By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The federal government yesterday rose in defence of the non-arrest of the Arewa Youths who recently issued a quit notice to the Igbos to vacate the northern part of the country, describing the approach as â€œstrategic.â€
In a statement issued by the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, and made available to journalists in Enugu, the government noted that the arrest and detention of Yerima Shetimma and his cohorts for their â€œarrant, unpatriotic, unconstitutional and provocative quit notice,â€ would make them celebrities.
â€œArrest and detention wittingly and unwittingly make agitators celebrities,â€ Okechukwu noted in the statement.
Okechukwu who also reacted to remarks by the Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who during the inauguration of the organisationâ€™s100-man advisory committee on economic and political affairs, in Enugu at the weekend accused the police of double-standards by refusing to arrest the Arewa youths, dismissed the claims as false.
He recalled that it was the arrest and long detention of an equally provocative, unpatriotic and unknown Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that made him a celebrity.
He added that it was his detention that gave rise to the disgusting and sordid situation in the country today.
â€œMethinks the non-arrest of Yerima Shetima and cohorts of the Arewa youths for their arrant, unpatriotic, unconstitutional and provocative quit notice is strategic. Strategic in the sense that more than any other factor was the arrest and long detention of harmless, but as well provocative Kanu of the IPOB which led to this sordid scenario. Detention made Kanu with no fixed address became an instant celebrity. Had Kanu not been arrested, his agitation could have fizzled out unnoticed,â€ the VON DG said.
â€œAm surprised why Nwodo, our President General, who loves us, the millions of Ndigbo who live in the North more than ourselves did not worry why Kanu was not rearrested after serial violation of court order. Is it not double-standards to allow somebody who flagrantly violates court order to move about freely? If by the same token, Kanu is not rearrested, I bet you that his sponsors will thin down,â€ he said.
While agreeing that as the President General of Ohaneze, Nwodo should be concerned on the fate of Ndigbo worldwide, Okechukwu said: â€œI have great and tremendous respect for Nwodo and was part of his campaign against Professor Chinwike Ejike, who incidentally hails from my area.â€
He, however advised that in times like this, prominent people like Nwodo should be more reticent, pragmatic and strategic, adding: â€œWe have passed this road before and we know that the fault lines can be strengthened.â€
He maintained that Nwodo should not bother himself with unknown Arewa youths or fringe groups in the North, but rather listen more to the likes of Emir of Katsina, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum and the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, by extension the federal government.
On the advisory economic and political affairs committee Ohanaeze set up last Saturday, he said it was a welcome development, and he would like to work with them.
He advised the committee to work with Igbo ministers and other officials especially Geoffrey Onyeama of foreign ministry, Okechukwu Enelamah of trade and investment, Ben Akabueze of Budget Office and Abraham Nwankwo of Debt Management Office.
â€œIt bothers one that Nwodo seems to be playing politics with our destiny. Yes, we are marginalised, but has the Nwodo-led Ohanaeze ever found time to summon some of us to ask what our scant offices can offer Ndigbo? I doubt if he ever met or replied the profound congratulatory letter President Buhari wrote to him?â€
He noted that there are commonalities with the terms of reference of the committee and Buhariâ€™s projects in the South-east, which includes the completion of the second Niger Bridge, revamping of Enugu Coal and establishment of University of ICT Campus in Enugu.
Asked if he was opposed to return to regional government and the Jonathan Conference, which bother Afenifere and Ohanaeze, Okechukwu said it does not matter whether he opposes or supports the conference; the truism is that the conference did not recommend regions, but creation of more states.
â€œIf we join hands and demand one additional state based on equity and justice, Nigerians will listen to us, than outright secession.â€