By Michael Oche,
The Coalition of Northern Youth Groups (CNYG) yesterday finally withdrew the clause in its Kaduna declaration, otherwise known as ‘quit notice’ issued Nigerians of the Igbo extraction to leave the 19 Northern states before October 1.
In doing so, the Northern youths insisted that those agitating for the republic of biafra should be allowed and given full support in their bid to organise a referendum to decide their future, either as Nigerians or biafrans.
The coalition stated this at a world conference in Abuja announcing the withdrawal of the quit notice.
It said its decision to withdraw the quit notice followed immense pressure from various interest groups and prominent Nigerians, as well as its respect for and reaffirmation of their allegiance to one united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP had yesterday reported exclusively that CNYG’s 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.
Addressing the press conference, which had in attendance Governor Kassim Shetimma of Borno State as well as some prominent Igbo leaders and traditional rulers, spokesperson of the (CNYG), Alhaji Abdulaziz Suleiman, said only a referendum will quench the agitation for secession in the country.
According to him, failure to give way for referendum will only douse the tension temporarily, after which the secessionists will regroup to prepare for the war they have always craved and openly called for.
The Northern youths also called for the arrest and appropriate prosecution of leader of the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, even as they urged the Nigerian Senate to demand that all Senators who stood surety for him in court rescind their bond or be suspended accordingly.
Specifically, the CNYG said as part of terms to withdraw the quit notice, the government should, “Allow the Igbo people and support them to hold referendum to decide their future either as Nigerians or Biafrans in view of the fact that the population of the Igbo that supports biafra is far larger than the few who appear to be against it.
“Failure to do that will only douse this tension temporarily while they regroup to prepare for the war they have always craved and openly called for. We are opposed to war with any part of this country and we are opposed to any situation that will lead to war”, the coalition added.
It explained that one of the key reasons why biafra should be allowed to hold a referendum is because the principle of self-determination has, since World War 11 become a part of the United Nations Charter, which states in Article 1 (2) that one of the purposes of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of people”.
The coalition’s spokesman, Suleiman said, “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, including all elected and other office holders be made to discard totally any idea of Biafra and to show practical actions to prove that they believe in one Nigeria.
“Relevant law enforcement agencies should carry out a careful, lawful and purposive search 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.
“Let it be known that it is illogical to wait in this obvious and clear state of danger until the secessionist unleashes terror on innocent people and communities. By extension all unlicensed arms and ammunition should be mopped up by the authorities. And if there is a counter suspicion of northerners in the East amassing arms, they should also be searched and confiscated.
“We insist on immediate steps to be taken for the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and for his appropriate prosecution while calling on the Nigerian Senate to demand that all Senators who stood surety for him in court rescind their bond or be suspended accordingly.
“Total closure of all the open drug markets operating in Northern Nigeria and the immediate implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) as contained in the 2nd Edition 2012 developed by the Federal Ministry of Health which did not include the Co-ordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC).
The coalition continued: “This is the guideline which provides a distribution channel which is in consonance with the national drug policy and the implementation of which is empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To achieve this, all the states in northern Nigeria, should establish and strengthen the state task force on counterfeit and fake drugs and unwholesome processed foods, revoke all land titles where drugs are being sold and review the laws to provide stiff penalties for offenders.
“This should be followed up by the implementation of health insurance scheme at all levels and making the drugs available at the health centres in northern Nigeria to help eliminate nefarious activities
“The government should come up with clear laws on hate speech, which should remain in place to contain other individuals or groups whose way of agitation is to engage in hate speech capable of disrupting peace and harmony”.
A source who is privy to the activities of CNYG had told LEADERSHIP on Wednesday that “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”.
LEADERSHIP Friday 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 Coalition of Northern Youth Groups to withdraw the quit notice.
In the position paper, the CNYG said the decision to withdraw the quit notice was 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 marginalisation, is, to put it mildly, offensively provocative.
“No reasonable standard allows a people to defer with the universally recognised path of civility and opt for violent campaigns and hate summons on a mere perception of marginalisation anywhere in the world.
“At one time or another, other parts of Nigeria have also made similar complains of marginalisation 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 Northern 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, Yemi 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 Northern youths intimating Osinbajo of their decision to suspend the ‘quit notice’ to Igbos 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’