John Shiklam in Kaduna, Ademola Babalola in Ibadan, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin, Onitsha Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, and Jeff Amechi Agbodo
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo saturday likened the country to a marriage, saying like most married couples Nigerians have had their ups and downs, but what is of the utmost importance is the dedication of everyone in the relationship to the success of the union. Osinbajo spoke in Ibadan at the wedding reception for the daughter of former interim national chairman of All Progressives Congress, Chief Bisi Akande. The vice president counselled the new couple, Wuraola and her husband, Dr Olawale Solabi, to uphold the tenets of the marriage institution, and said divorce was not an acceptable option.
Osinbajoâ€™s advice came against a background of rising ethnic tensions following an order on Tuesday by a previously unknown coalition of youth groups in the North, telling Igbos resident in the region to leave before October 1 or get ready to be forced to quit. Reiterating their position saturday, in the same Kaduna venue of their earlier meeting, the groups alleged that the Igbo had already carved out a country for themselves and should, thus, be allowed to go.
Addressing the newly married couple, the acting president said, â€œToday is a special one for Wale and Wura. Marriage is a very large institution that requires a lot of prayers.
â€œIt is the same marriage that nations go through. Our nation has been in marriage for a while now. Sometimes there are quarrels within that marriage. Sometimes there is disagreement. What is important is that you must remain together. You must remain united.â€
Equally speaking on the bourgeoning sectional pressures, Saraki said, â€œThe senate must stand clearly to defend one Nigeria. There is no room for division and we must live by example. We are not afraid of anybodyâ€¦
â€œWe must rise up to make a statement on what is happening. We will be failing if we do not do something that will reassure the people on the need for one Nigeria. We are greater being together than going our separate ways.â€
Ajimobi, who chaired the occasion, said, “The only way to succeed in marriage is to run your home with the fear of God. Never oppress your wife because she is a weaker sex. Be nice and good to her always. And you will enjoy peace and be greatly blessed.”
Dignitaries at the wedding ceremony included Senate President Bukola Saraki and the governors of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi; Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu; Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola; and Jigawa State, Muhammad Badaru. Others were Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole.
Also present were former governors of Ekiti and Osun states, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Mr. Segun Oni, respectively. APC Deputy National Chairman, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, the partyâ€™s National Secretary, Hon. Mada Buni, National Vice Chairman (South-west), Chief Pius Akinyelure, and former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, were also at the wedding..
Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha was represented by Mr. Steve Azimozi, and the first lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, was represented by Alhaji Mohammed Aliu.
Meanwhile, certain individuals in the North, including the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, have voiced their support for the action of the northern youths. Second Republic Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Mamman Danmusa, yesterday aligned himself with the position of the youth groups against the Igbo. Danmusa said, â€œIgbos are ungrateful people because they are everywhere in the North. They operate their businesses and have landed property in the North, but, unfortunately, they are still not grateful to northerners.”
But some elder statesmen from the North who spoke with THISDAY saturday dissociated themselves from the anti-Igbo pronouncements of the northern youths and their backers. Vice chairman of NEF, Chief Paul Unongo, condemned the quit order issued Igbos and said Abdullahiâ€™s support for such â€œnonsenseâ€ was his personal opinion and not that of the forum. Unongo regretted the Nigerian Civil War in which over three million people died and said Nigeria could not afford another war.
According to him, “Anybody, including the so-called Arewa youth groups pretending to be sponsored by some elders in Nigeria, who saw this horrendous war and went through the iniquities and hardship of the war and is still provoking war is talking nonsense.
“We cannot support a proposition by young men who didn’t see the war, neither do we support what Nnamdi Kanu is doing. The NEF cannot and will not support an ultimatum given to any Nigerian residing in any part of Nigeria.
â€œAbdullahi’s statement is a private and personal view. The Northern Elders Forum cannot take that position. We support the Igbo to live anywhere in the North, including my village. I want more of them to come and establish their businesses in my village.”
Leader of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, spoke in a similar vein. Yakasai said, “My position is that nobody in Nigeria can restrict the right of any other citizen to move anywhere or reside anywhere.
“Even the laws that some state assemblies are making, restricting the movement of Fulani herdsmen, are unconstitutional. Anybody who said Nigerians should not live in any part of the country is violating the provision of the constitution.
“We belong to two different groups diametrically opposed to one another in terms of ideology. We are opposed to one another all along right from the beginning.
“We are for Nigeria’s unity; they (NEF) are against Nigeria’s unity. I have been in support of Nigerian unity since 1963. I was sent to jail in 1963 on account of my support for the unity of Nigeria.”
The Northern States Christian Elders Forum and Northern Youth Council of Nigeria have also denounced the anti-Igbo pronouncements by some northern youths. Spokesman of NOSCEF, Mr. Sunday Oibe, told THISDAY, â€œIt is unfortunate that somebody who is supposed to be an elder is associating himself with miscreants,â€ referring to Abdullahi.
Oibe stated, “No right thinking Nigeria will be talking about division. Agreed that people can voice out their feelings over issues that affect them, but to order Nigerians out of another part of Nigeria is condemnable.
“Our forefathers fought and laid their lives to build a nation called Nigeria. There is no section of this country that can go it alone. The so-called North they are talking about cannot stand alone without the South-west, South-south, the Middle Belt, and the South-east, and vice visa.”
He added, â€œThe Igbo have contributed tremendously to bring development to the North. Outside government, the Igbo as a nation has brought development to the North. Those jobless youths, who made them the spokespersons of the North?
â€œI call on the Igbo leaders not to respond to this form of reckless and irresponsible statements.â€
NYCN called for the arrest of Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. At a news conference in Kaduna, the president of NYCN, Isah Abubakar, said, â€œNYCN wants to use this medium to dissociate itself from the anti-Nigeria agenda. We are not happy with the development in all its ramifications.
â€œWe are calling on the federal government to extend its arrest order to Professor Ango Abdullahi and other people who must have sponsored the perpetrators of such a huge inciting statement capable of throwing the country into another civil unrest while the country is yet to fully recover from the previous one several decades after.â€
Former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, warned that the current tensions were reminiscent of the conditions that prevailed before the civil war in 1967. Gambari called for proactive steps by governments, political leaders, and traditional rulers to stem the apparent slide into crisis.
â€œThis nonsense must stop. It must stop because Nigeria cannot afford it,â€ Gambari, who is also the Chancellor of Kwara State University, Malete, said yesterday at the fifth convocation of the eight-year-old institution held at Malete in Moro local government council of the state.
He said, â€œWe cannot afford it because it is distractive. At a time when we seek to reposition our country for stronger national cohesion and economic resurgence, to play our destined role in Africa and the world, we do not need this distractionâ€¦
â€œWe cannot afford it because it hurts our image in the region, in Africa and around the world. What investor, donor or ally would confidently associate with a country under threat of disintegration, confusion or instability? None! If we are to leverage on our considerable economic potential and human capital, we have no choice but to demonstrate to the world that we are a viable destination and ally. Our size and diversity should, therefore, be taken as advantages that help us to build a great economy with huge political influences.â€
Gambari added, â€œIt worries me that some of our compatriots seem to have forgotten so soon the great prize we paid fighting the civil war; lives were lost, properties were destroyed and nation building was stunted.
â€œI appeal to our leaders, political, traditional, religious, and business, to not only speak out against the negative developments, but also to take immediate positive action to bring an end to them. Otherwise, their actions could be interpreted as collusion with the forces of division and violence.â€
For now, the Indigenous People of Biafra has urged Igbos in the North to return to their native land. Media and publicity secretary of IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful, in a statement yesterday satirically thanked the northerners for vindicating the groupâ€™s standpoint on the need for a referendum to decide the status of the countryâ€™s component ethnic nationalities.
The statement read, “Biafrans in general also wish to thank these vocal northerners for at least having the courtesy to issue advance warning this time before embarking on their routine massacre of Igbos and other Biafrans living in northern Nigeria; unlike what their fathers did in 1966 when death, destruction and mayhem were unleashed upon unsuspecting innocent civilian populations from the South comprising of mostly Igbo men, women and children.
“Igbo massacre in northern Nigeria has occurred so many times that it has almost become some sort of an annual sporting activity for blood thirsty northern youths. That is why we are particularly grateful to Arewa youths and elders for having the decency to give us prior notice before the slaughter commences.
“We promise to adhere to your warning to leave northern Nigeria because a word is enough for the wise. Biafrans and other southerners should start packing their properties to come down to the South. We also advice the northern youths and their elders to keep it on because all they have done is exercise their right to free speech, which is not a crime under any law known to man. We are, therefore, against those calling for the arrest of these Arewa youths and their elders.”
IPOB said the notion that the enormous investments of Igbos in the North and other parts of Nigeria would be an impediment to the achievement of the Biafran dream was misplaced.
Meanwhile, the founder of One Love Family, Sat Guru Maharaji, has said that the Sultan of Sokoto and leader of Muslims in Nigeria, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, was the only northern leader who could stop the October 1 eviction notice served Igbos residing in the North. Though the northern statesâ€™ governors and some figures from the region have spoken out against the so-called quit notice, Guru Maharaji said the Sultan, and not the governors, had the influence and authority to rein in the youth of the region.
Speaking to newsmen in Ibadan on the threat by some northern youths against Igbos and the surreptitious support by a section of the regionâ€™s elders, Guru, who was marking the 24th anniversary of his organisation in Nigeria, said, “The call by the northern groups must not be treated lightly at all because they represent the northern rulers and the issue must be visited with all sense of duty, treated swiftly and made to have regard for life and the rule of law.
â€œThose involved must be persuaded to withdraw their statements and warned to desist from such acts of terrorising people and threatening social coherence and the peace of the land.
â€œSuch threat coming during the Ramadan fasting time goes a long way to prove that these people are under heavy manipulation to destabilise the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, like other rebel and secessionist leaders all over the world tried to destabilise their countries.
“I am, therefore, asking the Sultan of Sokoto to intervene and make a categorical statement for the withdrawal of that quit order within two weeks (14days) from the date of this press conference to show that His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto, truly believes in one Nigeria and that a leader in his capacity should not allow disgruntled people in the area to cause trouble.”