By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
But as Nigerian leaders met last night to debate the restructuring question, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) met Saturday night with the Northern coalition of youths, with a view to charting a common course for the peaceful co-existence of various groups in all parts of the country.
In the meeting, which took place in Abuja, the northern coalition said it had begun the process of reviewing its demand asking the Igbos to leave the North by October 1, but said it would not back down on its petition to the United Nations asking it to intervene in the affairs of the nation.
While the Northern coalition insisted that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu be punished for damage done to the psyche of some Nigerians, the Ohanaeze youths dissociated themselves from secessionist agitations, and asked Nigerians to consider such agitations as “perhaps a cry to redress the noticeable imbalance in the composition of the country”.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, the Chairman of the Coalition of Northern Youths, Yerima Shettima, who along with others issued the ultimatum in June, said the peace meeting between the two groups led to the formation of a six-member committee which would facilitate another meeting in the South-east.
On the Kaduna declaration of his coalition, Shettima said: “Leaving Nnamdi Kanu to go unpunished is totally unacceptable to us because he has so far done much damage on our psyche and our nation.
“So for us, we think the best we can do is to internationalise this struggle. Behind the background of what we are doing today, most likely in the event of anything falling short of what we agreed, of course we are already in the UN reporting this same character (Kanu).
“That does not stop us from discussing to arrive at a particular conclusion where we can have peace for the country.
“On our previous position, we have not officially withdrawn the quit notice given to the Igbos in the North, but we said it a few days ago that we will review our position and part of that step is what we are discussing now.”
While commending the Ohanaeze Youth Council for a fruitful deliberation, Shettima added: “I thank God we are talking with the recognised body of entire youths organisation in the South-east called Ohanaeze Youth Council that is known everywhere.
“This is a welcome development and we are happy that they have actually sought to get our audience to discuss the way forward out of these uprisings.
“We are glad to get some word coming out from the leadership of Ohanaeze Youth Council specifically in the area of seeking to see us to discuss issues; it means they realised that we are very angry and a lot of things are out of place as a result of their short comings in the sense that if they had called the young man to order, we wouldn’t have gone to this extreme.
“The second one is the assurance given by the president of the council. If I quote him very well, he said, ‘Nnamdi Kanu is just looking for self recognition’, and we became more relaxed and comfortable getting that from him, and the third one is him making efforts to bring MASSOB and IPOB together for us to go into a roundtable discussion. I think it is a welcome development.”
In his briefing, the National President of OYC, Okechukwu Isigusoro, thanked the northern coalition for a fruitful deliberation, adding that his council believes in one Nigeria.
“We want to especially thank the Coalition of Northern Groups for accepting to host us in Abuja. Our talks have been very smooth beyond our expectations and we want to appreciate them knowing full well that we thought these talks could have ended in a fiasco or taken a dangerous dimension.
“But the way they have been peacefully handled it shows that they are peaceful people. We commend them for that and also believe that through this dialogue we believe in the future that there will be no boycott of these talks and if followed peacefully, we will bring an end to some of our problems in this county.”
However, in a quick reaction to the statement made by Shettima quoting the Ohanaeze president as stating that Kanu was seeking for recognition, Isigusoro refuted the statement last night, stating that he was quoted out of context.
He said that at no time did he raise any issues on Kanu, IPOB or MASSOB at the meeting.
According to him, his take at the meeting was the positions taken to resolve the issue of quit notice.
He said: “I spoke on the quit notice and how to resolve it for everybody to live in peace. That was all. And a committee was set up. There was never a time I mentioned IPOB or MASSOB in my speech.”
He added that the OYC would never condemn any moves of self-determination by either IPOB or MASSOB and advised the media not to derail the efforts at peace between the Northern coalition of youths and OYC.