…Violent attacks in North not targeted at Igbo –ACF
From CHIDI NNADI and PETRUS OBI, Enugu
The Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and its northern counterpart, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), yesterday in Enugu rekindled hope in the continued existence of Nigeria as one indivisible entity.
Chairman, National Executive Council and head of the delegation of ACF to a meeting between the two groups, Alhaji Aliko M. Mohammed, had arrived in Enugu on Tuesday with Senator J.K.N Waku, Senator Ladan Shini, Major-General Lawrence Onoja, Brig-General Mohammed Umar, among others, ahead of their meeting with Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to inaugurate the South-East chapter of ACF.
The meeting proper held yesterday at Universal Hotel, Enugu was presided over by the two leaders of the organisations: Alhaji Mohammed (ACF), and Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, who attended the meeting with former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme; and former Ebonyi State governor and health minister, Chief Sam Egwu. Others are Senator Offia Nwali; Nweke Anyigor; Eze Ozobu; former Ohanaeze PG, Prof Joe Irukwu; Ohanaeze Secretary, Nduka Eya; First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazuluike Amechi; Professor Chinedu Nebo; Professor Uzodimma Nwala; Chief Onyeso Nwachukwu, among others.
After the meeting, the two groups in a communiqué said they had a big brief discussion where they underlined “the imperative of national unity dialogue and consensus, based on the principles of equity, justice and cooperation among the various people of Nigeria.”
They, however, agreed that since the visiting ACF raised some weighty issues in its address, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo would need some time to study its presentation and then make its own response for discussion in a future meeting.
In the ACF presentation, Alhaji Mohammed had noted that the meeting had deep historical significance as it was the first time in recent times when leaders from Northern Nigeria and their counterparts from the South sat down together on a common table as one extended family to discuss.
He told their Ohanaeze Ndigbo host that they requested for the meeting in their belief that all the ethnic nationalities have a duty to dialogue with one another and search for solutions to the major issues of concern to the country.
“We have no doubt that these interactions will go a long way in helping to promote understanding, clear misconceptions and eliminate any suspicions we may have about each other.
“And we also believe there is no better time for these interactions than now, considering the widening differences in understanding, as well as apprehensions over the future of Nigeria,” the ACF leader said.
He noted that the country was passing through difficult times due to several challenges of development.
“We have frequent outbreaks of conflict accompanied by violence. At times, the brunt of such violence had been borne by relatively well-off members of the community which unfortunately, in many urban centres of the North, includes your members, Ndigbo,” he observed.
Mohammed pointed out that as a result, allegations have been made which suggested that Southerners, especially the Igbo were deliberately marked out for such attacks.
“Even more distressing is the damning propaganda that the violence that have taken place in the North are masterminded by Northern leaders supposedly for political reasons.
“That is why ACF is under pains to reassure Nigerians, especially our brothers, the Igbo, that leaders of the North do not, and will never condone violence, let alone those targeted at specific groups of Nigeria,” he said.
He noted that violence takes the country back as it destroys whatever assets that have been acquired by the people and government, saying that the “Igbo people promote the concept and spirit of one nation through their settlement in larger numbers everywhere in Nigeria.”
Buttressing his point, Mohammed said: “If, for example, the over one million Igbo that live in Kano State were to leave today, there is no doubt that the economy of Kano would be affected.”
The leader of the ACF delegation also touched on some issues in the country in which opinions differ between the North and South, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency.
Hear him: “Every Nigerian desires that we wake up tomorrow morning to hear that the Boko Haram crisis in the North had disappeared. But it is unrealistic. The opinion of ACF in favour of dialogue with the insurgents is in line with what history teaches us.
“Hard power of military might has never been known to completely and quickly subdue terrorism anywhere in the world… ACF has also long cautioned Nigerians not to associate Boko Haram with any religion, region or tribe. Their modus operandi has since shown that they are fighting on behalf of no one other than themselves and their sponsors, who are probably non-Nigerians.”
According to him, the ACF regretted that some people were spending valuable time and energy they would have invested in redressing the problems facing the country in campaigning for “the creation of pigmy republics out of Nigeria.”
“We hope that those who are agitating for the break-up of Nigeria do realize that once the process starts, no one can maintain control over it. There can be no knowing how far or in what direction it will take.
Not even the Ndigbo, who could arguably lay claim to being monolithic, can be sure of staying undivided. In social mathematics, when one is divided by two, the result is not always half,” he stressed.