- Middle Belt denounces northern identity, threatens self-determination
- El-Rufai orders arrest of northern youths’ coalition leaders
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
The Kaduna Declaration on Tuesday by the Coalition of Northern Youths (CNY) ordering the Igbo to vacate the North within three months or be mopped up is speedily generating inferno and tension in the North.
The Middle Belt Youth Council Middle Belt, in a swift reaction, admonished against the threats of disintegration of Nigeria, affirming the readiness of the North Central to make an independent statement if disintegration becomes inevitable.
The Middle Belt Youth Council, in a statement by its President Emma Zopmal, on Wednesday cautioned that northern leaders should desist from including the Middle Belt as part of the North in any session plan.
Zopmal acknowledged that Nigeria is facing a daunting challenge of peace and unity; remarking: “but we want to assure the good citizens of Nigeria that we have been a peace-loving people and we’ll continue to be.” The Middle Belt Youth Council President, however declared: “But, in an event one part of the country decides to go away as a separate entity, Middle Belt is also ready to make an independent statement.”
“We want to clarify those who think that the Middle Belt is part of the North: God created everywhere and everyone and He gave it to whom He chooses and Middle Belt is a creation of God and not man (Usman dan Fodio). Therefore, we choose what to use our land for, how to run it and where we want to be. Middle Belt has been a home for the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, South-South and the South-West without any form of discrimination against anyone. We’ve accommodated every Nigerian for centuries. We deserve respect and commendations. If the Arewa youths are sending away Igbos from their states, we in the Middle Belt are ready to offer them accommodation in our land (which is an inheritance from God and nobody will take it away from us) for them to continue with their life and businesses,” the Middle Belt Youth Council declared.
The Council maintained: “Southern Nigeria people should also know that ‘Middle Belters’ are not northerners and we can never be because we’re not affiliated in terms of culture, language, education, economy, and general lifestyle. The Biafran struggle did not come as an accident but as a result of injustice and unfair treatment to regions, people or religion. Over the years, our federalism has been a fat lie that deprives political rights and freedom of some sections of the country while others benefit immensely from it. Middle Belt has been at the receiving end of this inequitable arrangement in which our people in Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Borno, Southern Kebbi, Adamawa are under constant alienation and annihilation.
“Therefore, Middle Belt strongly stands for reconstruction of Nigeria not only restructuring.
We’ll join hands with Southern Nigerian people to actualize it. In view of this, we want to urge Middle Belters to remain resolute in making sure we protect our future against the claims by the Hausa/Fulani. More so, for want of peace and unity of dear country Nigeria, we call on Igbo nation to feel at home in the Middle Belt in an event they are sent away from the Arewa land.”
Meanwhile, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has ordered the arrest of members of the Coalition of Northern Youthswhich gave the Igbo three-month ultimatum to vacate the North.
The governor gave the order at a press conference at Arewa House, Kaduna, on Wednesday.
Samuel Aruwan, S.A. Media to the Governor observed that the governor condemned the action of the groups and assured every resident of Kaduna that “nobody can tamper with their freedom to reside where they choose.”
“The Kaduna State Government took exception to the fact that the ‘northern youths’ did their irresponsible press conference in Kaduna,” the governor said.
“This government has been consistent in taking action to punish hate speech and incitement.
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 and they cannot use our state to do or say things that threaten the peace,” Aruwan explained, adding: “Kaduna State Government has, therefore, ordered the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the signatories to the statement.”
He reiterated that, “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 governor emphasised that, “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;” admonishing that,
“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.”
The stated, “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;” adding,
“Therefore, the Kaduna State Government has directed that its ministry of justice to 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.”
“The Kaduna State Government urges all residents to ignore the threats from the “northern youths”. We are in contact with the leadership of the Igbo community in Kaduna, and we delighted to say that this community, like all our other communities, believes in the strength of the constitutional order to protect all citizens.
“Kaduna State Government wishes to encourage all our people to celebrate the diversity with which the Almighty has blessed us, to continue to shun agents of division, and to stand firm in upholding a common humanity. Everyone has a right to live in peace and harmony,” El-Rufai declared.
The Coalition of Northern Youths was identified to include: the Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum, Northern Emancipation Network, Northern Youth Vanguard, Northern Youths Stakeholders Forum, the North-East Assembly, among others.