Ohanaeze youths unfold demands: Call for referendum, UN’s intervention to protect Igbo

From Fred Itua, Abuja and Chuks Onuoha,  Umuahia

In spite of ongoing consultations between the Federal Government and Igbo and Arewa leaders to calm frayed ethnic nerves, the Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has called for a referendum to determine the fate of Ndigbo.

    The group, in a petition to the United Nations, said it was high time a referendum was conducted to pave the way for the final end to the “unworkable marriage called Nigeria.”

Against the backdrop of the October 1 ultimatum given by a coalition of Arewa youth groups for Igbo to leave the region and a recent letter to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to accede to Ndigbo’s demand for Biafra, OYC said: “In a situation like this, only a referendum can determine the fate of the Igbo people as part of this country.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition of South East-based civil society organisations, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), lauded the Arewa youths for recognising the rights of all constituent parts of Nigeria to self-determination.

OYC, in a petition titled: “A call for emergency in Nigeria- Our two-point demand” and signed by the group’s national president, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike (national secretary) Amb. Arthur Obiora (dep. national president), Obinna Adobe (national publicity secretary) and copied to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, the UK Embassy, the Commonwealth, the Amnesty International, among others, said the on-going constitutional amendment would be unacceptable if  it did not make provision for a referendum.

“It is high time people are given freedom to decide whether they want to remain in a country where they are not loved, not wanted but hated with passion.

“The National Assembly should make no mistake of undertaking any further constitutional amendment without an option for referendum; this is the only way to go and we urge the United Nations to mount all necessary international pressures on Nigeria to effect that very much needed amendment.”

It also called for a special protection for Igbo in the North, “since the Arewa youths had accused them of instigating various crises in the country,” including the first military coup and the civil war.

“It is with great concern that we alert the international community to the looming genocide against the Igbo in the Northern part of Nigeria, occasioned by a well-orchestrated, carefully thought out plot by the Northern hierarchy, who are hiding under the Arewa Youths.

“Their latest ranting packaged in a letter to the acting president has left no one in doubt as to their move. It is a grand design to annihilate the Igbo race.”

It urged the United Nations to beam its searchlight on Northern Nigeria ahead of any eventuality that may befall the Igbo, considering the manner the security agencies have handled the threats.

“It is not likely that they will protect our people when these marauders strike as Igbo have remained victims in Nigeria, despite their sacrifices.”

Intersociety, in a statement entitled: “The odd sides of the northern youths’ letter to Osinbajo,” signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi and Florence Akubilo, also faulted claim by Arewa youths that the January 1966 military coup was an “Igbo coup.”

It said the allegation was “historically dishonest and a cocktail of dangerous propaganda and mischief.”

“The ethnic distributions of the kingpins of the 1966 coups are as follows: Maj. Chukwuma Nzeogwu (Delta Igbo); Maj. Adewale Ademoyega, (Yoruba); Maj. Emmanuel Ifeajuna (Igbo); Lt. Tijani Katsina (Hausa/Fulani); Lt. Fola Oyewole, (Yoruba); Lt. R. Egbiko (Esan); Lt. O. Olafemiyan (Yoruba); Capt. Gibson Jalo (Bali); Capt. Swanton (Middle Belt); Lt. Dag Warribor (Ijaw); Lt. Hope Eghagha (Urhobo); 2nd.Lt. Saleh Dambo (Hausa); and 2nd. Lt. John Atom Kpera (Tiv).

“So, the continued reference to that unfortunate event as an Igbo coup is a continuation of the pogrom-inducing propaganda of some northern elements and their foreign masters. It is borne out of deep-seated hatred and vendetta and evocation of genocidal sentiments against the Igbo race.

“Instructively, these Arewa youths admitted that the 1966 July coup was Hausa-Fulani counter bloody, which led to the death of 340 officers of old Eastern Region in revenge for the first and mischievously tagged ‘Igbo Coup.’

“So, assuming, but without conceding that the January 1966 coups was an Igbo coup, have the Hausa-Fulani and the north not had their ‘revenge’ in the so-called counter coup? Why the pogrom against thousands of Ndigbo at the chant of “Araba” in the aftermath of the so-called counter-coup, forcing the declaration of Biafra? Why the genocidal 1967-70 Civil War in which over 3 million Biafrans were killed or starved to death? Why the continued killing of Ndigbo in the north, even over a cartoon in faraway Denmark?” the group added.

The group accused northern leaders of not rising to condemn and work with government to curtail the activities of Boko Haram until it was too late.

“Rather than cooperate with former President Goodluck Jonathan, they sabotaged him, with some claiming that he was killing their children while awarding scholarships to ex-Niger Delta militants.