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Choose between dialogue on one hand & an avoidable war against the Igbo on the other, Ohanaeze tells Buhari

The attention of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to yet another statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that “tougher times await the people of the South East of Nigeria” among other remarks. The President made the remarks in a rare interview on Arise TV’s breakfast programme, today, Thursday June 10, 2021. Buhari warned that the Igbo are scattered everywhere in Nigeria with their businesses and properties and should not be making trouble. He reminded the South East that they are landlocked, “stressing that this time around, they would not allow them any access to the outside world by sea”.

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ended with “In any case, we said we will talk to them in the language they will understand. We will organise the police and the army to pursue them, that’s what we can do and we will do it.”

Earlier on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, while addressing the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu in the Villa President Buhari “vowed to shock those bent on destroying his Government.

The President said that “attacks across the nation were targeted to show that his administration has failed”. Mr. President added that “those misbehaving in certain parts of the country were obviously too young to know the travails and loss of lives that attended the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they will understand”. He stressed: “we are going to be very hard sooner than later.”

On June 4, 2021, Ambassador Professor George Obiozor, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the apex socio-cultural body for the entire Igbo nationality addressed a press conference titled Nigeria at the Crossroads of History, wherein he called for a “dialogue to resolve the present national crises.

The Federal Government should acknowledge that because of the reality of Nigerian irresistible pluralism it is always preferable to go for dialogue instead of force. Obiozor added that the majority of Nigerians prefer unity to secession or separatism. And that the Igbo want Justice, Peace, Equity and Fairness”

Obiozor reiterated the Igbo position “that Ndigbo will not support break-up of Nigeria but Ndigbo will not be victims of Nigerian unity. Obiozor used the occasion to advise the Igbo Youths that “there is nothing to celebrate in violence. We cannot change our lots and situations by steering and provoking hatred amongst ourselves, raining insults and abuses on ourselves and declaring war against those who disagree with your own ideas and approach to resolving our common problems”.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo, once more “urges the Federal Government to reconsider the use of force in resolving the present national crises because, “history shows that military and violent means to solve the National problem leads to national fractionalization, anarchy and eventual or inevitable disintegration”.

Obiozor however considered “as unfortunate the implications of the June 1 statement by Mr. President. He recalled the last time he “checked or heard a President speak of (shock and awe), that it was reserved for the enemy, not to citizens”. An erudite scholar and a Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka decried that “when the elected head of a democratic state like Nigeria, not perched precariously on the knife edge of power but with a couple more years in the kitty, threatens to “shock” dissidents, we should indeed be shocked out of any complacency”.

Furthermore, to underscore the sensitive nature of the Shock Twit by Mr President, the Twitter intervened and since then the Social Media all over the world are now at alert. Eminent Nigerians such as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief EK Clarke, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Gen. T Y Danjuma, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Sen. Eyinna Abaribe, etc have urged President Buhari to embrace the norms of democracy adding that what the country needs as a matter of urgency is dialogue, mutual toleration and shared values; and not the use of force

Ohanaeze Ndigbo has followed with deep concern the security sequence targeted at the Igbo; namely
(a). The deliberate posting of Northern Military and Police Officers at the various strategic locations in the South East.

(b). The Special National Security Council Meeting, where major decisions were taken for the South East and the South South to the utter exclusion of security personnel from the South East of Nigeria.
(c.) The ominous Launching of the Operation Restore Peace in the South East and South South
(d). The Shoot on Sight Order by the Inspector General of Police targeted at the Igbo Youths
(f) And the “Shock Twit where Mr. President stated that “those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”

(g). Today, June 10, 2021, Mr. President stated on Arise TV that “Tough Times await the South East”. He reiterated: “In any case, we said we will talk to them in the language they will understand. We will organise the police and the army to pursue them, that’s what we can do and we will do it.”

For clarity, there has been a sustained agitation for secession by the Igbo youths, especially the IPOB, the Independent Peoples of Biafra, led by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu. The agitation by IPOB became heightened by the obvious exclusion of the Igbo in the President Buhari government and Mr. President has not in any way hidden his disdain for the groups that failed to vote for him en-masse in 2015 and 2019 general elections.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo has cautioned that the unprecedented lopsidedness of the Nigerian government in favour of the Fulani, to the exclusion of other ethnic groups, especially in the security architecture, will rather exacerbate the internal security challenges in the country. History shows that leaders who espoused ethnocentric ideology, especially in Africa had often created more problems than they intended to solve.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo believes that the agitation by the Igbo youth over marginalization is justified. In spite of the orchestrated alienation of the Igbo, we are committed to a diplomatic approach towards a restructured Nigeria that guarantees equity, fairness and rule of law.

With the present level of violence in Nigeria; armed robbery, banditry, kidnappings, unknown gun men, herdsmen menace, Boko Haram, mass poverty, unemployment, downward spiral of Nigerian currency and other untoward signals, Nigeria has arrived at a critical juncture. Both history and literature show that the decision taken by a leader at a critical juncture has a lasting effect for the society.

President Buhari has a choice between Dialogue on one hand and an avoidable War against the Igbo on the other. Again, history shows that our thoughts are very infinitesimal to the immutable Law of the Universe.

Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, National Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide

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