General Election: We are not moving an inch, Igbo leaders vow
FOLLOWING three days of deliberations in Abuja over the political situation in the country, Igbo traditional rulers from 19 northern states and Abuja, Tuesday resolved to admonish their people against mass relocation to the south eastern states for fear of election violence.
In a meeting convened by the Director General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Sir Ferdinand Anikwe, the leaders , under the auspices of Igbos in the Daispora, maintained that this time, Igbos in the north will not run again.
The leaders also pledged to disseminate the message of hope to their people in their respective states.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Coordinator, Igbo Traditional Rulers in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, Eze Panpas N. Nwahiwe, urged the Igbos in the north to remain where they reside and cast their votes during the general elections without fear of molestation.
Nwahiwe, who is also the Igbo traditional ruler in Niger State noted that the meeting served as a platform to critically analyze the prevailing political situation to ascertain if it would be conducive for the Igbos to stay in the north during the elections.
According to him, the issue had previously been addressed with respective northern governors, who assured the Igbos of their safety during and after the elections.
The meeting in Abuja, he stressed, was a confirmation to earlier assurances that no harm will befall non indigenes residing in the northern part of the country as a result of the election.
He said: “We have gathered here in respect of the general election which is around the corner. We have come to brainstorm and ex-ray the situation politically to decide whether or not to stay in our northern states of residence or otherwise.
“As leaders, we are appealing to our people to stay behind, not to panic or run away because we are all Nigerians. There is no part of Nigeria where there is no security threat. So, we should stay where we are and exercise our franchise.
“But if anybody decides to go, we cannot stop that person, but to the best of our knowledge as leaders, we have consulted widely and in all our consultations with the authorities, we have been given total assurance that our lives and property are safe.
“Before, when we have not spoken, there was a lot of apprehension and anxieties. That was before we made some contacts as far as security issues were concerned but in our various states, we have had the privilege of interacting with our governors who have assured us that we are safe and as such, we should stay where we are”.
The Igbo leader in Jos, Plateau State, Professor Joseph Obilom, added that aside consultations with authorities, it was necessary to let people know that the country has grown beyond tribal and religious sentiments.
“The level we are now in this country is not the same as 2011. This is 2015 and I feel there must be change and development. But let me ask this question, for how long will Nigerians continue to run whenever there is election? For how long shall we be threatened and we start running about? This country belongs to all of us.
“We ran away in 1966 during the Coup. We ran away in 1967 to wage the Civil War. We are back, we are Nigerians. So, we are here as Nigerians. We are not running an inch to any place because running all the time is a sign of weakness and we are saying that we are no longer going to accept that weakness”.
Professor Obilom added that with the federal government assurance that the election would be conducted freely and fairly and that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will do her job very credibly, anybody who wants violence should face violence.
According to Obilom, violence is not a monopoly of any individual or a particular section of the county.
“Luckily, the two major political parties have signed peace pact. In Plateau, the two gubernatorial aspirants (PDP and APC) have also signed peace pact of non-violence as well as all the traditional rulers in the state.
“So, we are not worried by any threat. Anybody who thinks he owns Nigeria alone is joking; it is no longer so in 2015”, Obilom said .
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Bauchi State on Community Relations, Chief Ben Ezirim represented Ezeigbo Bauchi, Eze Jude Mesika at the occasion.
He described Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda as an action governor, who has never relented in ensuring that non-indigenes feel at home in the state.
“He has never disappointed the strangers and the Igbos in particular. In a recent development, the Igbo Community in Bauchi went to him to ask him whether we should go or stay, fortunately, with a heart full of joy and confidence, he implored them to stay”.
Also addressing his colleagues, a traditional ruler from Bayelsa State, King A.J Turner, tasked Nigerians on peaceful co-existence, stressing that no nation can develop in an atmosphere of chaos and violence.
King Turner also used the opportunity to solicit for support for President Goodluck Jonathan in the coming presidential election.