A group that called itself Arewa Northern Youth Forum recently exhibited an unusual display of extreme irresponsibility when it rose from a joint meeting in Kaduna to give Igbo residing in their states up to October 1, 2017 to vacate the region.
Claiming relentless Igbo risk to national integration, the northern youth group said they had met with several other people in their region and evaluated the present situation of the North and mutually came up with the position.
The statement further reads: “From today, June 6, 2017, when this proclamation is signed, the North, a critical player in the Nigerian project, hereby declares that it will no longer be disposed to coexisting with the Igbo and shall take definite steps to end the partnership by pulling out of the current federal arrangement.
“This conclusion is necessitated by the realization that it since (sic) ceased to be comfortable or safe to continue sharing the same country with the ungrateful, uncultured Igbo who have exhibited reckless disrespect for the other federating units and stained the integrity of the entire nation with their insatiable criminal obsessions.
“Rather than certain sections holding the whole country to ransom at every stage, each should be allowed to go its own way as we categorically proclaim today that the North is fed up with being in the same country with this pack of acrimonious Igbo partners”.
As preposterous as the unfortunate action of the Northern Youths is, it is a sad pointer to the fragile unity of the country and a poignant reminder of the truism in the proclamation of a late elder statesman that Nigeria is nothing but “a mere geographical expression”.
After 57 years of nation building, that some youths who are supposed to be future leaders of the country could ever contemplate such sacrilegious outburst is, to say the least, rather nauseating.
In coming up with its discourteous position, the Northern youths erred in many ways, while also displaying ludicrous naivety with regards to their understanding of constitutional federalism. Let us, for instance, consider the following: “As a first step, since the Igbo have clearly abused the unreciprocated hospitality that gave them unrestricted access to, and ownership of landed properties all over the North, our first major move shall be to reclaim, assume and assert sole ownership and control of these landed resources currently owned, rented or in any way enjoyed by the ingrate Igbo in any part of Northern Nigeria”.
The point the youths missed in making the above declaration is that the Igbo owed them no apology for living and flourishing in the north. As a matter of fact, every Nigerian has the constitutional right to live and do business in any part of the country he/she so desires. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 41 subsection 1 is very explicit on allowing Nigerians to reside in any part of the country without any hindrance whatsoever. So, what the Northern youths need to clearly understand is that they are not in any way doing the Igbo, or any other tribe for that matter, living in the north any undue favour. It is their choice. It is their right. Just like the Northern youths could decide to reside and work in any part of the country.
As distasteful as the action of the Northern youths was, one would like to call for caution in terms of reactions towards it, especially from the Igbos. For one, till date there isn’t any evidence to demonstrate that the Northern youths’ provocative stance represents the sentiment of the entire north. Indeed, it is gratifying to note that respected voices from the north have risen in unison to condemn the Northern youths’ repugnant demand.
Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, described the comments as unfortunate and irresponsible.“On behalf of the governor of the 19 northern states, we totally condemn such irresponsible pronouncements by those groups and we condemn, we disown and we are totally distancing ourselves from the pronouncements of those faceless groups who do not have the mandate of the people of northern Nigeria to make such loud pronouncements,” Shettima stated.
“But when you see a toad dancing in the broad daylight, the drummer is not far from the main road. So I wish to call on the security agencies to beam their lenses on these groups and unearth the faces behind the mask,” the governor added. The northern governors insisted that they do not recognise the group which they described as “a bunch of groups that do not have the mandate of the people coming out to stick up the embers of division and disunity”. “The governors of northern Nigeria are not in alignment with those people and we will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens living in any part of the north”.
It is, however, important to stress that leaders across the country should become more careful and overtly patriotic in their utterances and conduct. While it true that we are a people of diverse ethnic/tribal, religious and cultural affiliations, needlessly fanning the ember of ethnic and tribal discord will lead us to nowhere. In as much as there is no denying the fact that there are fundamental issues which bother on national integration and harmony that needs to be swiftly addressed, if we are to make reasonable progress as a nation, but making provocative statements would only complicate issues.
Unfortunately, over the years elders and leaders from diverse parts of the country have sufficiently leveraged on our ethnic/tribal diversity for selfish gains. The trend was what threw the nation into a needless civil war and till date, what we have is nothing but a fragile union. No thanks to our leaders’ selfish indulgence. Regrettably, the youths, upon whose shoulders the future of the nation rests, have become shamelessly entangled in the whole profitless ethnic gibberish. Across the country, it is distressing to note that youths, both educated and uneducated, are now in the vanguard of pointless ethnic / tribal animosity.
For a nation that is currently bedeviled with diverse socio-economic challenges, this is not the right way to go. Every rational stakeholder in the Nigerian project must shun and condemn every act that is capable of throwing the country into worthless crisis. If by now, we are yet to get over the spillovers of a civil war that was fought fifty years ago, it will be foolhardy to start beating the drum of yet another war. A word is enough for the wise!
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja