ABUJA – The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has warned Igbo leaders to prevail on those agitating for secession in the Southeast to sheathe their swords to avert another war in the countr
The NEF issued the warning yesterday while addressing reporters in Abuja after a closed-door meeting of its officials.
The forum noted that the silence of Igbo leaders was no longer golden in the face of the killing of northerners in the Southeast.
NEF spokesman Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said northern leaders had resolved not to allow another war in any part of the country.
He said: “Northern Elders Forum has reviewed events and tendencies which suggest that the country is headed for more crises. Nigerians live in fear of violence today, and in fear of an uncertain future. The capacity of the Nigerian state to secure citizens, protect the country’s territorial integrity and resist violent assaults on our unity is weakening to the levels of making threats that have no impact.
“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 The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN). Muted voices of millions of Igbo cannot be heard so that fellow Nigerians could understand the degree to which secession by the Igbo represents the popular choice. This nation has had to fight a terrible war to preserve the country.
“The North had paid its dues in that war, as indeed it did in many ways throughout the history of the country. Under our current circumstances, no Nigerian should welcome another war to keep the country together. The North in particular has more than enough challenges, and we recognise that violent secession by any part of Nigeria will compound the problems all Nigerians live with.
“The forum has arrived at the difficult conclusion that 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 stand in its way.”
It will not be the best choice, NEF said, for the Igbo or other sections of Nigeria to leave a country.
The forum added: “We have all toiled to build a country we all have responsibility to fix, but it will not help a country already burdened with failures on its knees to fight another war to keep the Igbo in Nigeria.
“The forum insists that attacks and killings of northerners and Federal Government employees and destruction of national assets must stop.
“Those who have been involved in it must be arrested and prosecuted. Until the Igbo decide whether they want to secede or remain part of Nigeria, the law applies to them, and Federal and state governments, which have the responsibility to enforce the law and protect citizens, must enforce this.
“We support calls for northerners who are exposed to harassment and violence to consider relocating to the North. Unlike the postures and complacency of the leaders of the Southeast, we advise that all Igbo and other ethnic groups from the South residing in the North should be accorded the usual hospitality and security.
“The forum believes that it is vital to address amendments to the constitution and achieve major changes in the structure and operations of our Federal system now. Members of the National Assembly elected by Nigerians have lost touch with the people they are supposed to represent.
“This explains the major distances which exist between the people and the vital national institution which should play a major role mitigating national crises.