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Ibo quit notice: Good work Shettima

With eight weeks left to the expiration of an ultimatum issued on June 6th 2017 by a coalition of Arewa youth groups to Ibos, asking…

With eight weeks left to the expiration of an ultimatum issued on June 6th 2017 by a coalition of Arewa youth groups to Ibos, asking the later to vacate all parts of Northern Nigeria on or before Sunday October 1st 2017, hardly can any other issue supersede it on the scale of priorities, with respect to national interest. After all if the Nigerian nation as it stands today – is billed to cease to exist as one indivisible entity in just eight weeks from now, what else is there to talk about, beyond averting such an apocalyptic dispensation, or planning to cope with its aftermath? This is because the quit order has imposed on the country a pall of ominous portends, which like the  mythical ‘Sword of Damocles’, possesses the assured impact of cutting Nigeria’s fragile unity into a thousand pieces. And even as many Nigerians may not be happy with the present state of affairs in the country, a larger number also appreciate the fact that the various constituent ethnic nationalities are better off with Nigeria in one piece, and working towards resolving its complement of challenges under the aegis of unity in diversity. This is Nigeria for anybody; which just like any other country, offers different strokes for different folks.

Hence ever since the quit order was issued on, there has been a flurry of responses from several quarters, with some offering useful insights and others proving to be outrightly questionable. For instance, some quarters had earlier called for the arrest of the sponsors of the order which has been christened ‘The Kaduna Declaration, while others opposed such a response from the authorities. Just as well, the Youth Wing of the Ohaneze Ndigbo had also been in dialogue with the leadership of the Arewa Youth Coalition – a development which produced an earlier outcome of the latter promising to withdraw the threat. Meanwhile other lobbies including the Northern Governors’ Forum under the leadership of Kashim Shettima have condemned the order with the Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai ordering the arrest of the issuers of the order. 

In another vein the South East Governors had issued an advisory to the Ibos in any part of the country including the North to stay put in their places of abode, and not to panic over the quit order. The Nigeria Police on its part had warned that it would not tolerate any form of harassment of any citizen in any part of the country, while assuring all Nigerians to go about their legitimate businesses in any part of the country. Based on the foregoing assurances and the natural instinct of self preservation in the face of threats which are adjudged to fall within the threshold of containment, there is the likelihood that most Ibos in the North may defy the ultimatum to leave.

 With the target date just two months away the truth remains that question of what may happen from that day is far from being resolved. While the flurry of assurances is flowing there remains palpable concern among the citizenry that not enough has been done by the government to allay any fears of the unknown come October 1st.  The jocular taunts of “when are you packing” which some direct at their Ibo associates could light up social circles, but the ominous edge to such is usually never blunted. If the truth is to be told, as at today the average Ibo in the North is a deeply worried person. In fact the worry of the Ibo goes beyond the eventuality of whatever happens on October 1st, but extends to its wider connotations which include the profiling of their stock as a bargaining chip in the Nigerian political narrative. The basis of this situation draws partly from the absence of a coherent perspective of the Ibo persona before the rest of Nigerians and the consequential ascription of a faulty persona to the Ibo by the Arewa Youth Coalition and indeed most other Nigerians.

For instance, the Arewa Youth Coalition had cited as their grouse and justification of their quit order, the shut down on May 27th 2017, of some towns in the South East by the Nnamdi Kanu led IPOB. However, when it is appreciated that Kanu is not a legitimate leader of the mainstream Ibo but a mere rallying point of redoubtable insurrection, the inequity in punishing all Ibo in the North, most of whom are innocent, law abiding and critically relevant to their host communities, becomes self manifest. In deed as available evidence confirms, most of the traders that locked up their shops on May 27th 2017 in Onitsha, Owerri, Aba, etc., complied only in default as they did so out of fear for the safety of their investments, which could have been vandalised by marauding IPOB elements.

 The foregoing provides the main reason why the Arewa Youth Coalition owe this country a rethink of their ultimatum with a view to withdraw it immediately and unconditionally, for to press it further is to build their case on the basis of shaky foundation, being a misplaced grudge. In this regard, they will find good cause to align with the Northern Governors Forum under the able leadership of Kashim Shettima. His laudable enterprise with respect to resolving the ultimatum crisis should serve as a rallying point not only for the ephemeral dividends of averting a new fight between the Arewa Youth and Ibos, as well as other Nigerians that may be caught up in the crossfire of an ensuing violence. As the Governor of war-ravaged Borno State, Nigerians should listen to him at a time like this, as he has at his disposal, a trove of insights to offer with respect to the differences between the benefits of peaceful coexistence of different groups and the disadvantages of avoidable war among them.

 In the final analysis the  Arewa Youth Coalition can and indeed should acquit themselves by leveraging on the capacities of the Shettima-led Northern Governors’ Forum as well as any other organ of social mobilisation, to articulate a rebuttal in all ramifications of their ultimatum, with the same intensity and spread as it was launched, in order to that come October 1, 2017, Nigeria can be saved from yet another theatre of avoidable crisis, which may prove one too many.

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