By Chris Njoku, Awka
Shettima Yerima, President of Arewa Youths Coalition, said his group withdrew the Oct.1, 2017 quit notice issued Igbos residing in the Northern Nigeria due to peaceful overture made by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and others.
Yerima gave the explanation at the sixth anniversary of late Oduemegwu Ojukwu organised by the members of MASSOB and Biafran Independence Movement (BIM) in Owerri, Imo State.
Ojukwu who led the defunct Biafra Republic in a three years civil war with Nigeria died in the year 2011 and since his death, MASSOB/BIM, two pro-Biafra groups have been holding yearly anniversary in his honour.
Yerima said that the issuance of the notice was sequel to the abusive language and insults hauled on the people of the North by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“It was very sad to hear Kanu call people of the entire North animals and people living in the zoo, it was for this reason that the Arewa Youths Coalition which I was the leader decided to issue the Oct.1, 2017 quit notice to the Igbos living in the North.
“But while the heat of the quit notice lasted, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, and Alhaji Hamza Mustapha and others visited Zaria, Kaduna where they spoke in a manner that made us have rethink over our earlier position.
“Before the meeting, our mindset was that Kanu, the IPOB leader was speaking the minds of Igbo people, but the explanations by Uwazuruike and others gave us more insight that most Igbo leaders were even against what Kanu was doing,’’ he said.
Yerima said that while Arewa youths and indeed the North are not opposed to self-determination struggle by any part of the nation, such struggle, he said, must be anchored on the rule of law.
According to Yerima,” I have known Uwazuruike, the leader of MASSOB for more than 14 years now and we have been going on well without friction, but the conspiracy of silence, which we felt at the time IPOB leader Kanu was operating force us took the position we took.’’
He further disclosed that the quit order had to be withdrawn on August 25 after the visit of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike the leader of MASSOB / BIM to Zaria, a development he added, led to consultations with the elders of the North and the northern governors’ forum.
Yerima who said that Nigeria will gain more if they work together than been fragmented added that his resolve to attend the Ojukwu memorial was to clearly demonstrate his open heart as a friend of Ndigbo and a Nigeria.
He noted that agitation by MASSOB members have been peaceful, adding that nobody will come out to disturb their operations.
“Since 1998 I have been following the activities of MASSOB and they have been peaceful in their approach to self actualization, but IPOB leader has been quite uncivil in his agitation which had almost plunged the country into another big mess’’, he said.
Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra and Founder of Biafra Independent Movement (BIM), in his remarks said the Igbo leaders ought to have addressed the excesses of Kanu before it went out of control.
“The Igbo people should rather be held responsible for allowing the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to insult the sensibilities of the Hausa/ Fulani and the entire people of the North in his blind quest to cause another civil war in the country in the name of Biafra agitation,’’ he said.
Uwazuruike said that the Ojukwu memorial event was to reflect on the times and values the late Ikemba Nnewi left behind, and called on Ndigbo to always uphold and cherish Ojukwu’s good virtues.
He thanked the northerners for withdrawing the quit notice and for not tampering with the lives and property of the Igbo in the North as a result of Kanu’s hate speeches.
Hamza Al-Mustaph, former Chief Security Officer to late Head of State, Sani Abacha praised the virtues of late Ojukwu, saying most of the things Ojukwu told Nigerians more than 40 years ago are now affecting the nation adversely.
“Most Nigerians are talking about restructuring, but that was the true federalism that Ojukwu was talking about.
“Ojukwu stood for justice, sacrifices, integrity and morality and these virtues are what we need to drive the nation today’’, he said.
Al-Mustaph who spoke on other challenges plaguing Nigeria, lambasted past Nigerians leaders who in his words hurriedly handed over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to the Cameroon in the quest for regional interest and peace.
The Founder of Odua’a Peoples’ Congress, Dr Fredrick Fashenu who also spoke at the event stressed the need for national peace and unity of all tribes in Nigeria.(ENDS)