REGIONAL body the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has declared that it will not stand in the way of Nigeria’s southeast geo-political zone of the Igbos decided they want to secede from the federation despite the fact that it is not in support of balkanising the country.
Of late, agitations for the balkanisation of Nigeria have grown, mainly as a result of the murderous activities of Fulani cattle herdsmen. Heavily armed with AK47s, these herdsmen have embarked on a bloody killing spree, attacking farming communities across the country, with the government being indifferent to the problem.
Across the southeast geo-political zone, the problem is exacerbated by the marginalisation its citizens suffer when it comes to federal government appointments. As a result, secessionist groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) have grown in popularity and calls for a breakaway republic have increased significantly since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015.
Last week, Ipob organised a sit-at-home protest across the southeast, which was very popular, attracting widespread participation. Pointing out that this could be a turning point in Nigeria’s politics, NEF director of publicity and advocacy Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said it will not be the best choice for the Igbo or other Nigerians to leave a country but if they decide to go ahead, his organisation would not stop them.
Mr Baba-Ahmed said: “If support for secession among the Igbo is as widespread as it is being made to look and Igbo leadership appears to be in support of it, then the country should be advised not to stand in its way. It will not help a country already burdened with failures on its knees to fight another war to keep the Igbo in Nigeria.”
He added that the NEF has reviewed events and tendencies which suggest that the country is headed for more crises amid the calls for Biafra, security challenges, among others. According to Mr Baba-Ahmed, Nigerians now live in fear of violence and uncertain future and the capacity of the Nigerian state to secure citizens, protect the country’s territorial integrity and resist violent assaults is weakening to the levels of making threats that have no impact.
Mr Baba-Ahmed lamented the fact that armed criminals have increased their audacious stranglehold on the country. Pointing out that irredentists are increasingly asserting their influence in the South East and some other parts, he said all Nigerians are paying the price of failure of two sets of leaders.
“At the national level, the administration appears to have lost the capacity to halt the gradual descent of the country into anarchy. Political leaders in the southeast appear to have submitted to violence and terror of Ipob and the Eastern Security Network.
“This nation has had to fight a terrible war to preserve the country. The north has paid its dues in that war, as indeed it did in many ways throughout the history of the country and under the current circumstances, no Nigerian should welcome another war to keep the country together,” Mr Baba-Ahmed added.