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  • Arewa youths : Public condemnation, private support
  • When a coalition of northern youths group
    infamously issued three months quit notice to
    Igbo leaving in the nineteen northern states of
    the country to quit the region and go back to the
    eastern part of the country, the initial reaction of
    the government and people of Kaduna state was
    that of outrage. Governor Nasir El Rufai who
    blazed the trail in the gale of condemnation
    through his senior special Assistant on media
    and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan was
    unmistakeable in his upbraid.
    Addressing a press conference at the Nigerian
    Union of Journalists office in Kaduna, Aruwan,
    who was clear in his condemnation, said the
    Kaduna state government which had passed a
    law outlawing hate speech in the state would
    not sit by and allow some people to use the
    serenity of the state to cause havoc in the
    country.
    According to Aruwan, the state government did
    not only condemn the quit notice issued by the
    groups but has also directed relevant security
    agencies in the state to hunt down the
    signatories to the obnoxious statement and
    bring them to account according to the relevant
    sections of the law.
    He said: “The Kaduna State Government
    condemns in the strongest terms the press
    statement by some self-appointed “northern
    youths” that threatened the safety and property
    of our citizens of Igbo extraction. Government
    assures every resident of our state that their
    constitutional and human rights to live
    peacefully and own property wherever they
    choose is sacrosanct.
    Even people who may feel unhappy about
    irresponsible comments or actions that have
    taken place in other states must know that two
    wrongs cannot make a right.
    “The Kaduna State Government believes in and
    will uphold the right of every Nigerian to live
    safely and develop his/her full potentials within
    its territory.
    “Reckless disregard for the rights of other
    citizens drips through the press statement by
    these “northern youths” who have chosen to
    use the discourse around restructuring to
    promote their own agenda of hate, division and
    incitement. This sort of opportunists cannot be
    allowed to distort debate, or turn it into a pretext
    for a barely-disguised agenda of displacement
    and dispossession of some citizens.
    “We will not tolerate such irresponsible
    statements and conduct in our state. The
    statement issued by the “northern youths”
    violates the laws of Kaduna State. Therefore, the
    Kaduna State Government has directed that its
    Ministry of Justice should prepare charges and
    prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit
    in arranging this egregious assault on the rights
    of fellow citizens.
    “Preparatory to prosecution, the police have
    been directed to immediately arrest, interrogate
    the signatories to the statement and investigate
    all the circumstances and persons that may be
    implicated in the matter” he said.
    Mallam El Rufai’s proactive condemnation of the
    statement by the amorphous Northern youths
    group in their so called Kaduna Declaration
    opened a floodgate of condemnation from other
    stakeholders in the northern part of the country
    because of the manifest implication such a
    brazen ultimatum to Igbos in the north could
    pose not just in the northern part of the country
    but also the country at large.
    The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima
    who is also the chairman of the nineteen
    northern governors’ forum followed suit in
    condemning the declaration of the northern
    youth’s coalition. In a statement he issued a
    day after Governor El Rufai had directed security
    agencies to arrest leaders of the group, the
    Borno state governor in a statement distanced
    the governors of the nineteen northern states
    from the statement of the Youth coalition.
    In a statement he issued, the governor noted
    that the views of the so called northern youths
    neither represented the views of the political
    leadership in the north nor the generality of the
    people of the region.
    “On behalf of the Governors of the 19 Northern
    states, we totally condemn such irresponsible
    pronouncements by those groups. We condemn,
    we disown, and we are totally distancing
    ourselves from those faceless groups who don’t
    have the mandate of the people of Northern
    Nigeria to make such loud pronouncements.
    Section 41, Subsection 1 of the Constitution of
    the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very explicit in
    safeguarding the rights of all Nigerians to reside
    in any part of the country with no hindrance
    whatsoever. But then, when you see a toad
    dancing in broad daylight, the drummer is not
    far off from the main road. We wish to call on
    the security agencies to beam their lenses on
    these groups, and unearth the faces behind the
    mask.
    “Some months back, there were cases of
    importation of arms, illegal importation of arms
    intercepted at the ports, and then we started
    hearing rumours of a coup d’etat. Now, a
    groups that do not have the mandate of the
    people came up with remarks capable of
    destabilizing the north and the country as a
    whole. ‘We are one nation tied to a common
    destiny, the governance of Northern Nigeria is
    not in alignment with those pronouncements,
    and we will take whatever measures that are
    necessary to safeguard the lives and properties
    of Nigerians living in any part of the North. I am
    in contact with most of my colleagues, and they
    are all talking to heads of security
    establishments in their respective domains
    because we cannot afford to take chances. We
    cannot afford to toil with the destiny of this
    country.
    “The 19 Northern Governors wish to call on our
    brothers of Igbo descent to remain calm and go
    about their legitimate businesses. Nobody can
    dare to intimidate, harass or dehumanize them
    in any of the 19 northern states. Our governors
    will not allow that.”
    Several other voices of condemnation from
    across the country have followed the high profile
    ones as represented by governor Nasir El Rufai
    and his Borno state counterpart, Kashim
    Shettima.
    But investigations by weekend Vanguard in
    Kaduna has revealed that beyond the public
    condemnation by political leaders of the quit
    notice issued by the Arewa youths to Igbos in
    the north, the move appears to enjoy the
    support, and active sponsorship by conservative
    northern oligarchs.
    According to our investigations, although the
    initial plan for the Kaduna Declaration was the
    handiwork of the groups, who were signatories
    to the declaration and have always been
    available for any group to be used to advance
    their political agenda during the sixteen years of
    the Peoples democratic rule, the idea assumed a
    life of its own when one of the signatories to the
    declaration contacted a former northern
    academic to intimate him of the plan.
    “From the point the former academic was
    contacted, the issue assumed a different
    dimension, necessitating the shifting of the press
    conference from Monday to Tuesday. It became
    obvious that we were on the right path and we
    seized on the opportunity to make a point that
    at that point, we knew we had the backing of the
    majority of the people of our region and
    especially the leadership at the grass root” one
    signatory to the Declaration who did not want to
    have his name in print told Vanguard.
    But while other northern leaders prefer to
    operate from the shadows while giving moral
    and financial support to members of the
    northern youth coalition in their declaration,
    Professor Ango Abdullahi, the former Vice
    Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
    and the modern face of northern irredentism did
    not only openly declare his support for the
    youths but also publicly condemned the Kaduna
    state governor for ordering the arrest of the
    youths. Abdu
    Speaking to newsmen in Zaria, Professor Ango
    Abdullahi who is a member of the Northern
    Elders Forum maintained that it was hypocritical
    for the Igbos to continue to live in other parts of
    the country while agitating for Nigeria’s break
    up.
    Insisting that what the northern youth groups
    did was not a sin, Abdullahi said whoever feels
    Nigeria “is not conducive for him” should quit.
    “I am disappointed in the decision taken by
    Northern Governors’ Forum disowning and
    condemning the agitation by this young agile
    and progressive youth groups.
    “Let me ask these Northern governors, whom
    are they representing, are they representing
    spirits, ghost or people of the north?
    “Recently, people from eastern part of this
    country, specifically Igbo, were busy calling for
    the Sovereign State of Biafra and from all
    indication their leaders including governors are
    behind them. Nobody has come out to condemn
    them. What are our people saying?” he queried.
    But while the views expressed by Ango
    Abdullahi may represent the extreme position,
    very many Northern leaders feel that the
    emergence of the youth group was a good
    counter poise to what they feel is the relentless
    denigration of the whole northern region by the
    agitators for the so called state of Baifra.
    According to a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello
    University who spoke with Vanguard, ‘majority
    of the northern elites feel that we should also
    have our own ‘noise makers so that when the
    chips are down, we will have a point to trade. It
    is not as if people want Igbos to leave the north
    as declared by the youth groups. Our support
    for them stems from the fact that we cannot
    afford to continue to portray a spirit of docility.
    Majority of northern elites support these guys
    because they are expendable and they are
    saying the right thing that our people want to
    hear. We know that when the chips are down,
    the Igbos have greater things at stake. We want
    them to know that we also know what to do
    when push comes to shove.
    The north did not set out to recruit those guys
    but they filled a vacuum at the most appropriate
    time. When El Rufai said he was aware that
    some people were reluctant to carry out the
    arrest directive given by his state government,
    he knew exactly what he was talking about and
    I can tell you that none of those guys can be
    arrested in the north. We are behind them”
    For now, while Nnamdi Kanu and his misguided
    supporters in the east push for Biafra, they have
    found an equally misguided ally in the north.
    With the support that both groups enjoy from
    some people in the zone, other Nigerians will
    wait to see whether the will of a few misguided
    youths and their sponsors will prevail or the
    majority of Nigerians who are more interested in
    the vicissitude of daily living will be giving an
    opportunity to live their lives in peace.

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