By Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) yesterday rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s position that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable, saying Nigeria could only remain united if all ethnic nationalities agreed to live together.
ARG, a pan-Yoruba socio-political and economic organisation, also condemned a public statement made recently by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in which it expressed strong support for the president’s position that the unity of Nigeria was non-negotiable.
A statement by its National Chairman, Hon. Olawale Oshun, pointed out the different reasons why the unity of Nigeria should be renegotiated.
In the statement, the ARG noted that neither Buhari nor ACF loved Nigeria more than those advocating the renegotiation of what binds it together as a country.
It said the unity of Nigeria was only sustainable by the voluntary acquiescence of the component ethnic nationalities and rejected the president’s position that Nigeria’s unity was non-negotiable.
The group added that the problems with the Buhari’s administration had “more to do with his conduct – utterances and perceived lopsided appointments – which appear to portray him as a north-centric president instead of a pan-Nigeria president”.
“Both the president and ACF need to take lessons on managing an all-inclusive, pan-Nigerian government. We wonder on what consensus or authority the so-termed non-negotiable unity of Nigeria stands.
“Is it based on government’s ability to silence all dissenters or the capability to manage a diverse society in a manner that makes every component proud?
“Nigeria was envisioned by its founding fathers as a federal republic, sadly its governance structure as dictated by its constitution is akin to that of a unitary state,” the pan-Yoruba group said.
It noted that the insistence of ACF and by extension the president to keep the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution from being renegotiated was the cause of many unsolvable agitations in the country.
“These agitations can only be managed successfully and sustainably when all Nigerians appreciate that they need one another to bequeath a strong country on the coming generations,” it said.
It said Nigerians of Yoruba ethnic stock would never agree “to becoming slaves in their country and the peaceful agitation coming from their space on the restructuring of Nigeria, as against the violent agitation in other areas, is to carefully underscore our belief in peaceful change, the mantra under which the last election was won and lost”.
The group added that all who wished Nigeria well should align with Prof. Wole Soyinka’s assertion that Nigeria’s unity was “bloody well negotiable”.
It noted that the unity of Nigeria and mode of governance were negotiable, adding that “the earlier we all start working towards this, the better for the development, peace and unity of the country”.
In its own reaction to Buhari’s position that the unity of the country was not negotiable, IPOB asked the president to wake up to the reality of the Nigerian situation.
IPOB, which prides itself as a famous worldwide revolutionary movement, vehemently condemned the idea that every component part of the “contraption called Nigeria must remain in the artificial marriage, which has not been working since 1914”.
“It is unfortunate that somebody in that cadre cannot ascertain and does not know that the situation in the country now calls for unity renegotiation,” IPOB said in a statement signed by its media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful.
The pro-Biafra group pointed out that the British colonial masters amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates without consultation in 1914, adding that no section of the country currently wants to stay with the other as evidenced by the agitation and militancy across the land.
IPOB said in view of the present realities, there was no need for Buhari and those like him to continue to live in the past.
“Rather, the government in power and the new generation of Nigerians should come together and discuss the basis for one Nigeria instead of forcing people to remain as one.
“Forcing people to maintain the citizenship of the country outside their indigenous identities is fraudulent and it will not work because the people of 1914 and 2016 are different and are not the same,” it stated.
IPOB said: “It is degrading and embarrassing that the APC-led government has continued to play the ostrich when things are already falling apart” and wondered if it lacked good advisers who have an idea of the precarious situation the country was heading.
The group reiterated its position that there was no going back “in the quest for the restoration of the nation of Biafra”, adding that “no human being can bring us back because it is the project of God Almighty”.
“More so, we the indigenous people of Biafra want to inform the general public that without the government of Buhari addressing this issue of Biafra and releasing our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, unconditionally the country will not have peace,” IPOB said.