Some Igbo leaders have rejected the decision of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to dialogue with the Federal Government over a referendum.
Recall that IPOB announced its intention to negotiate with President Bola Tinubu-led government on a peaceful exit of Biafra from Nigeria through a United Nations-supervised referendum.
According to IPOB, the peaceful agitation for Biafra Independence started in 2012 without violence or criminality.
The group, however, claimed that the Federal Government has continued to attack its members.
“IPOB is ready to meet with the Nigeria government any day they are ready for negotiations on the Biafra referendum,” Emma Powerful, the group’s spokesperson, had said.
But leaders insisted on political dialogue to end agitations by some Southeast groups, including IPOB, adding that no sensible Igbo would want the Southeast to exit Nigeria.
The leaders include a one-time Ebonyi State Information Commissioner, Chief Abia Onyike, President-General of the Coalition of Southeast Youth Leaders (COSEYL), Goodluck Ibem. A political analyst, Williams Iheakolam, an Ohanaeze Ndigbo official as well as an elder statesman, who asked not to be named.
Chief Onyike, who is the acting secretary-general of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), said it was imperative and urgent for the Federal Government to dialogue with all ethnic nationalities in the country to forge a way forward.
He said: “That (referendum) has always been the view of IPOB, but does the Nigerian Government believe in such (referendum)? The answer is no.
“The problem now is that the right-wing coalition ruling Nigeria does not believe in negotiating with groups agitating for self-determination.
“Nigerian rulers should engage the Igbo and others seeking self-actualisation in dialogue since they have continued to show them that they are second-class citizens in the Nigerian federation.
”There should be a reconstitution of the Nigerian state. We should go away from this monolithic federation for regional autonomy, as was the case in 1960-1966. The present situation is too oppressive and suffocating.”
COSEYL President Ibem said that “it is the way Igbo are maltreated that gave rise to agitation.
”If the resources and political positions in the country are evenly spread, nobody sane person would wish to exit Nigeria.
It is because of injustice and unfair treatment that is the bane of separatist struggle all over the world. If things are done well everybody will be happy and feel part of the nation.”
On his part, Iheakolam said he had posited on several occasions that the solution to the crisis in the southeast could be solved through “political discussion.”
He said: “I am and have been one of the people who believe that the crisis in the Southeast and the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu by the DSS will be solved through a political discussion.
I want to urge the federal lawmakers and governors from the Southeast to cash into the opportunity to push for a discussion between the federal government and the IPOB.
“It was the same call that the elder statesman, (Sam) Mbadiwe made when some stakeholders from the southeast visited then President Muhammadu Buhari where he asked Buhari to hand Kanu over to him, which never happened.
”That alone could have helped to quell the agitation, nuisance and bloodletting as seen in the southeast by a splinter IPOB group.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that I know knows that the only solution to the trouble in the southeast will be settled politically.
“The Southeast has lost a lot, we need to come to a roundtable regardless of our political and religious affiliations to think the peace of the Southeast first.”
The Ohanaeze official, who pleaded anonymity, told The Nation that Ohanaeze had been consistent with calls for the restructuring of Nigeria to end the marginalisation of some sections of the country.
His words: “For us in Ohanaeze, our interest is for a better and equitable Nigeria, where justice and fair play will reign supreme.
Ndigbo have had and are still having unmitigated hatred from other tribes in Nigeria, as a result of their industry and perseverance.
”So, we believe that a restructured Nigeria will solve some of these. That’s why we are canvassing for restructuring of Nigeria for the collective interest of the people. Any other call is not part of our mandate.”
The elder statesman, who also did not want his name mentioned, said: “We don’t want to exit Nigeria but the way things are being handled in the country, you will wonder if Ndigbo have committed an abominable thing that has made them second-class citizens
”What we need is equity, fairness and justice. Since 1976 till date no Igbo man has occupied any reasonable political position in this country.
“We are not asking for too much, let every political restructuring be balanced.”