When a coalition of northern youths group infamously issued three months quit notice to Igbo leaving in the nineteen northern states of the country to quit the region and go back to the eastern part of the country, the initial reaction of the government and people of Kaduna state was that of outrage. Governor Nasir El Rufai who blazed the trail in the gale of condemnation through his senior special Assistant on media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan was unmistakeable in his upbraid.
Addressing a press conference at the Nigerian Union of Journalists office in Kaduna, Aruwan, who was clear in his condemnation, said the Kaduna state government which had passed a law outlawing hate speech in the state would not sit by and allow some people to use the serenity of the state to cause havoc in the country.
According to Aruwan, the state government did not only condemn the quit notice issued by the groups but has also directed relevant security agencies in the state to hunt down the signatories to the obnoxious statement and bring them to account according to the relevant sections of the law.
He said: “The Kaduna State Government condemns in the strongest terms the press statement by some self-appointed “northern youths” that threatened the safety and property of our citizens of Igbo extraction. Government assures every resident of our state that their constitutional and human rights to live peacefully and own property wherever they choose is sacrosanct.
Even people who may feel unhappy about irresponsible comments or actions that have taken place in other states must know that two wrongs cannot make a right.
“The Kaduna State Government believes in and will uphold the right of every Nigerian to live safely and develop his/her full potentials within its territory.
“Reckless disregard for the rights of other citizens drips through the press statement by these “northern youths” who have chosen to use the discourse around restructuring to promote their own agenda of hate, division and incitement. This sort of opportunists cannot be allowed to distort debate, or turn it into a pretext for a barely-disguised agenda of displacement and dispossession of some citizens.
“We will not tolerate such irresponsible statements and conduct in our state. The statement issued by the “northern youths” violates the laws of Kaduna State. Therefore, the Kaduna State Government has directed that its Ministry of Justice should prepare charges and prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit in arranging this egregious assault on the rights of fellow citizens.
“Preparatory to prosecution, the police have been directed to immediately arrest, interrogate the signatories to the statement and investigate all the circumstances and persons that may be implicated in the matter” he said.
Mallam El Rufai’s proactive condemnation of the statement by the amorphous Northern youths group in their so called Kaduna Declaration opened a floodgate of condemnation from other stakeholders in the northern part of the country because of the manifest implication such a brazen ultimatum to Igbos in the north could pose not just in the northern part of the country but also the country at large.
The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima who is also the chairman of the nineteen northern governors’ forum followed suit in condemning the declaration of the northern youth’s coalition. In a statement he issued a day after Governor El Rufai had directed security agencies to arrest leaders of the group, the Borno state governor in a statement distanced the governors of the nineteen northern states from the statement of the Youth coalition.
In a statement he issued, the governor noted that the views of the so called northern youths neither represented the views of the political leadership in the north nor the generality of the people of the region.
Angry Youths in protest
“On behalf of the Governors of the 19 Northern states, we totally condemn such irresponsible pronouncements by those groups. We condemn, we disown, and we are totally distancing ourselves from those faceless groups who don’t have the mandate of the people of Northern Nigeria to make such loud pronouncements. Section 41, Subsection 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very explicit in safeguarding the rights of all Nigerians to reside in any part of the country with no hindrance whatsoever. But then, when you see a toad dancing in broad daylight, the drummer is not far off from the main road. We wish to call on the security agencies to beam their lenses on these groups, and unearth the faces behind the mask.
“Some months back, there were cases of importation of arms, illegal importation of arms intercepted at the ports, and then we started hearing rumours of a coup d’etat. Now, a groups that do not have the mandate of the people came up with remarks capable of destabilizing the north and the country as a whole. ‘We are one nation tied to a common destiny, the governance of Northern Nigeria is not in alignment with those pronouncements, and we will take whatever measures that are necessary to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians living in any part of the North. I am in contact with most of my colleagues, and they are all talking to heads of security establishments in their respective domains because we cannot afford to take chances. We cannot afford to toil with the destiny of this country.
“The 19 Northern Governors wish to call on our brothers of Igbo descent to remain calm and go about their legitimate businesses. Nobody can dare to intimidate, harass or dehumanize them in any of the 19 northern states. Our governors will not allow that.”
Several other voices of condemnation from across the country have followed the high profile ones as represented by governor Nasir El Rufai and his Borno state counterpart, Kashim Shettima.
But investigations by weekend Vanguard in Kaduna has revealed that beyond the public condemnation by political leaders of the quit notice issued by the Arewa youths to Igbos in the north, the move appears to enjoy the support, and active sponsorship by conservative northern oligarchs.
According to our investigations, although the initial plan for the Kaduna Declaration was the handiwork of the groups, who were signatories to the declaration and have always been available for any group to be used to advance their political agenda during the sixteen years of the Peoples democratic rule, the idea assumed a life of its own when one of the signatories to the declaration contacted a former northern academic to intimate him of the plan.
“From the point the former academic was contacted, the issue assumed a different dimension, necessitating the shifting of the press conference from Monday to Tuesday. It became obvious that we were on the right path and we seized on the opportunity to make a point that at that point, we knew we had the backing of the majority of the people of our region and especially the leadership at the grass root” one signatory to the Declaration who did not want to have his name in print told Vanguard.
But while other northern leaders prefer to operate from the shadows while giving moral and financial support to members of the northern youth coalition in their declaration, Professor Ango Abdullahi, the former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the modern face of northern irredentism did not only openly declare his support for the youths but also publicly condemned the Kaduna state governor for ordering the arrest of the youths. Abdu
Speaking to newsmen in Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi who is a member of the Northern Elders Forum maintained that it was hypocritical for the Igbos to continue to live in other parts of the country while agitating for Nigeria’s break up.
Insisting that what the northern youth groups did was not a sin, Abdullahi said whoever feels Nigeria “is not conducive for him” should quit.
“I am disappointed in the decision taken by Northern Governors’ Forum disowning and condemning the agitation by this young agile and progressive youth groups.
“Let me ask these Northern governors, whom are they representing, are they representing spirits, ghost or people of the north?
“Recently, people from eastern part of this country, specifically Igbo, were busy calling for the Sovereign State of Biafra and from all indication their leaders including governors are behind them. Nobody has come out to condemn them. What are our people saying?” he queried.
But while the views expressed by Ango Abdullahi may represent the extreme position, very many Northern leaders feel that the emergence of the youth group was a good counter poise to what they feel is the relentless denigration of the whole northern region by the agitators for the so called state of Baifra.
According to a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University who spoke with Vanguard, ‘majority of the northern elites feel that we should also have our own ‘noise makers so that when the chips are down, we will have a point to trade. It is not as if people want Igbos to leave the north as declared by the youth groups. Our support for them stems from the fact that we cannot afford to continue to portray a spirit of docility.
Majority of northern elites support these guys because they are expendable and they are saying the right thing that our people want to hear. We know that when the chips are down, the Igbos have greater things at stake. We want them to know that we also know what to do when push comes to shove.
The north did not set out to recruit those guys but they filled a vacuum at the most appropriate time. When El Rufai said he was aware that some people were reluctant to carry out the arrest directive given by his state government, he knew exactly what he was talking about and I can tell you that none of those guys can be arrested in the north. We are behind them”
For now, while Nnamdi Kanu and his misguided supporters in the east push for Biafra, they have found an equally misguided ally in the north. With the support that both groups enjoy from some people in the zone, other Nigerians will wait to see whether the will of a few misguided youths and their sponsors will prevail or the majority of Nigerians who are more interested in the vicissitude of daily living will be giving an opportunity to live their lives in peace.
Arewa youths : Public condemnation, private support – APROKOPIKIN