The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has said that if the 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, the country should not fight another war to keep the country together.
The Director of Publicity and Advocacy of the Forum, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated this on Monday while addressing a press conference in Abuja, after a closed door meeting of the Forum.
It said Nigerians live in fear of violence today, and in fear of an uncertain future, adding that the capacity of the Nigerian State to secure citizens, protect the country’s territorial integrity and resist violent assaults on the unity is weakening to the levels of making threats that have no impact.
The forum noted that irredentists are increasingly asserting their influence in the South-east and some parts of the country, stressing that rhetorics from political leaders and ethnic champions who speak in threats and demands routinely suggest that the sentiments in support of irredentism are becoming more widespread.
It stressed that Nigerians are paying the price of failure of two sets of leaders at the national level, adding that the administration appears to have lost the capacity to halt the gradual descent of the country into anarchy, while political leaders in the South-east appear to have submitted to violence and terror of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and ESN.
It added that 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,” it said.
The forum pointed out that the north has more than enough challenges, and it recognised that violent secession by any part of Nigeria would compound the problems all Nigerians live with.
It added: “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 for the Igbo or Nigerians to leave a country we have all toiled to build and 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 warned that attacks and killings of northerners and federal government employees and destruction of national assets must stop.
It said those who have been involved in it must be arrested and prosecuted.
The northern elders noted that until the Igbo decide whether it want to secede or remain part of Nigeria, the law applies to it, saying both federal and state governors who have responsibility to enforce the law and protect citizens must enforce it.
They said categorically that they supported the calls for northerners who are exposed to harassment and violence to consider relocating to the north.
According to the group, unlike the postures and complacency of the leaders of the South-east, it advised that all Igbo and other ethnic groups from the south residing in the north should be accorded the usual hospitality and security.
“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,” the northern elders said.
The group noted that the National Assembly should explore additional avenues for tapping into opinions that can help redress serious limitations to the federal system before the 2023 elections.
The forum expressed its willingness to discuss all matters related to constitutional amendments/restructuring with the leadership of the country and other groups who see their presence in the future of Nigeria.