Gentlemen of the Press
As a federation, Nigeria has gone through times of peace and progress and through civil turmoil. Yet, its citizens have remained resolute to the idea that the destiny of this nation lies in the hands of a people poised to forge new ideas in progressive politics, economics and mutual harmony of all tribes, regions and religions.
This conviction has continued to keep this country together and has provided the platform for citizens to come together and fight for democracy and the rule of law; to legislate for themselves a constitution and other laws that will promote peace and harmony and also set extents and limits.
However, over the last three years, a new political trajectory has rapidly emerged in ways that not only threaten this dream for a prosperous Nigeria, but also infringe on citizens’ rights and civil liberties; threaten the rule of law and confront the humanity and civilization that the people of this country toiled for.
While civil agitations are democratically acceptable, the threat of war, violence and anarchy and the evidence that such threats are not just rhetorical, is a situation we are now faced with from the Indeginous People Of Biafra (IPOB). Every day comes with a new dimension that poses an impending danger of throwing this country into turmoil. This leads to the uncertainty as well as the question on whether IPOB intends to allow a united Nigeria.
This violent, abusive and confrontational ideology prompted and campaigned for by IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu has brought to the fore some of the most scariest and unacceptable treatise such that we were left with no option than to come together and form the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) to begin charting a new future for the population of Northern Nigeria.
As it became clear that silence was no longer an option, we were forced through CNG, to take a decision that is most reasonable and viable in the circumstance; one that will secure the future of this country and for the protection of the life, integrity, social, as well as the economic wellbeing of the North and its people, which are the main targets of IPOB’s brand of agitation; an agitation that is disguised as one of self determination but one whose fabric, public statements and propaganda is of violence, anarchy and genocide.
Part of the decision as contained in CNG’s Kaduna Declaration is to ask all Igbos in whose name the IPOB agitation is premised, to leave northern Nigeria and join their Biafran/IPOB brethren in the East so that they can have the new nation clamoured for and allow the rest of Nigeria to move on in peace, devoid of the constant threat of war and violence that characterize the Biafran agitation.
This measure was largely informed by the fear created by the silent endorsement of this scary condition by all the Igbo leaders nationwide and their open embrace of the architect of this dangerous brand of agitation.
The Kaduna Declaration was followed up by a series of correspondences with the Acting President of Nigeria and the International Community to reiterate that any part of what is today known as Nigeria has the right to seek self-determination and be given the mandate to carve a new country for itself.
GROUNDS FOR THE KADUNA DECLARATION
The decision by the CNG to make the Kaduna Declaration is based on many reasons, key among which are:
- IPOB’s arrogant attitude of continuing affront on the peace of Nigeria, creating hatred and heaping insults on others and expecting everyone else to accept and condone their assault.
- The incessant threat, insult, open calls for violence and war on all other tribes and regions that has become the hallmark of IPOB’s Biafran agitation based on fake and exaggerated claims of marginalization.
- The concern that no reasonable standard allows people to defer with the universally recognized path of civility and opt for violent campaigns and hate summons on a mere perception of marginalization anywhere in the world.
- At one time or another, other parts of Nigeria have also made similar complains of marginalization, but followed it up in a civilized democratic manner as against the IPOB violent attitude.
- The historical alienation of other countrymen from gaining the same opportunity and access in trade and industry in South-Eastern communities while the Igbo remain at the forefront of enjoying these opportunities in all other communities in the country. While the Igbo are accommodated in every corner of the country to the point of owning landed and other immovable assets, they have on their part foreclosed all reciprocal possibilities by denying non-Igbos access to property all over the South-East as shown by the 2014 celebrated case of Mathew, a Tiv man from the Benue state of Northern Nigeria who constructed a petrol filling station along the Enugu/Port-Harcourt expressway only to be forced to sell to a native Igbo on the proposed day of commissioning,
- Thus, while the Igbos have been allowed the right to acquire and own properties everywhere in the country, we make bold to say that no other Nigerian tribe enjoys the right to acquire land or landed property in any part of Igbo land. A disturbing record even shows that all non-Igbos are made to pay for allocation of space to bury their dead while they enjoy statutory land allocations from the governments of states in other parts of the country.
- The infiltration of northern pharmaceutical markets with fake, substandard, adulterated and hard drugs by some Igbo traders which persists despite modest efforts by some state governments to stamp it.
For instance, the existence of open drug markets, like that of Sabon Gari, in Kano, provides a convenient outlet for the sales of drugs of abuse, stolen drugs, and drugs banned internationally or donated to countries or procured by the government for citizens but stolen (case of Azithromycin donated to Niger Republic).
Over 4 billion worth of fake, substandard and drugs of abuse was confiscated and destroyed by regulatory agencies in Kano within three years from April, 2012 to April, 2015.This was from only one state out of the States in Northern Nigeria.
We are concerned that sales of fake, substandard and drugs of abuse have health, political, economic and security implications as follows:
- The security aspect: having no control on the sector automatically translates to vulnerability as such; they are deliberately introduced to alter the state of mind of the northern youth to induce them to commit crimes and all sorts of anti-social vices.
- Social: The drugs are also introduced strategically to destroy the social fabric of the northern society that can manifest only after a long time.
- Political: drug abuse and supply of substandard drugs are used as political weapons to smear the north. Ihe National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency has placed Kano state, and by implication the north, as the first in terms of drug abuse in the country consecutively for several years while a World Health Organization research has pointed Kano as the location with the highest rate of fake anti-malarial drugs in Africa and by extension the world.
- Economic: while the north is the largest consumer of such products, its economic involvement is less than 5% of the total market value, with the rest hijacked and monopolized by people from the South-East of the country.
- Whereas the violent Biafran agitation which involved ordering people of other regions out of the South-East, forceful interruption of movement and activity in the region grew in momentum, all the leaders and elders of the South-East apparent endorsed and encouraged it by their silence.
- Militant groups of the South-East specifically ordered all the Fulani out of the region on many instances with no reaction from any section of Nigeria’s Federal authorities and other political, traditional or religious leadership.
- The South-East political leaders, particularly the state governors were conspiratorially silent while the Fulani were ordered out of the region as though they are not Nigerians with equal residential right anywhere in the country.
- The claim that some of the Fulani herdsmen were involved in the commission of some crimes is a mere smoke screen as there is no law that says the offense of an individual shall be blamed on his entire race. Besides Igbo men are severally found responsible for the commission of many vices, yet they are tolerated and accommodated in other Nigerian cities, towns and villages without blanket stigmatization.
THE RELOCATION CLAUSE
Mindful of the concerns generated by the clause in the Kaduna Declaration that advised the Biafran Igbo to relocate from Northern Nigeria and for northerners in the South-East to do likewise, and our commitment to the unity of our dear country, we immediately opened channels for dialogue and interaction with government agencies, national and international groups, institutions and figures.
Admittedly, we came under intense persuasive pressure from genuinely concerned national, political, traditional, religious and cultural leaders prominent among which were: a section of the Northern Governors Forum under its Chairman, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, northern traditional rulers and the Directorate of State Security
We also had several fruitful interactions with various concerned individuals and groups.
Most significant was our correspondence with the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and most recently our interface with the Presidency through the Special Assistant to the President on Political Matters.
As a consequence of these vigorous engagements and as cultured people with a tradition of respect for our national values, leaders and elders, we are today pleased to announce the immediate suspension of the relocation clause otherwise referred to as the quit notice from the Kaduna Declaration.
This suspension we are proud to say, is also out of respect for and in reaffirmation of our allegiance to one united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria and in our unshaken confidence in the political will and sincere commitment of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari to take a holistic look at all the concerns we raised.
We are also pleased to announce here that the Kaduna Declaration has achieved most of its major objectives, chief among which include forcing the hitherto deliberately neglected dangerous Biafran issue to the front burner of the nation’s discussion agenda.
In the meantime, we shall firmly pursue our petitions to the United Nations and the Nigerian federal authorities calling for the appropriate sanction of Nnamdi Kanu, other IPOB leaders and their sponsors in addition to labeling them a terror outfit.
As we honour and respect the above genuine search for a solution, it is important to also point out that a simple conversation or some form of window dressing without getting to the crux of the matter will only end up as a temporary solution that leaves the nation and the younger generation with a burden of dealing with the problem in the future.
Taking all other issues raised in the Kaduna Declaration over the past few months, vis a vis the effort by various government and non-governmental bodies to engage us in dialogue, we submit that there is the need to look at the following issues holistically as safeguards against future ethnic tensions:
- Allow the Igbo and support them to hold a referendum to decide their future either as Nigerians or as Biafrans in view of the fact that the population of the Igbo that supports Biafra is far larger than the few who appear to be against it. Failure to do that will only douse this tension temporarily while they regroup to prepare for the war, they have always craved and openly called for. We are opposed to war with any part of this country and we are opposed to any situation that will lead to war.
- One of the key reasons why Biafra should be allowed to hold a referendum is because the principle of self-determination has, since World War 11 become a part of the United Nations Charter, which states in Article 1 (2), that one of the purposes of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of people.”
And by virtue of Nigeria being a signatory to the various international conventions that entrench the right of a people to self determination; we submit that it is only proper for Nigerian authorities to reflect that right in the ongoing constitution review or in the alternative, rescind its endorsement of the said conventions.
- If for any reason a referendum cannot be held for the moment, we insist the Igbo both in the Southeast and in other parts of Nigeria including all elected and other office holders be made to discard totally any idea of Biafra and to show practical actions to prove that they believe in one Nigeria.
- Relevant law enforcement agencies, should carry out a careful, lawful and purposive search of all suspected premises in the north in which IPOB sympathizers might be amassing arms. This is necessary because since the declaration of war by IPOB, there had been cases of interception of caches of arms concealed and smuggled into some parts of northern Nigeria. Let it be known, that it is illogical to wait in this obvious and clear state of danger until the secessionist unleashes terror on innocent people and communities. By extension all unlicensed arms and ammunition should be mopped up by the authorities. And if there is a counter suspicion of northerners in the East amassing arms, they should also be searched and confiscated.
- We insist on immediate steps to be taken for the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and for his appropriate prosecution while calling on the Nigerian Senate to demand that all Senators who stood surety for him in court rescind their bond or be suspended accordingly.
- Total closure of all the open drug markets operating in Northern Nigeria and the immediate implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) as contained in the 2nd Edition 2012 developed by the Federal Ministry of Health which did not include the Co-ordinated Wholsale Centres (CWC). This is the guideline which provides a distribution channel which is in consonance with the national drug policy and the implementation of which is empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To achieve this, all the states in northern Nigeria, should establish and strengthen the state task force on counterfeit and fake drugs and unwholesome processed foods, revoke all land titles where drugs are being sold and review the laws to provide stiff penalties for offenders.
This should be followed up by the implementation of health insurance scheme at all levels and making the drugs available at the health centres in northern Nigeria to help eliminate nefarious activities
- The government should come up with clear laws on hate speech, which should remain in place to contain other individuals or groups whose way of agitation is to engage in hate speech capable of disrupting peace and harmony.
While these are demands that we believe should be met with alacrity, it is important to say unequivocally that we are not willing to stay idle and see our security, economy and future being compromised through drug and arms proliferation and through an uneven and discriminatory distribution of wealth in our communities and the country at large. It is important to stress that we value hard work and enterprise and also open to healthy competition, but we will not accept a system that is designed to alienate and subdue the people of the North, especially in their communities and localities.
CNG remains available for further interaction with other groups including those from the southeast with a view to building a greater united Nigeria.
Lastly, we appreciate the immense support and understanding extended to us by the mass of the people of northern Nigeria as well as the understanding shown by liberal minds from other regions and across the globe. We assure the people that we shall never betray their confidence in the CNG as a formidable vanguard for the protection of northern integrity and the general pursuit of a better deal for the northerner.
CNG shall henceforth dedicate its energy and resources to ensuring that never again shall the rights of the northerner be trampled upon with a solemn pledge to uphold and defend the integrity of the northerner, his leaders, culture and values.
This should not be seen as the end but as the beginning of the struggle to properly position the entire North and its people for equal competition in the emerging united, strong and prosperous Nigeria.