The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday said that apex Igbo organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo,should be held responsible for the escalation of violent agitation in the South Eastern part of the country.
NEF spokesperson, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, stated this in Abuja at a press briefing on the deployment of soldiers in the South East.
He said that the soldiers mobilised for Operation Python Dance in parts of Abia State must have been properly briefed by the military high command before they were drafted for the operation.
The soldiers, he said, must have been told what to do according to the situation on the ground.
He insisted that Ohanaeze had exposed its tacit support for the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra by criticising and asking the Federal Government to withdraw soldiers sent to the South East to keep the peace.
He said that by seeking the immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the South East, Ohanaeze has vindicated the action of the Coalition of Northern Youths who gave October 1st deadline for the Igbo in the North to leave the area.
He noted that even before the escalation of the crisis, they had indicator that showed that Ohanaeze was behind IPOB and the activities of the group.
He said:“My take is that it is the duty of the security agencies to take on any challenges threatening the peace of the country in whole or in part.”
The NEF spokesperson said that every right thinking person in the country expected Ohanaeze to come hard on the agitators to stop what could elicit reaction.
“It is the responsibility of one of the security agents in the country and they have a system of taking command in terms of where they go and where they don’t go, what they do when they get there and so on and so forth.
“So I take it that the military are where they are now for obvious reasons.
“I believe the military are there in the North East; they are dealing with issues of insurgency and Boko Haram.
“I believe we have military personnel in the Niger Delta for various reasons and this particular engagement of the military where the exercise of the dance of the python.
“Initially, from the information I had,they have always had this. It’s a training endeavour which they sometimes undertake in different parts of the country, depending on the terrain. The few terrains are supposed to test the military competence in whatever reason.
“My understanding is that while they have gone for that purpose, their presence may not have been welcomed by some sections of society there to the extent that there is a lot of argument and debate as to why they are there.
“We have not had a lot of details on the physical engagement between the army and some people, so I am not in the position. What I read scantily in the newspapers that there is some clash between the military and some agitators, that has been going on there for quite a while, and I think the military have had instructions as to what to do in terms of what is on the ground there.
“I remember when our kids and children here, the northern coalition group some weeks back now, getting to two months, reacted to what they considered continuous barrage of misinformation or sometimes insults and abuses and so on, coming from a source that has been doing this for the past two to three years, and they reacted that this should stop and they were hoping that somebody somewhere, who is held in position of respect by those engaged in this endeavour, would tell them to try and stay away from things that would agitate reaction from somewhere.
“But apparently, this didn’t happen. And now Ohanaeze, which is supposed to be an umbrella body of Ndigbo, have come out with open criticism about what is happening on the ground, particularly criticising the federal government and in extension the army for doing what they are supposed to do in terms of keeping the peace in the country.
“I understand from what I have read in the papers that they have demanded that the military personnel be withdrawn from their areas. So, to me, their reaction is now a vindication of what our boys have complained about some months ago. It is a vindication because when the boys reacted and here in the north, maybe by virtue of our own tradition and culture, some of our leaders and elders came out in open condemnation of these young people.
“I was one of those people who do not and in fact I said I supported them because of the apparent lack of concern shown by somebody who is supposed to be in the position of leadership to control some of these excesses.
“It was later when this quit notice was given that some people started talking that they are not part of this, that they didn’t support or encourage this.
“Now that Ohanaeze is coming out to say that on the side of this, in fact against the government and the military operations that is supposed to be official, it suggest to me that all along,that they have been behind or encouraged these agitations.
“Even before now, we had indicators to believe that the elders we thought will restrain some of this.
“Even before now we had indicators to believe that the elders we thought will restrain some of these things have always been behind them because we saw what happened when Kanu got his bail.
“We knew who were behind the struggle for his bail and the convoy that escorted him home. People in the highest position have always been behind them because we saw what happened when Kanu got his bail. We knew who were behind the struggle for his bail and the convoy that escorted him home with people in the highest position, some of them with the highest position of responsibility in the country.
“That was enough to say all along, this young man must have had the support of his people, including the elders among his people.
“This is the conclusion that you can only draw from the reaction of Ohaneze. Because if the Northern Elders Forum for whom I spoke at the time, my leader was quite angry with me when I declared support for the boys.
“Paul Unongo, who was deputy to Maitama Sule before his death, came out to say I did wrong by declaring support for these boys.
“This is an indication that since we have a system of people who are elders and leaders, there are certain things that perhaps you will do, somebody older or ahead of you in whatever organisation you operate will say no, no.
“And I can tell you this several times when some of these things would arise and the late Maitama Sule would call us in and say this is not the way to it; even if you are angry, just go and cool down; just let it pass. And this is what we expect to be happening all around the country, and this is the respon