BY BODE GBADEBO and Jonathan Nda- Isaiah
Barring any last minute change of mind, the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups (CNYG) will today suspend a clause in its Kaduna declaration, otherwise known as ‘quit notice’ issued Nigerians of the Igbo extraction to leave the 19 Northern states by October 1, LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday.
A source who is privy to the activities of the coalition told this paper that the Northern youths have concluded plans to announce the suspension of the ‘quit notice’ at an international press conference in Abuja today.
According to the source who preferred not to be mentioned in print, the CNYG’s decision to withdraw the quit notice followed series of meeting with numerous stakeholders.
He said the final decision to withdraw the quit notice was taken since last week at a meeting between the leadership of the coalition and seven prominent Northern elders.
“At the meeting which took place last week Wednesday, the Northern elders persuaded the Arewa youths to withdraw the quit notice for the sake of national interest, in order that the country be kept as one”, the source added.
LEADERSHIP recalls that at the height of the tension generated by the quit notice issued the Igbos, the Arewa youths were engaged in series of meetings with eminent stakeholders in the country in frantic moves to prevail on them to rescind their decision.
The stakeholders who invited the coalition for a meeting include eminent Northern traditional rulers, the Northern Governors’ Forum led by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, the Directorate of State Security, the National Peace Committee, the Northern Elders Forum, several Igbo leaders and cultural groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths Worldwide and the Eze Ndigbo in all the 19 northern states.
Also, a position paper by the coalition titled, ‘General Assessment and Possibility of Review of the Kaduna Declaration and a letter it wrote to the Vice President exclusively obtained by our correspondent confirmed the decision by the northern youth groups to withdraw the quit notice.
In the position paper, the CNYG said the decision to withdraw the quit notice is tied to a set of demands which it had articulated for the attention of the National Peace Committee, the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) for onward transmission to the presidency.
The conditions attached include the immediate re-arrest of the self-appointed leader of the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who breached his bail conditions.
According to the coalition, the strange quit notice, issued on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in Kaduna, was in response to the breakaway agitation by Igbos under the auspices of IPOB led by Kanu.
The CNYG noted in the paper that they were at different times prevailed upon by stakeholders to reconsider their stance in the interest of national security and unity.
In the position paper, CNYG recalled the four grounds on which it based its decision to issue the ‘Kaduna Declaration as follows: “The Igbo’s arrogant attitude of continuing affront on the peace of Nigeria, spewing hatred and heaping insults on others and expecting everyone else to stoop condescendingly to this brazen affront.
“The incessant threat, insult, violence and open call for war on all other tribes and regions that has become the hallmark of IPOB’s Biafran agitation based on fake and exaggerated claims of marginalization, is, to put it mildly, offensively provocative.
“No reasonable standard allows a people to defer with the universally recognized path of civility and opt for violent campaigns and hate summons on a mere perception of marginalization anywhere in the world.
“At one time or another, other parts of Nigeria have also made similar complains of marginalization but followed it up in civilized democratic manner as against the Igbo violent option”, it said then.
Although the Kaduna State government swiftly reacted to the controversial decision of the Arewa Youths by ordering the arrest of their leaders who made the pronouncement, the order was never effected by the Kaduna State Police Command, a situation that further aggravated exchange of words between some Southern and Northern leaders.
Also, the federal government had initiated various peace moves as championed by the then acting president, Osinbajo, with series of meetings with leaders of thought from the North and the Southeast in order to douse the tension raised by the Kaduna Declaration.
Meanwhile, the letter dated Thursday, August 17, 2017 by the Arewa Youths intimating Osinbajo of their decision to suspend the ‘quit notice’ to Igbos today, which was obtained by LEADERSHIP yesterday was signed by the coalition’s chairman, N.A. Sharrif.
“We have resolved to announce at an open air international press conference on Thursday, August 24, 2017 in Abuja the definite suspension of the relocation clause contained in the Kaduna Declaration”, CYNG told Osinbajo in the letter titled, ‘Update on The Kaduna Declaration and Commending Your Excellency’s Effort at Maintaining National Security and Peace’
The Arewa Youths also demanded that seven conditions must be met as necessary to the definite suspension of the quit notice.
The conditions include to allow the Igbos and support them to hold a referendum to decide their future, either as Nigerians or as biafrans, in view of the fact that the population of the Igbos that supports Biafra is far larger than the few who seem to be against it.
The coalition noted that by virtue of Nigeria being a signatory to the various international conventions that entrench the right of a people to self-determination, it was only proper for Nigerian authorities to reflect that right in the ongoing constitution review so as to end the deception that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable.
The CNYG stated: “If for any reason a referendum cannot be held for the moment, we insist the Igbo both in the Southeast and in other parts of Nigeria be made to discard totally any idea of Biafra and to show practical actions to prove that they believe in one Nigeria.
“All southeast political and religious leaders including elected and other office holders should openly denounce Biafra and declare loyalty to one Nigeria by doing away with all symbols and flags of Biafra and replacing them with recognized Nigerian symbols.
“In collaboration with law enforcement agencies, a careful, lawful and purposive search should be conducted of all suspected premises in the North in which IPOB sympathizers might be amassing arms. This is necessary because since the declaration of war by IPOB, there had been cases of interception of caches of arms concealed and smuggled into some parts of northern Nigeria.
“Immediate steps should be taken for the rearrest of Nnamdi Kanu and his appropriate prosecution; total closure of the open drug markets operating in Northern Nigeria and the implementation of the NDDG using the initial channel of distribution, and lastly
“We demand that the federal government comes up with clear laws on hate speech, even if the Igbos leave Nigeria, this law should remain to contain other individuals or groups whose way of agitation is to engage in hate speech capable of disrupting peace and harmony”.
Presidency Cautions Restructuring Agitators Against Overheating The Polity
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday cautioned opinion leaders to exercise restraint in their choice of words to avoid heating up the polity and causing acrimony across the country.
It spoke in defense of President Muhammadu Buhari against those criticising the president for not making a definite statement on calls for restructuring of the country
Buhari had in his address to the nation on Monday, referred the issue of restructuring to the National Assembly and the Council State, saying they are the government institution that can address the matter.
Defending the president, the presidency said Buhari is constitutionally bound to work with the National Assembly to deal with such complex issues.
The senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who made the presidency’s position known, told the critics that the president will not exercise arbitrary powers or bypass the legislature in taking such fundamental decisions.
The presidency said it is a matter of great satisfaction that a majority of the citizens welcomed the broadcast.
According to the presidential spokesman, “to critique the president for not responding to restructuring of the country – whatever that means – is completely off the mark”.
He noted that the president has no power to impose restructuring of the country by military diktat, adding that the National Assembly members are the elected representatives of the people who can handle agitations for restructuring and other constitutional changes.
“Changes don’t happen on a whim in a democracy. Since the President has sworn to defend the constitution, he will remain faithful to that oath by working with the legislature in taking major decisions on the future of Nigeria’s federal system”, he stated.
Shehu however added that, while Nigerians are free to express themselves, they should exercise such liberty with restraint and a sense of responsibility.
He said calling President Buhari an enemy of Nigeria is in extreme bad taste, even as he noted that nothing in Buhari’s service record would justify such scurrilous language.
“The country’s parliament is ready and willing to discuss all issues but the pundits are more interested in TV and newspaper headlines. Threats don’t work in a democracy. Democracy requires planning and proper process. Issues are resolved through established processes, not by abuses, insults or irresponsible statements”, the presidency concluded.
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