- Â Sources say talks underway with IPOB leadership
Abimbola Akosile and Anayo Okolie
Details have emerged on how the chairman of Peace Airlines, Barrister Allen Onyema, brokered a peace deal with the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY), paving the way for the withdrawal, last Thursday, of the notice on Igbos to leave the 19 northern states by October 1.
This comes amidst indications that Onyema is brokering another peace deal with leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that may see the group stop agitating for the creation of a separate Biafran nation.
THISDAY gathered that, shortly after CNY handed a three-month ultimatum for Igbo residing in the 19 northern states to quit, Onyema reached out to Mohammed Danjuma, leader of Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), to open discussions with CNY on how to withdraw the notice.
Agreeing to work together, it was gathered, Onyemaâ€™s non-governmental organisation (NGO) Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) and Mohammedâ€™s Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), resolved to pursue the peace agenda under the auspices of New Nigeria Project (NNP).
FEHN had reportedly successfully brokered the peace deal between the federal government and Niger Delta militants at the outset of the current administration.
One leader of CNY, which vacated the quit order told THISDAY on the condition of anonymity that following several telephone conversations CNY leaders agreed to meet with Onyema and Danjuma in Abuja.
According to the source, the first meeting held on Monday July 17 at the Newton Park hotel, Abuja, with over 50 participants including CNY leaders led by spokesman Abdulazeez Suleiman in attendance.
He added that representatives of IPOB, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), as well as those of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) were present.
â€œWe met for several hours. Chief Allen Onyema and Alhaji Danjuma Mohammed addressed us. It was a very warm meeting that served as an eye-opener on the need for peaceful co-existence.
â€œSeveral other persons from our end, NYCN, NANS, CAN, and IPOB spoke and laid their cards on the table. It was after that meeting that we agreed to rescind the order, even though the information was communicated after a chain of successive meetings,â€ he offered.
â€œWe were particularly impressed with the patriotism of Chief Onyema who, obviously a private businessman, committed tremendous time, human and material resources to making the meeting a huge success.
â€œHis decision to single-handedly fly all participants at the meeting free of cost, and the offer to train over 50 members of ours in the United States, was one gesture which we at CNY could not but take notice. His kindness contributed over 90 per cent to our resolve to revoke the order,â€ he disclosed.
According to the official, after the Kaduna Declaratory order, several high-ranking persons in and out of government made overtures to NYC seeking to hijack the movement for selfish ends. â€œI donâ€™t know if you noticed that even the Thursday press conference began about three hours behind schedule. We were under tremendous pressure from several quarters.
â€œThere were those who wanted to gain political traction from it. There were those who sought to break our ranks. There were yet others who didnâ€™t want us to withdraw the order, who felt we should spell certain conditions which was a betrayal of our deal with the New Nigeria Project,â€ he disclosed, however adding, â€œthank God that Governor Shettima came in to save the day.â€