We have just been told that the Coalition of Northern Youths, or by whatever name they are called, are considering reviewing the quit order, which they handed down to the Igbo living in their territory. One of them who spoke on national television a few days ago said they were thinking of reviewing their position because South East governors and some Igbo elders have dissociated themselves from the agitation for a separate republic by the Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB). The spokesman for the Arewa youths said the silence of South East governors on the issue all this while was one of the compelling reasons they issued the quit notice.
This sounds fanciful. But I do not think that the Arewa youths are serious about reviewing their quit order to the Igbo. If they were, I would have readily and freely charged them with naivety. I would have done so because the position of South East governors on this subject matter does not change anything. I have reasoned earlier in this column that South East governors, like other public office holders, did what they were supposed to do. It is not in the place of a public office holder to support or be seen to be supporting any suggestion that borders on the dismemberment of the country. To do so will be an open-air disdain for the country that they are serving. Public office constrains people, at least, in Nigeria to the extent that their real views or positions on national issues are hardly known. They are only expected to hold views that favour the establishment. To do otherwise will amount to lack of patriotism. South East governors are certainly wary in this regard. They cannot afford to be so charged.
Northern governors are equally as circumspect. They are also guilty of concealment in this matter. They disowned the Arewa youths and their quit notice. They told the Igbo to ignore the quit order and live normally wherever they may find themselves in any part of the North. That was their public declaration. But we know for sure that some of them did not mean what they said. Some of them may be as rabidly anti-Igbo as the Arewa youths, but the demand of public office forbids them from making their antipathy public. In this matter, therefore, appearance is light years away from reality. For this reason, it will be naive for the Arewa youths to rely on the public posturing of South East governors, as a reason to review their position. Some of the governors may not be truly persuaded by the public declaration jointly made by all of them.
But I can say with a reasonable level of confidence that the Arewa youths are not about to review their quit order because, truly, nothing has changed. When they made their June declaration in Kaduna, the most compelling reason they cited was the no-movement order, which IPOB declared across the South East and South South. I can say with certainty that IPOB will still issue the same order on 30th of May, 2018 and the people will obey. South East governors will not be able to stop it. What then will the Arewa youths do? Will they issue a fresh ultimatum if it ends up withdrawing the subsisting one? The Arewa youths will be making a mockery of themselves if they do so. It will amount to returning to one’s own vomit. This being the case, the northern youths should not review their position. Nothing, contrary to what they may be imagining, has changed. They should not be taken in by the politics of correctness being played by public office holders.
However, beyond the tough posturing and grandstanding, it can safely be argued that the Arewa youths are merely using the South East governors to cover up their inadequacies. The youths who made the June declaration overreached themselves and are now looking for ways and means of diverting attention from their empty boasts. Let us recall that the Arewa boys said that they would, beginning from 1st of October, 2017, initiate a process of disengagement from the Nigerian federation. Given this declaration, the onus is on the northern youths to initiate that process of disengagement from Nigeria. By talking about a review, the Arewa youths may have failed to carry out their threat. They may have failed to begin the process of disassociation from the Nigeria where the Igbo are a part.
They may have their reasons for failing to begin the process of disengagement from Nigeria, as they said they would, but it will amount to self-deceit to claim that certain moves made by certain Igbo are responsible for their inability to carry out their threat. Such moves are purely personal and self-serving and do not represent the position of the Igbo in the unfolding drama of wills.
If the Arewa youths are truly serious about what they have boasted about, they should focus their attention on the activities of IPOB. The group has not backed down on its agitation. If anything, it has upped the ante since after the Kaduna declaration. This should be the focus of the Arewa youths, not the nocturnal moves of a few merchants who are purely motivated by profit and loss instinct. Those who think, as the Arewa youths are trying to do, that the agitators do not represent the collective interest of the Igbo are making a mistake. You can never have a consensus for a disruption to take place. It takes a handful of radical elements for a revolution to take place. Anybody can dismiss the agitators as non-starters. But if they succeed in foisting an uncommon change on the Nigerian landscape, even those who never reckoned with them will have no choice but to fall in line. Arewa youths and the Igbo merchants of the North cannot claim not to know this.
Regardless of what Arewa youths do or fail to do, I am still constrained to ask why the Igbo agitation for a separate country should worry the North. A few weeks ago, I raised this issue in this column. It bears repeating here. Why is the North incensed? Is the Igbo agitation directed at the North? I raise these questions because the Igbo agitation, if there is anything untoward about it, should worry every segment of Nigeria. But we can see that the Yoruba, a major ethnic bloc in Nigeria, are not worried about it. They are not calling the Igbo names for agitating for a country of their own. They have not asked the Igbo to vacate the West on account of Biafra. So, why is the case of the North different? Given this set-up, it will not be out of place to say that the outburst from the Arewa youths is not justified. It is uncalled for and purely provocative.
However, as we move closer to the scheduled date of 1st of October, it should be noted that nothing has changed, concerning the quit order. Arewa youths may be toying with the idea of a review. But I am saying here that there is no reason for that. Those who choose to be taken in by their antics will be doing so at their own risk.