The lingering disaffection between the North and the southern part of Nigeria took a new dimension wednesday with youths from the southern part of the country threatening to leave the country in droves if any part of the region is aggressively expelled or subjected to violence.
Against the backdrop of an initial quit notice to South-easterners and a follow-up letter to acting President Yemi Osibanjo by northern youths under the umbrella of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Southern youths under the aegis of the Southern Nigeria Youth Coalition (SNYC) have vowed that any attack on its people would be met with equal, if not greater force.
In a statement jointly signed by Olajide Odumosu of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC); Sunday Akinuoye of Oodua Liberation Movement (OLM); Oluwole Suleiman of the Oodua Nationalist Coalition; Godwin Okey Ozonweke, Kelvin Okereke, Chijioke Chukwunyere; for the South-east; Weri Digifa of the Supreme Egbesu Assembly (SEA); Roland Pereotubo Oweilaemi, Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), President Worldwide; Chief Ani Esin; Michael Ekpo and Samuel Erhahon (Coalition of Edo State Youth, the youths urged the United Nations (UN) to conduct a referendum to determine thefuture of the country.
The statement read: â€œWe of Southern Nigeria Youth Coalition (SNYC) comprising all viable ethnic nationality youth groups in southern Nigeria have carefully gone through the letter by the youths of northern Nigeria extraction (Arewa youths) to acting President Osinbajo (SAN) to use his office to dismember the south eastern part of Nigeria.
â€œWe noticed that the letter by the Arewa youths listed the perceived â€˜offencesâ€™ Ndigbo have committed within Nigeria since 1966, but failed to mention the various crimes Arewa has committed against the rest of Nigeria with the latest being the Boko Haram insurgency and the murderous activities of the Ak-47 wielding Fulani herdsmen who have been unleashing terror on southern and Middle Belt communities.â€
Stating the position being canvassed by them on behalf of the entire SNYC areas, the group added: â€œWe call for the immediate conduct of a referendum, not only in the South-east, but in the entire southern
Nigeria to determine the future of the country consistent with our demand for restructuring over the years to make Nigeria a truly federal republic.
â€œSince the Arewa youths have foreclosed trustful give-and-take resolution of the nationhood crisis, it has there become inevitable, that a referendum has to be conducted by the UN in protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples of southern Nigeria.
â€œWe say without equivocation that if any one section of the southern part of Nigeria is forcefully excised through the on-going aggression being perpetuated by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy, be rest assured that every other constituent part of the southern region will also go their way.
â€œThe biblical injunction that stipulates that; â€˜to your tents o Israel, what portion have we in the house of Davidâ€™ during the time of King Rehoboam of Israel, will hold sway.â€
While stating that the South was prepared to meet violence with violence, they did not however foreclose the possibility of a peaceful resolution to dismember Nigeria, noting that â€œwe note the verbal commitment of the Arewa youths to a peaceful conduct on the one hand; of the dissolution of Nigeria as we know it, and say that we also do not want any bloodbath as our civilisation dictates.
â€œHowever, let us make it clear that should they unleash violence on any southerner in the North, we will take such an attack as being one on the entire people of the South as our elders posited in the Lekki
Declaration of June 18, 2017. This will be so resisted with an equal or a stronger response.â€
SNYC also alleged suspicious movement of some northerners in the South apparently with the intention to unleash mayhem on the people but warned that such would be faced with strong resistance.
â€œSuch people are not only in the cities but are creating cells in the forests around us. We state very strongly that such people should withdraw from our communities/forests immediately, if the main objective is to ambush our
communities in the festering crisis. We shall defend our land and our people in the entire southern Nigeria with the least provocation.
â€œThere have been insinuations that the recent activities of the Arewa youths may not be unconnected with attempts by some sections of the country to prepare a fertile ground for an unconstitutional change of government to avoid losing grip of presidential powers. We thus warn that no inch of southern Nigeria will come under any unconstitutional rule in whatever guise. At least, not in this 21st century,â€ the group said.