The Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB separatist crisis being spearheaded by Nnamdi Kanu is bigger than the activities of the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima has said.
No fewer than 20,000 people are believed to have been killed by Boko Haram since the Islamist sect started its attacks primarily in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, and partly in Abuja and some other parts of the country, about eight years ago.
Thousands of others have been maimed by the sect that was also responsible for the infamous abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls in April, 2014. More than 100 of the girls are still in the sect’s custody.
Thousands of others abducted by the sect remain unaccounted for.
Speaking in Owerri on Monday night during a meeting with Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, when he led a truce team of North’s governors to the state, Shettima said the threats posed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led secessionist IPOB to the nation’s survival are far bigger than those posed by Boko Haram.
He said it was for this reason that he had to leave the killings going on in his state behind to join Governor Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) Simon Lalong (Platueau) Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina) and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), on visits to Abia, Rivers and Imo, seeking peace.
“Only this morning, 25 people were killed in my state via explosions carried out by three suicide bombers, but I have to be on this mission because of what it means to the nation,” he said.
He noted that the huge population of Nigeria makes it imperative to avoid anything that could lead to war among its tribal groups, wondering which country would have the capacity to accommodate Nigerian refugees in the event of another civil war.
He said: “What we wanted to forestall actually was a mass movement of Nigerians from one part of the country to another. It was a very dangerous signal.
“We equally invite our brothers from the South East to visit some of the northern flash points like Kaduna, Kano and Jos, and together we can talk to our Igbo brothers and sisters there to assure them of the safety of their lives and properties.
“Make or break, this country belongs to all of us. The population of Syria is a paltry 22 million. Only 2 million Syrian refugees are knocking on the doors of Europe and it is causing reverberation. How then do you perceive a situation where 35 million English-speaking Nigerians are knocking on the doors of Europe?
“That is why we have a moral obligation as stakeholders to make things work in this country. We are all part of the leadership challenges we are facing in this country, and none of us can exonerate him or herself from blame.
“Like I said earlier in Aba, the hope of the black man rests not with the hard-thinking South Africans or the obsequious Kenyans who are struggling to be more white than the white men, but with the people of this country.
“If you see an African walking on the streets of London and would not leave the way obsequiously for the white man to pass, you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that that black man is a Nigerian.
“If we allow this country to implode, up is the Sahara Desert, Niger is already a failed state. The population of Niger is only 11 million while Kano has a population of about 30 million. We can eat up the entire food reserve of Niger Republic within a week.
“Down is the Atlantic Ocean and the tiny countries of Benin Republic, Togo and Senegal. Maybe some of us will migrate to Gambia. The entire food reserves of those tiny West African countries can be exhausted within two weeks.”
Shettima thanked Governor Okorocha for the warm reception he accorded the delegation, saying that they were in the state principally as a delegation of Northern Nigeria governors’ forum to identify with the uncommon leadership exhibited by the governors of the South East sub-region in these trying moments of the nation’s contemporary political history.
He said: “In politics, perception counts and symbolism matters. So we are here largely to identify with our governor colleagues; to visit the northern communities in their states and to reassure them that our governor colleagues are equal to the task.
“In fact, I had to pay a visit to the governor of Rivers State where we were earlier on, and Chief Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and, of course, the merchant of peace in Imo State (Okorocha) for rapidly responding to the emergency situations in their respective states by declaring dusk to dawn curfews. They equally stopped the nation from reaching the boiling point.
“While we were in Rivers, we were not opportune to address the northern community. But in Aba and Umuahia, we were able to do so and thank the governor, because the reports we got directly from the northerners residents in Umuahia, Governor Ikpeazu had solved 70 per cent of their problems; that they had never had it so good of a governor that responded rapidly to the challenges they were facing in their communities.”
Okorocha thanked the delegation on behalf of the people of Imo State for leaving their busy schedules to travel more than 1,000 km just to speak the language of peace.
“Even between husband and wife, without communication, a break-up is inevitable. And we should not only communicate between ourselves as governors, we should also communicate with the ordinary citizens on the streets,” he said.
He said there was a feeling of abandonment among the people of the South East, especially with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari because they feared from day one that since they did not vote him, his government would forget them.
“As untrue as that may be, it remains the general feeling of the people in this part of the world. So, you coming to bridge the gap is a right step in the right direction,” he said.