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Nigeria's unity threatened

Muhammad Al-Amin cm
June 7, 2017

Sixteen youth groups from northern Nigeria have given Igbo people residing in their states up to October 1, to vacate the region. A section of Igbos from the south has been calling for the independence of Biafra.

Symbolbild Gewalt in Nigeria
Image: SEYLLOU DIALLO/AFP/Getty Images

Concerned by what they see as the persistent Igbo threat to national integration, Northern Nigerian youth groups said they met with several others, reviewed the current situation of the region and jointly came up with the vacation order. The youth also directed northerners residing in the Eastern part of the country to relocate back to Northern Nigeria within three months.

Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman, who read the statement issued on behalf of others at the Arewa House in Kaduna, said the North was tired of the political marriage existing in the country, hence the need for restructuring as being canvassed by many notable Nigerian leaders.

Map showing former Republic of Biafra.
North and Southern Nigeria have always shared a tense relationship since the Biafra civil war

The northern groups mandated all northern civil society and pressure groups to mobilize for sustained and coordinated campaigns at their respective State Government Houses, Houses of Assembly, Local Government Council Secretariats and traditional palaces for steps to be taken to ensure the enforcement of the directives.

Tit for tat game

This move comes only days after the shutting down of major towns in the South East parts of Nigeria as part of the campaign by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the actualization of Biafra Republic. 

John Okafor, an Igbo trader living in the north for past 23 years, told DW, he believes the order to leave is politically motivated. "I don't think if it is that serious, I know it is a political talk," Okafor said.

"We are not happy with what is going on, I don't expect any of the Igbos to start preparing to leave. I know definitely it is a threat to us. We want to stay and we want to stay in peace there is no problem on that," Okafor said.   

Biafra protesters.
Biafran supporters have stepped up demands for secessionImage: Getty Images/AFP/P. U. Ekpei

Elders in the region have distanced themselves from youth. Adamu Mato Yakubu is one of the northern elders: "This is their own view and they are not speaking the minds of every northerner as far as I'm concerned, Mato Yakubu told DW.

Youth 'on their own'

"We and the Igbos that are here are living harmoniously; we have never seen any trace of supporting any breakage of the country. Therefore, they [youth] are on their own," the elder said adding that his views were shared by every elder in Northern Nigeria.

"Nigerians are Nigerians wherever they are and we believe in one Nigeria."

Analysts said the  nation's leaders need to immediately intervene to stop these agitations from resulting in violence that may consume the entire nation. Umar Adamu, a political analyst from Gombe State University, told DW, if the government doesn't address the issue soon, it could be a recipe for disaster.

The Niger Delta Avengers

"The northern youth have been pushed to the wall that is why they are trying to show to the world and the Biafra leaders that they [too] are also equal to the task,"  Adamu said.

"If this thing is not tackled, especially by the government, it is going to create a very serious problem for the unity of the nation."