he was booed and he confessed, “I think I get the message”.
Government must separate the messenger of restructuring with the message. There must be sincerity from government and the determinations to look at issues dispassionately.
Federal Government must boldly thinker with the content of its exclusive list, devolve power and strengthen governance at the grassroots. This radicalism will make local governments more responsive and state government more responsible.
The National Assembly must listen to the demand of the people and revisit some sections of the constitution which deals on devolution of powers for unless the lawmakers are ready to look at it with nationalistic rather than parochial eyes, there will continue to be cries of marginalisation in the system.
The fact remains that only the lawmakers can get the country out of this doldrums and only the spirit of unity, devoid of regional, religious and ethnic sentiments is required to attain this status.
The quit notices are designed to escalate tension in the country and promote disaffection among citizens. Clearly, the issuers of such notices are irresponsible groups being backed by some people in their respective regions to issue the notices. Such backers and saboteurs are ready to undermine the unity of the country for their own parochial ethnic and political interests