29th of June 2017
RE: LETTER BY A COALITION OF NORTHERN YOUTH GROUPS TO ALLOW IGBOS ACTUALIZE THEIR DREAM OF A SOVEREIGN NATION OF BIAFRA
We the Igbo Intelligentsia Forum, a forum with worldwide membership of Igbo professionals, write in response to an open letter, dated 19th June, 2017, addressed to you by a coalition of northern youth groups requesting you to set the machinery in motion to allow Igbos actualize their dream of the sovereign nation of Biafra.
Before we make our comments we wish to commend your competent demonstration of effective leadership in dousing the needless tension created by the quit order and ultimatum given to Ndigbo by the said group to quit northern Nigeria by the 1st of October, 2017. We salute your peace building efforts and pray that the Almighty will continue to avail you the wisdom to steer our turbulent ship of state to safety.
*Our Response To The Arewa Youths Letter*
While we do not wish to respond to a number of inaccuracies in their one-sided narration of the historical antecedents that have characterized the behavior and conduct of Igbos in Nigeria, which seem to blame Igbos for all of Nigeria’s woes, we nonetheless wish to remind this group of Arewa Youths that the history of aggression against Ndigbo predates the political events of 1966.
For example, in June 1945 hundreds of Igbos were murdered in Jos by northerners and their properties valued in millions of pound sterling were looted or destroyed. Curiously, no single northerner was apprehended or charged to court by the British colonial regime, nor was a public enquiry set up to determine the causes of this gruesome act.
After the massacre of Igbos in 1945, another one took place in Kano in 1953, where hundreds of Igbos were gruesomely killed, and their properties looted.
Besides the genocide committed against the Igbos in 1966 across Northern Nigeria and the subsequent civil war in which over one million Igbos died, our people have been killed virtually every year in northern Nigeria for one flimsy reason or the other.
The most ridiculous was the killing and looting of Igbo property by northern Muslims protesting the publication of a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be unto him) by a Danish newspaper.
What did Ndigbo have to do with an event that took place in far away Denmark? In the same manner, it was grotesque that Igbos were again gruesomely murdered in November 2002 following the controversy surrounding the hosting of the Miss World beauty contest in Nigeria, which had nothing to do with the Igbos.
In spite of the thousands of innocent Igbo lives routinely wasted in northern Nigeria, no Igbo group has sought to blame all northerners for such vicious acts of aggression. We have always understood and believed that the routine killings of Igbos are initiated and instigated by some northern politicians and religious leaders, and not the generality of northerners.
Also, there has never been a case, where Igbos initiated the killing of any Nigerian, let alone a northerner. It is on record that some Yorubas, Tivs, Idomas, Ijaws, etc, as well as Igbos, participated in the bungled January 1966 coup, yet it is usually blamed on the Igbos alone, and wrongly labelled an Igbo coup.
*The Nnamdi Kanu/IPOB/MASSOB Connection*
We consider it unfair that the coalition of Arewa Youths chose to engage in selective perception and double standards in castigating the hate speech by Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB and MASSOB. While we disagree with, and condemn Nnamdi Kanu’s vicious rhetoric, let us not forget that before him, there were a number of precedents. We crave your indulgence to briefly discuss them, by the regions in which/where they occurred.
*The South South Region*
There was Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo of Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, who was more vehement in the use of intemperate language against northerners in agitating for resource control and self determination for his Niger Delta people. In like manner, the Niger Delta Avengers caused the Nigerian state monumental losses in revenue by the consistent blowing up of oil pipelines, but at no point were Niger Deltans given a quit notice from northern Nigeria. Probably because it was understood that Alhaji Asari-Dokubo and the Niger Delta Avengers did not have the mandate of the Niger Delta people to speak or act on their behalf. Had such quit notice been given we would have stood shoulder to shoulder with them to object to it.
*The South West Region*
There was also Chief Ganiyu Adams of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), the pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, who agitated and still supports the creation of a sovereign state for the Yoruba people. He was even arrested for violent clashes perpetrated by his organization against law enforcement agents, which at different times led to the loss of lives. Infact, the OPC got involved in the July 1999 violent clashes between the Yoruba and Hausa community in Shagamu, leading to loss of many lives on both sides.
Unconnected with the OPC, there was another violent clash in March 2016 between the Hausa and Yoruba community at Mile 12, Lagos, which led to the loss of at least 10 lives. Also in March 2017, Police Force Headquarter in Abuja announced that 46 people were killed and 96 wounded in a lethal clash between the Hausa and Yoruba communities in Ile Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization.
These violent clashes notwithstanding, the Yorubas were never given quit notice to leave northern Nigeria, neither were the acts of omission or commission of Ganiyu Adams blamed on all Yorubas. At the height of the agitation, we cannot remember any Yoruba leader condemning Ganiyu Adams, neither were Yoruba leaders held responsible for Gani’s agitation for the creation of Oodua Republic. Had any such quit notice been given, we the Igbos would have objected to it.
*North East Region*
Abubakar Shekau the leader of Boko Haram, levied war against the Nigerian state in the last 6-8 years. Shekau and his group had actually installed an Islamic caliphate in parts of the north east and also declared loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Shekau and his group have caused the country monumental damages in terms of human lives of both Christians and Muslims and the devastation of an entire region (the North East). Their campaign of violence and death has achieved widespread footprints across the north and Abuja. As we speak people still die every day, including our gallant soldiers, as a result of the activities of Boko Haram, yet no section of Nigeria has given northerners quit notice to leave their region as a result of the sins of Abubakar Shekau and Boko Haram, as all Nigerians realise that this would be a treasonable offence. It is also not on record that northern leaders publicly castigated the activities of Boko Haram, until recently when the Nigerian military degraded them.
Virtually every region of this country has been victim of the violence committed by Fulani herdsmen, including the South East. Yet no region is calling for the expulsion of Fulani herdsmen from their various domains in spite of the wanton destruction of lives and properties they unleash on their host communities.
Neither have Igbos ever killed members of their host communities in any part of the country, but rather live peacefully side by side, investing and creating jobs and business opportunities for people of all ethnicities.
We condemn all acts of violence and hate speech irrespective of its origin, as we firmly believe that Nigeria cannot make progress through selective tolerance of violence and killings or in the application of double standards in law enforcement.
Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB do not have the mandate of Ndigbo to seek for secession from Nigeria, neither can Ndigbo be held responsible for his/their words or actions, just like the Niger Delta Region, the Yoruba people and the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri peoples are not being held responsible for the actions of Asari-Dokubo, Ganiyu Adams and Abubakar Shekau, respectively.
The vast majority of Ndigbo have not confirmed their intention to secede, neither do we believe they will, as they are a major stakeholder group in project Nigeria and have continuously shown it through our investment and migration to and in all parts of the nation. It will therefore be counter-productive to opt out of a country we have contributed tremendously in building, and showcasing on the world stage.
This vast majority of Ndigbo look forward to a restructured Nigeria that will grant greater autonomy to the federating units in conducting their affairs. This vast majority are open and willing to cooperate and collaborate with all groups who are interested in a restructured Nigeria.
Igbos are tired of being used as Nigeria’s scapegoats and canon fodder. One of the reasons fueling the discontent of Igbo Youths as epitomized by the actions of IPOB/MASSOB is the routine killing of Igbos, even for things they have absolutely no connection with. It is inconceivable that any group of people will be happy that the only solution to conflict resolution is the killing of their people. The action of the routine killing of our people is against equity and natural justice.
Another significant reason for agitation of youth groups in the South East is the obvious marginalization of the region by the Federal government. The region is suffering severe infrastructure deficit and the absence of significant federal presence. For example, the only Federal government commercial venture in the South East is the moribund Nigerian Coal Corporation, while other regions have petro-chemical, steel, aluminium, defence, fertilizer, iron ore, liquefied natural gas, power plant ventures etc. The initial national gas pipeline network was designed to bye-pass the South East under the pretext that the demand for gas in the region is low. Out of over 140 non-ministerial agencies, which excludes educational, health and research institutions, only two have Headquarters sited in the South East, namely the War Museum in Umuahia and Anambra/Imo River Basin Development Authority in Owerri. The issue with the location of headquarters of major agencies of government is that the capital and recurrent expenditures of such agencies have significant multiplier effect on the local economy. Something the South East is not benefiting from.
We do not hold the vast majority of good northerners responsible for the actions of the unscrupulous politicians in their midst, and we wish to extend our hands of brotherhood and fellowship to all northerners who believe in equity, justice and fair play. The Igbos are not seeking for people to dominate or exploit. Neither are we a violent people as we are not known to kill or maim non indigenes living in our communities. All we seek is a level playing field to coexist peacefully with other Nigerians.
While we commend the steps taken so far by the federal government under your able leadership, we request that you intensify and sustain all peace building efforts initiated by your office in the last couple of weeks.
We urge that any party involved in incitements and hate speech be properly cautioned, and advised of the implications within our constitution the statutory laws of our land.
We recommend that this government reconsiders its position on restructuring of Nigeria in a manner that grants greater autonomy to the federating units. We believe that this singular action will douse tensions in the country and usher a new era of peace and prosperity for the entire country.
The greatest challenge to this government is how to make all aggrieved people to respect the sanctity of human life. Nigeria has become a killing field from north, south, east and west. No one gives life but God, therefore no one has the right to take any life. The Igbos abhor the reckless loss of human lives across the country. Consequently, there should be no double standards in dealing with those who choose to callously take the lives of fellow citizens.
Please count on us in your efforts to achieve peace, harmony and prosperity for all Nigerians.
Lastly, we wish to thank you immensely for the thoughtful leadership you are offering in these challenging times and we also wish to seize this opportunity to thank all those who stood up to be counted in condemning the northern youths quit order, especially northern political leaders who were courageous enough to speak against their own. This is an action worthy of emulation by all Nigerians. We offer our respects and hands of fellowship to all, including our fellow compatriots that constitute the Arewa Youth Coalition.
Please accept the assurances of our highest regards and esteem.
Chief Joseph Chukwuma Ikunna
Dr Katch Onunuju
National Publicity Secretary
Chief Clement Aguiyi
Coordinator – Northern Zone
Nze Barr Sympathy Chiboko Nwosu
Coordinator – UK
Dr E O Eke
Mazi Chibuzo Oguoma
Barr Ikechukwu Ikeji