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Gulak: ACF’s SE travel ban will destroy Nigeria – Ohanaeze

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The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has reacted angrily to the travel ban placed on the Southeast by the Northern Elders.

A key Northern leader, Chief Audu Ogbe, had, in a travel advisory issued weekend, asked Northerners to suspend any trip to the Southeast.

His advice was sequel to the assassination of Ahmed Gulak in Owerri, the Imo state capital.

He was quoted as saying, “the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) hereby issues a very strong advisory to all northerners who may wish to travel to the South East to weigh the importance and necessity of such travels.

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“Unless such trips are absolutely necessary and of compelling nature, like matters of life and death, they should not be made”.

But in a reaction by Ohanaeze spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, he described Ogbe’s statement as inflammatory, stressing that it was capable of sinking the already capsizing Nigeria.

Ohanaeze said it was really doubtful “if Chief Audu Ogbe, a man who has gained the respect of many as a detribalised northern patriot, could issue such a sinister press release. 

“On behalf of Ndigbo, we commend the chairman, Northern Governors Forum and the governor of Plateau state, Mr. Simon Lalong, who admonished that ‘the awful incident should be treated as a criminal act, warning that politicisation of issues surrounding the death of Gulak could lead to further violence in Nigeria.’

“Evidently, for over a month, the South East, which has been variously described as the most peaceful geopolitical zone in Nigeria, is facing sophisticated security challenges but nevertheless should be isolated from the security challenges facing the other parts of the country. 

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“In today’s newspapers, it is reported that over 200 school children were abducted in Niger state; the North Central, Benue state in particular, has turned into a killing field; Katsina state in the North West is noted for banditry; the Boko Haram insurgency has engaged the North East for years; etc. One wonders why the ACF should single out the South East as a no-go-area for the Northerners.

In the above-mentioned flash points, the Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, unknown gun men, Fulani herdsmen, etc, have not shown discretion in their attacks. 

“They have not been selective on the state of origin of their victims. On the other hand, several persons of various ethnic groups have lost their lives in the security challenges facing Nigeria as a whole. The admonition by Lalong, that the death of Gulak should not be politicised is, therefore, a tribute to leadership quality.”

Ohanaeze lamented that the reference by Chief Ogbe to the ‘the killings of northern leaders in 1966 that triggered the events that led to a civil war that cost the country thousands of lives and an untold suffering to millions of innocent people’ was, to say the least, very inflammatory, incendiary, unreflective and unguarded.

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It should be noted that Igbos have suffered immeasurably in the current Nigerian dilemma.” 

The Igbo group added that “Nimbo community of Enugu state, at about 5.15 am on April 25, 2016, armed herdsmen numbering over 500 struck, killing 54 people. The governor of Enugu state, Rt Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his maturity, pleaded with the indigenes to accept the incident as an act of God. On March 30, 2021, Egedege community in Ebonyi state witnessed a horrendous sight of 18 persons slaughtered by the Fulani herdsmen. Governor Dave Umahi could not withhold his tears as he saw the 18 corpses of Ebonyi state indigenes killed spread like fish in the cold room. 

“The commissioner for Capital City Development in Ebonyi state, Onyekachi Nwebonyi, stated: ‘we got a very sad news yesterday morning that armed herdsmen invaded Izzi land particularly in a place called Ndiobashi and killed so many of our people. The commissioner added that over 30 bodies have been evacuated from bushes around the affected communities.’ 

“This is the reality of today Nigeria but, in all these, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Igbo leaders have called for restraint and warned against reprisal attacks.

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“It cannot be denied of the Igbo that they are the most outreaching and adaptable, as well as the most hospitable ethnic group with insurable interests in all parts of Nigeria. 

“The Igbo large heart and magnanimity has variously been proved beyond reasonable doubt. For instance, Mallam Umaru Altine who hailed from the old Sokoto Province of the defunct Northern Region was elected as the President of the Enugu Branch of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). He was later elected the first Mayor of Enugu in 1956.  Alhaji Altine stood another election in 1959 with an Igbo man and was overwhelmingly voted for. That is the Igbo spirit for fairness and universalism.

“Chief Audu Ogbe and the ACF are reminded that it is rather the federating capacity of the Igbo, their equanimity, fortitude and readiness to adapt to every part of Nigeria, as a home, that has served as the salt without which the concept of Nigeria becomes tasteless.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo rates the statement by Chief Ogbe as baleful. Nigerian government authorities and patriots are called upon to hold Ogbe responsible because his remarks are capable of rocking the already precarious boat. 

“It is strange that the leaders that have gained everything from Nigeria are always the first to set it on fire,” Ohanaeze further stated.

Uzoh Ugwueze, Enugu

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