Arewa Youth Quit Notice and the Double Jeopardy of the Nigerian Igbo, By Majeed Dahiru
The presidency may consider taking a strong action to rein in the issuers of the threat, their collaborators and supporters, to avert a likely bloodshed that may result from any attempt to implement the quit notice on the Igbo living in the North by the Arewa youth group. This is, at least, for the sake of the president’s Igbo supporters who may be worse affected by this impending double jeopardy.
The mixed reaction from the North that greeted the quit notice issued by a group of elderly looking individuals, known as Arewa Youths, which gave Nigerians of South-East origin up until October 1 this year to vacate the Northern region, may have given way to complete solidarity with this group and what they stand for by the Northern political establishment. The way and manner the leaders of a group of Nigerians threatening the forceful ejection of fellow Nigerians from a part of the sovereign territory of Nigeria are being indulged by the leading figures of the Northern political establishment may have legitimised the ultimatum given to Igbo people living in Northern Nigeria. For a country whose political leadership has often declared in rigid terms the non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity and oneness, the quit notice on citizens from the South-East of the country to leave the northern section, presents a tragic situation of double jeopardy for the Nigerian Igbo.
The stage appears set for a well-coordinated genocide against the Igbo living in the north of Nigeria, and the voices of reason have loudly gone silent. The patriotic stand of Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, which not only condemned the very irresponsible statements of the group, which was dripping with hate, but called for their immediate arrest, has been overtaken by the unpatriotic posturing of Governor Kashim Shettima, who as chairman of Northern Governor’s Forum has failed to condemn the group’s open call for violence and anarchy. Rather, he chose to indulge the group by hosting its leaders in Maiduguri, after which the group not only maintained its stand but reiterated the sanctity of the October 1st deadline for the Igbo residents in Northern Nigeria to move out or be moved out. The patriotic voice of the Emir of Katsina, which not only condemned the group and its treasonable statements but assured every Igbo living in his domain of safety as his beloved children, may have given way to the unpatriotic attitude of Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, the traditional head of the conservative Muslim north and leader of Nigerian Muslims. The Sultan failed to condemn in strong terms, the unfortunate statements of the Arewa Youths, but declared that the group’s threat to the Igbos was being discussed by Northern leaders, to bring about an amicable solution to the crisis. It gives an impression of tacit support for this regrettable quit notice by the Northern establishment for the Arewa Youths. It is morally wrong to indulge a group of people who are threatening the forceful ejection of citizens of Nigeria from their chosen places of residence anywhere within the country. The quit notice on Igbo people living in the North of Nigeria was unwarranted in the first place, because Biafra agitators have not threatened the lives and properties of Northerners living in the South-East.
As the D-Day approaches, hate opinions against the Igbo living in the North is being mobilised by influential institutions and individuals across board. Local songs of hate depicting the Igbo as harmful mosquitoes that must be gotten rid of, freely circulating in the North, are quite frightening. It signposts crude rehashes of the April 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when blood sucking Hutu militia men described Tutsis as cockroaches that must be smashed in the head. Similarly, some Northern mass media, like their Hutu counterparts in the prelude to the 1994 carnage, are promoting tales of hate and animosity against the Igbo. Worth mentioning here is an editorial that LEADERSHIP newspaper ran in the heat of the furore generated by the Arewa quit notice on the Northern Igbo, blaming them for the incidences of the first coup in 1966, which was led by predominantly Igbo ethnic military officers, unfortunately leading to the assasination of leading northern political and military leaders.
The most unfortunate thing about this baying for the blood of fellow citizens of eastern region by the Arewa Youths is the obvious helplessness of the situation by the Buhari/Osinbajo led federal government, given the fact that the prevailing sentiment in the North was actually accentuated by the president’s non-conciliatory posturing towards the Igbo who voted against him in the 2015 general election.
The unfortunate incidence claimed the lives of the highly revered premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello and the then prime minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Like the rekindling of the bitter memories of the Hutu history of Belgian oppressive colonial rule over Rwanda that saw the elevation of the head (Nwami) of the minority Tutsi over the Hutu majority, which set the stage for the mass killings that followed, the representation of the 1966 putsch as a Igbo coup is having the same effect in present day Northern Nigeria. The lessons not learnt by the proponents of the Igbo quit notice, is that when you light a match stick, it may turn around to consume you also. Hutu militia men in 1994, like the Igbo military officers in 1966, lit a match stick that turned around to consume both them and the Tutsis. Today, the Hutu majority of Rwanda has been subjected to minority Tutsi rule since 1994, after they were eventually subjugated by Tutsi military power under the leadership of Paul Kagame, just like the Igbo lost their prime position in the Nigerian political space since 1966, following a revenge coup that consumed elite Igbo military officers.
Another dimension to this plot is the obvious envy and, sometimes, hatred that the success of the Igbo attracts to them from their host communities. There is the warped impression that Igbo people are the greatest beneficiary of the Nigerian union, because “they are allowed to settle everywhere and prosper.” This chaliced notion that citizens of a country are being done a special favour by being allowed free movement around their country is largely responsible for the covetous target of their massive multi-trillion naira investment, asset and property by the promoters of this agenda. Again they fail to learn from the experience of Uganda following the toppling of President Milton Obote by Idi Amin Dada in 1971. Native Ugandans, who clearly lacked the requisite skills required in managing successful businesses like resident Europeans and Asians, nevertheless blamed the skilled expatriates for their poverty. The subsequent mob action that followed the forceful take over of foreign owned enterprises and mass ejection of expatriates failed to lead to the economic Utopia the natives had hoped for. The average Igbo man works hard to achieve his current economic status, which was not thrust upon him through any special favours.
The most unfortunate thing about this baying for the blood of fellow citizens of eastern region by the Arewa Youths is the obvious helplessness of the situation by the Buhari/Osinbajo led federal government, given the fact that the prevailing sentiment in the North was actually accentuated by the president’s non-conciliatory posturing towards the Igbo who voted against him in the 2015 general election. His punitive pronouncement and near total implementation of his “97 percent to five percent” proportionality in the distribution of government patronage has helped to stoke the fire of hate against the Igbo in his home region of Northern Nigeria. President Buhari’s inability to carry out the very important task of healing the wounds opened by a fractious electoral process but instead showed preference for his own people is an unforgivable error in the art of statesmanship.
The vice president, who actually appears to be merely an acting president, in a clear case of a bizarre political drama of power play between him and Buhari’s powerful kitchen cabinet, is evidently unable to take the firm and decisive action the grave situation demands.
The political dimension to this unfolding scenario was once again brought to the fore when a leading northern publication, Daily Trust, during the week, ran an exclusive story accusing members of the House of Representatives from the South-East and South-South regions of putting the speaker under immense pressure to constitute a medical panel with the ultimate aim of getting the federal executive council to declare President Buhari incapacitated and unable to continue to discharge his functions as commander-in-chief. This allegation, which has been denied swiftly by the people concerned, has the potential to further stoke anti-Igbo sentiment in the North in preparation for the October 1 mass eviction D-Day. The vice president, who actually appears to be merely an acting president, in a clear case of a bizarre political drama of power play between him and Buhari’s powerful kitchen cabinet, is evidently unable to take the firm and decisive action the grave situation demands.
Unfortunately, this quit notice is a blanket one against the Igbo, including all but a few of the president’s supporters from the South-East region, who are mostly opposed to Nnamdi Kanu’s separatists’ movement because of their abiding faith in Buhari, their hero. This quit notice does not exempt Osita Okechukwu, a very loyal and dedicated person to Muhammadu Buhari’s aspiration to lead Nigeria since his first attempt in 2003. How about Joe Igbokwe? The very vocal apostle of home truth to fellow Igbo and defender of the president’s policies and programmes is also not exempted. Lauretta Onochie, the very dutiful and dedicated media aide and the nightmare of the opposition PDP is not exempted from this threat. Likewise, Ogbonnaya Onu, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Nwabueze Ngige, Festus Odimegwu and so many other illustrious sons and daughters of Igbo land who defied ethno-religious sentiments and stood firmly by the president, are not exempted from this quit notice. The presidency may consider taking a strong action to rein in the issuers of the threat, their collaborators and supporters, to avert a likely bloodshed that may result from any attempt to implement the quit notice on the Igbo living in the North by the Arewa youth group. This is, at least, for the sake of the president’s Igbo supporters who may be worse affected by this impending double jeopardy.