Yerima Shettima, the National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), says youths in the North
asked Igbos to leave their region because self-determination groups like the IPOB and the MASSOB insist on secession from Nigeria.
He said the quit notice was to enable Igbos realise the country of their dream without violence and bloodshed.
”I was drawn into this latest issue of Biafra and we decided to take the stand that we communicated to Nigerians through our communiqués and press conferences because of the way Nnamdi Kanu and his members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are dragging the matter lately,” he told Sun.
“We are not comfortable with the way Kanu and co are taking this issue, which may snowball into violence.
“So, basically, our position was just an intervention to save this country from plunging into chaos or another civil war.
”Everybody who knows me well, will easily tell you that I had special relationship with the leaders of the MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra) led by Chief Ralph Uwazurike. And that’s because of their non-violent approach to the struggle. My relationship with them is such that I even attend their annual memorial events in Owerri and usually deliver speeches in solidarity with their cause.
“Now, Nnamdi Kanu’s version of Biafra struggle, which is different from what Uwazurike-led MASSOB was known for, has put everybody on the edge. Kanu’s rude and arrogant approach to the Biafra struggle is what many of us are uncomfortable with.
“We believe that the conduct of IPOB leaders, if left unchecked could cause trouble for this country. That is why we came out with a clear proposal that would save the country from trouble.
“And our position is simple: We want those who want Biafra to be allowed to go and fulfill their wish. Since Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB is threatening that it is either that they are not allowed to secede from Nigeria or they rain down fire, we don’t want that to happen. We don’t want Biafra struggle to breed violence or civil war. We want peaceful solution to the issue.
“That’s the simple and summary of our position. But, many took our position on the matter out of context, to mean that we were planning to sack or eject Igbos from the North. That’s not the truth. There is nowhere in that declaration that says we are forcefully going to remove the Igbo from the North. People misinterpreted our position.
“Unfortunately, many people will always find ways to misinterpret whatever anybody with genuine intention of this country says or does for the betterment of everybody because of the usual mutual suspicion.
“Our position is that since the Igbo led by IPOB say they want to secede from Nigeria, let them be allowed to go without any violence. I believe in self-determination and so, see no reason the Igbo should be stopped from pursuing that dream.
“Our position is also geared towards sensitising a lot of Igbo on the dangers of what these guys are preaching. We believe that such could serve to bring Kanu and his followers to their senses and influence the opinions of other Igbo leaders because from what we have learnt, they actually enjoy backing of a lot of them.
“There is urgent need to compel Kanu to apply caution on this Biafra struggle and to educate most Igbo that IPOB’s violent stance on this matter is not even in their best interest. They need to know that we are not the enemy in this issue. We are simply trying to avert crisis,” he said.
Asked why he joined the “Igbo Must Go
” coalition, Shettima replied:
”When some of the groups of youths in the North came together to deliberate on this development, they realised that some of us, who are already well experienced in the struggle at national levels need to be part of the team to give it a sense of purpose.
”Initially, I thought I was not going to be part of them. But, on a second thought, I realised that if we didn’t come in and guide them, it might compound the problem they were trying to solve. If there is no face of someone like me there, it might take a dangerous turn along the way; and I don’t want such thing that escalated the Boko Haram crisis to happen again.
”So, my involvement in this is basically to ensure that we stick to the objective, which is ensuring that the Biafra agitation does not cause violence in the North. You will agree with me that if such things occurred and there were no notable figures that can be easily reached, things may get out of hand and nobody will be held responsible.”