By Tunde Thomas and Magnus Eze, Abuja
Southern leaders, comprising South East, South West and South South , rose from a meeting, in Lagos, yesterday, and called on Arewa youths to, immediately, withdraw a quit notice issued Igbo resident in the North by October 1, 2017.
The leaders described the quit notice as an affront, not only on Igbo but entire southerners living in the North.
In a communique jointly signed by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who led South West delegates, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe who led the South East delegation and Chief Albert Horsefall, who led the South -South, which was read by Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, Southern leaders warned “Arewa youths and their sponsors to desist from making statements that can jeopardise peaceful coexistence or the country.
“We consider the need to avert the impending danger arising from the ultimatum given by the Arewa youths.
“We agreed that there is a growing demand by our people and other Nigerians to form a stronger Federation in which principles and practice of true federalism are upheld.
“We observe that the cry for self-determination will continue unabated and become much more stringent unless the Federal Government sincerely addresses issues of restructuring of Nigeria.
“We, therefore ,resolve that we reject the attempt to reduce the current crisis in Nigeria, flowing from the unresolved nationality question to an Igbo and North affair.
“The meeting, therefore, insists that any further discussion on this crisis should be between the entire South and the North of Nigeria. The South East is advised to consider any further meeting where the South West and South South are not involved as Southern Nigeria because the issues involved affects all of us.”
The Southern leaders advised the federal government to take seriously and live up to its primary responsibility, which is to protect the lives and property of every citizen of Nigeria wherever they may reside.
Meanwhile, a coalition of youth groups from the various ethnic nationalities have called on Nigerians to stop making inflammatory statements so as not to escalate the tension generated by counter-quit orders by youths from some regions.
The youths have also dispatched delegations to different parts of the country to speak to their counterparts on the need for a peaceful and united Nigeria.
They further called for the convocation of national youth confab next month in a communiqué issued after their meeting in Abuja. The document signed by Eric Oluwale of Yoruba Youth Council and Secretary General, Ethnic National Youths Leaders, Emma Zompal of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council and Mr. Oweilaemi Ereotubo of Ijaw Youths and Arewa Northern Youths Assembly led by Alhaji Ibrahim Waiya, attributed their action to wise counselling from former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.
“Obi has made it clear to the youths that there is futility in disunity and songs of war. He has convinced us that we are better together, united.
”In the light of the above, we call for immediate end to further verbal exchanges on the above matter. This is the time for us to unite and champion a common course for Nigeria’s unity,” the group stated.
Why Nnamdi Kanu was not invited for parley – Presidency
The Presidency has said it does not consider leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, relevant in ongoing consultations with leaders of the South East.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu said Kanu was not invited because the Presidency does not regard him as a leader of thought in the South East.
Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, last week, flagged off series of meetings with northern and southern leaders of thought, traditional rulers and the clergy, over rising, ethnic tensions in those parts of the country.
Ojudu said: “Well, the thing is that we were looking for leaders of the people, leaders of thought and we do not see him as a leader of thought in the South East. Maybe, an opportunity will come at one time or the other for him to be engaged. But, so far, what we have done is to look at people who have influence in the communities, whether it is religious, whether it is traditional, whether it is political, social or governance. These were the people we brought in for discussions.”
The presidential aide said “South East leaders, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo coming to see Osinbajo have neither asked for a referendum on Biafra or secession, but have only complained about marginalisation in appointments and harassment by police at roadblocks. Nobody has tabled that in all the discussions we have had. Nobody, I can tell you. Ohanaeze came with a prepared document. They made complaints about losing some key positions, not being appointed into security positions and all those kinds of things.
“And, these are things that can easily be addressed. Nobody canvassed secession at those meetings, nobody canvassed referendum.”
The presidential aide noted that the south east leaders Osinbajo has met so far were all on the same page of keeping Nigeria as one indivisible country in peace and harmony.
He said the federal government would tackle the perceived injustice in parts of the country through equitable distribution of resources and employment creation.