Founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, has warned that using military force to suppress those agitating for secession would only strengthen their resolve, and compound the country’s already volatile situation.
Uko who spoke in the light of Thursday’s invasion of the home of Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, by the Department of State Services (DSS), and the recent arrest of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, argued that the only way to stop the quest for secession is to address the root causes; the injustices driving it, not military repression.
He noted that having worked closely with the youth population over the years, he understands the level of anger and frustration among them, warning that using force would only increase such anger and drive Nigeria closer to the precipice.
Evangelist Uko who also serves as deputy secretary of Igbo leaders of Thought (ILT), insisted that the only way to stave off impending crisis in the country, is to return Nigeria to a true federal state, as according to him, the 1999 unitary constitution cannot unite the country.
He equally noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s inability to stop the carnage of Fulani herdsmen, has worsened the already bad situation, warning that if the herders are not stopped from carrying out their murderous activities, more agitators will spring up to demand an end to a united Nigeria.
“At a time like this, I believe it is very important, to remind us all, that the truth has been in the public domain for long, just that men in power chose to ignore the truth,” Uko said in a statement on Saturday.
“By virtue of the fact that I have worked closely with the younger generation of my people for decades and earned their trust and respect over the years, I must humbly aver, that the solution to the agitation and the restiveness remains:
“Engaging the agitators, collating their grievances and presenting same to the central government. This has remained my point of disagreement with Igbo leaders. A position I have maintained for years.
“Building synergy with other progressive regions in the country and strongly presenting the truth: That the 1999 unitary constitution, just cannot unite, sustain, let alone grow Nigeria. (gladly, something the Southern Governors Forum woke up to recently)
“That the murderous herdsmen, who have so much terrorized and traumatised the nation and dislocated citizens all over the land, as if they are above the law, must be reined in, effectively contained and dealt with.”
Uko who accused the Buhari administration of unbridled nepotism, regretted that the president’s attitude to power has not helped matters.
According to him, “We will be deceiving ourselves when we arrogantly refuse to enquire to find out the root cause of the grievances driving the agitation, just because we are afraid that addressing those grievances will uplift the much resented zone. Ignoring and shunning the agitators, only drives them crazy, deepening their anger and frustrations. We have ignored them for over two decades and that strategy hasn’t solved the problem. DEMANDING a list of their grievances will go a long way to resolving the issue.
“There’s no magic, power or strategy that will stop the agitation for secession, if the 1999 constitution remains the ground norm, states still dependent on monthly federal allocation and unemployment continues to grow in leaps and bounds. The suffocating unitary structure, hinders economic growth, stifling development.
“Obstinately insisting that the troublesome and unhelpful 1999 constitution, inspired by the military, is cast in stone, and undiscardable, only deepens the fears of domination and suppression. Suggesting a hidden agenda to oppress and hold down others.
“The brigandage of the ruthless herdsmen in the last five years, and the shocking advice from the presidency that their victims should choose between their lives and their ancestral lands, the claim by the well armed herdsmen that every inch of Nigerian soil belongs to them, plus the inability of the security agencies to contain them, led to and enhanced the loss of faith, that drives the agitation.
“Nepotism, sectionalism, insecurity and maladministration only blew the lid off the boiling cauldron, granting the agitators more confidence.
“It’s not true that ignoring the agitators and giving them the impression that government thinks it’s infra dig to engage them because they are from a despised region, is the way to go. It isn’t true that lethal force alone will solve the problem, and the agitation will die.
“It not true that the structure of Nigeria is perfect and wonderful. Our 1999 constitution, the best in the world. It is utter falsehood to assume that Nigerians will allow the vicious herdsmen occupy and take over their ancestral lands, and everybody will be applauding them.
“There will be no need for military operations that only deepens the fear and anger in the land. There also won’t be any need for extraordinary renditions and trials of any kind, if we address the problem from the root.
“What fuels the agitation? What drives it? Why are millions of citizens agitating for a new country. Why have our strategy to contain the agitation failed.
“Will military operations, renditions and trials alone resolve the problem. Why are the agitators so bitter and resolute in spite of the casualties they have suffered? How come the agitators effectively cripples their region every 30th May? What is responsible for the huge sympathy they enjoy?
“The current strategy will not resolve the problem. We are only addressing the symptoms and ignoring the real cause of the disease. When will we address the cause of the problem from the roots? When?
“I have screamed from the rooftops and the mountain top for years, that the problem should be addressed from the roots. I have been blackmailed, persecuted, attacked monitored and targeted. I will continue to present the truth, regardless of the hubris of men in power. Only the truth will set us free.”