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Between the Southern leaders and Northern youths

“We reiterate that any threat or action against any section of the Southeast will be treated as a threat or action against the entire South.”…

“We reiterate that any threat or action against any section of the Southeast will be treated as a threat or action against the entire South.”

– Excerpts from the Communique released after the meeting of Southeast and South-South leaders last weekend.

In the internet age we live in, it is not possible to hide anything, from anyone, anymore. It was supposed to be a meeting of Southeast and South-South leaders, but it swiftly metamorphosed into a congregation of the entire leadership of the entire Southern part of Nigeria, or so they claimed.

A closer look actually revealed that the ‘leaders’ who joined in the meeting from the Southwest, were from the rogue fringes of Afenifere, or the political journeymen who fed fat on the former President Jonathan; contrived to foist his ill-conceived and widely discredited National confab on Nigeria; and have since been ‘unemployed’ or are simply ‘unemployable’ in the current dispensation. 

Sadly, they included the retired General Alani Akinrinade, and very predictably, Yinka Odumakin and Chief Ayo Adebanjo. Although their electoral value has for long being in doubt, all three, along with the likes of Victor Attah, and Mr. Ledum Mitee, had to attend to give the meeting a holistic, or all-embracing ‘southern’ ambience against the common enemy. Either way, the statement quoted above – which, by the way, appeared to have the imprints of Femi Fani Kayode – was issued in their name, even if, in actual fact, the real or authentic political heavyweights from the southwest, gave the meeting a wide berth. 

Even so, the so-called ‘quit notice’ issued by a coalition of northern youth groups to the Igbos resident in the region, and which has now resulted in the unfortunate statement quoted above, was not directed against the entire southern part of Nigeria, in the same way the uncouth rhetoric, and activities of Nnamdi Kanu, and the fast swelling ranks of the IPOB infantry he commands, is targeted at the rest of Nigeria, outside the Southeast, and the territories they intend to forcefully annex as part of Biafra! 

In a decision that could haunt them in future; or, in their wisdom, or the lack of it, the so-called southern leaders who gathered in Enugu weekend, decided to regard the regrettable action of a few youth groups in the north, as an affront against the totality of southern Nigeria. The communique was unambiguous. Their choice of words will only serve to raise tension even further, in an already overheated polity. 

Although they claim have faith in a ‘restructured’ one Nigeria, the statement is sure to capture the imagination of public commentators and opinion leaders in the coming days and weeks. It also literally took the shine off whatever they intended to achieve at the meeting, including the enactment of a bill for the creation of a Southeast Development Commission, in an age when the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPERDEC), established by an Act of the National Assembly in 2010, is yet to take-off. 

HYPERDEC was conceived to attend to the development needs of Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau, and any other State where hydroelectric power is generated in the country. Of the lot, Niger state is host to the Kainji, Jebba, Shiroro, and Zungeru dams, with plans for a fifth at Gurara. 

But the leaders from those states are not making the same deafening noises to complain against the persistent flooding of their territories and the massive deprivation of farmlands that sustained their people for generations. But I digress.  

Whoever authored, or authorized the content of the communique and its choice of words did not mean well for the nation. They simply exasperated the tension that has built up since the release of Nnamdi Kanu, and the unfortunate reaction to the activities of IPOB in the form of the quit notice to Igbos by the Northern youth groups. 

Very often, when some of our so-called elders frequently vituperate, they do so in a manner that hardly dignifies their calling. This is one such instance. And, in these days of serial infamy, it is fashionable for some to lampoon some northern elders like the former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Ango Abdullahi, whose utterances tended to back the northern youths, tut to do so, without putting his statements in their proper context as many have done, is not only uncharitable, but a disservice to any serious interrogation of the situation the nation now finds itself.

We have much to regret when statements credited to a man like Ango, who served as the Vice Chancellor of the most cosmopolitan first generation university in the country for ten years, could be misconstrued as support for anarchy, or xenophobia, more than two decades after he vacated office. 

In the interview with Channels Television last week, in which the issue of the ‘quit notice’ was the central theme, the former governor of Kaduna state and factional leader of the PDP Ahmed Makarfi expressed his disgust and the disappointment at the failure of the mainstream media, and leaders from the south, to make the swift condemnation of the action of the northern youths by political and traditional rulers in the region the key narrative in the discussions on the unfortunate crisis!

What the so-called Southern leaders did at the weekend, will only add to Makarfi’s frustration, especially since their communique did not containing a single word of condemnation of the activities of Nnamdi Kanu, or his insistence that elections will not hold anywhere in the Southeast without a referendum on Biafra. 

It is, therefore, within that context that we must situate the reaction of Professor Ango Abdullahi as unpleasant as it may seem. The southeast leaders in particular have consistently behaved in a manner that suggests that they are either complicit, or approved of Kanu’s actions. The likes of Ango Abdullahi, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and to a larger extent, Ahmed Makarfi, had every right to be peeved, as unfortunate as the actions of the northern youths was. 

The ‘Southern Leaders Forum’, in the communique, also called on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to, as a matter of urgency, address the nation on measures being taken by the federal government to protect the Igbo, and other ‘southerners’ from attacks by Arewa youths who gave the Igbo up to October 1, 2017, to vacate the North.

Yet again, they completely ignored the man who triggered the reaction of the northern youths, and continues violate his well-publicized bail conditions bail conditions with impunity. The applauded the Acting President for his promise to look into the issue of restructuring the nation and urged him to act on the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, but said nothing about the need to save the “Nigeria” that so desperately needs to be restructured from the destructive tendencies of Nnamdi Kanu. 

Another concern the highlighted was that as at today, “No action appears to have been taken regarding the October 1, 2017 ultimatum issued by Arewa youths to the Igbos and demand that as a matter of urgency, the acting president addresses Nigerians to inform all about what steps have been taken to ensure that the Igbos and southerners generally will be protected against the threat of attacks by the Arewa youths.” The communique expressed concern about the menace of Fulani herdsmen, and the need to act decisively against them.   

I have no issues with the need for government to confront all internal security challenges, whether they are committed by Boko Haram, criminal militants or Kidnappers frontally, and with all the resources available to it; but how can the arrest of the northern youths who issued the quit notice be justified when Nnamdi Kanu continues to violate his bail conditions by holding massive rallies all over the Southeast and South-South with the openly declared intent of fragmenting the nation?

If the so-called southern leaders can answer that question, the work of government and security agencies will be made much easier. This is not a fight between the north and the south. The so-called ‘southern leaders’ that gathered in Enugu last weekend want to make it so. The task before government is simple: while all parts of Nigeria can claim to be marginalized, it must exhibit equity in dealing with criminals whether they live in Nnewi or Kaduna.

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