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UN Protest: FG warns Yoruba nation agitators against ‘keeping association’ with IPOB

Yoruba Nation agitators resuming their protest at the United Nations Headquarters in New York

The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), the umbrella body for self-determination groups in the country, yesterday, resumed their protest at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, United States.

Members of the self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua, representing Yorubaland; Lower Niger Congress, representing the South-South and Southeast; and Middle Belt Renaissance Movement representing the Middle Belt Region were seen displaying placards with different inscriptions as they marched to the UN headquarters.

They chanted anti-oppression songs and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to resign. They were also seen chanting ‘We want the Yoruba Nation now, declare Independent Biafra now’!

While some of the protesters wore white outfits, others wore black, holding Yoruba Nation and IPOB flags. They also held pictures of young people killed in Nigeria.

But the Presidency has faulted Yoruba nation agitators for ‘keeping association’ with the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in reaction to the protest at the UN headquarters.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, yesterday, the Federal Government also threatened to judge the Yoruba Nation agitators by the company they keep, saying that no one will take them seriously.

Part of the statement read: “For Nigerian diaspora groups to use the world’s largest platform – the United Nations General Assembly – to garner attention to their causes is not unexpected, it was, however shocking, to see ‘Yoruba Nation’ advocates yesterday unequivocally throw their lot in with IPOB. IPOB is a designated terrorist organisation. It has now publicly revealed a 50,000 strong paramilitary organisation.

“It regularly murders security services and innocent civilians, with a significant uptick of violent attacks this year. And it is currently attempting to hold Nigerian states hostage with orders to stay at home under threat of terror. Without a doubt, Nigerians and the entire world will judge the Yoruba nation by the company it keeps.

“No one can take seriously this organisation if it continues its IPOB association. When their allies systematically trample human rights, it raises sober questions about their claims to uphold the values of the UN. The cooperation is a worrying development, once parsed with Yoruba nation’s increasingly violent rallies in Nigeria.

“Actions and associations speak louder than words. Yoruba Nation’s talk of human rights promotion must therefore be ignored,” the statement said.

The Presidency, thereafter, appealed to the UN to discountenance their demand. President Buhari will address the 76th Session of the high-level General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, September 24.

A provisional list of speakers showed that Buhari would be the second speaker on the day. The President would deliver his address around 9:00 a.m. (about 2:00 p.m. Nigerian time) to other world leaders during the morning session.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday, stirred the hornets’ nest in Abuja when he said “miscreants and criminals masquerading as separationist activists have emerged across the country to wreak havoc, take lives and commit economic sabotage against fellow Nigerians and against the state.”

In a veiled reference to IPOB and Yoruba nation agitators, Gbajabiamila said during plenary on the resumption of the House from 2021 annual legislative recess that “their inclination for devastating violence against fellow citizens, appetite for destruction of private property, disruption of academic activities, commerce, and industry, propensity for defiling institutions of the state, society and community as well as their refusal to engage in debate, or to consider the possibility of dissenting opinions and alternative viewpoints, are no different from Boko Haram and ISWAP.”

He said from experience, neither appeasement nor overwhelming violence alone will work. “We have been down this road before; we know what the consequences of inaction can be. We also know that we cannot afford to be reactionary in our approach. This is the time to convene our best efforts to articulate a political, economic, military, and policing strategy to address both the manifestations and root causes of this emerging threat. Given space and time, they will take our nation down the same path of destruction.”

But in a late reaction last night, Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, debunked the reports that the Speaker said IPOB and Yoruba nation agitators are the same as Boko Haram.

He said: “In view of the impression created by the said reports, it has become necessary to clarify that the Speaker, in his speech, never mentioned any group. For the records, the Speaker said some miscreants and criminals are taking advantage of the separationist agitations to carry out their activities.

“This is what the Speaker said: ‘We must now add to these concerns an emerging threat that presents the same clear and present danger. In the South of Nigeria, East and West, miscreants and criminals masquerading as separationist activists have emerged to wreak havoc, take lives and commit economic sabotage against fellow Nigerians and the state.”

HOWEVER, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said, yesterday, that IPOB is not a terrorist organisation, insisting that it was an error for anybody to compare it with terrorist group like Boko Haram and ISWAP. Ohanaeze noted that IPOB, on the contrary, was an organisation fighting against injustice.

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, stated that IPOB emanated following series of injustices being meted out by successive administrations against Ndigbo, “as if they are not wanted in Nigeria”, stressing that, its agitation will stop the moment there is equity, fairness, and justice in the land.

“The divergence between IPOB and Ohanaeze is that Ohanaeze acknowledges that the injustice is there. They are asking for a solution within Nigeria and that is with restructuring and dialogue with certain level of diplomacy, whereas IPOB is approaching it with force. That is all. It does not make them a terrorist organisation,” Ogbonnia said.

Also reacting, the IPOB stated that Gbajabiamila should be ashamed that the country they inherited was heading for the rocks, stressing that “what should be their paramount concern is how to regain the confidence of Nigerians in the system and not IPOB.”

IPOB’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, who insisted that the Speaker does not deserve a reaction of the group, urged him to find a solution to the alleged efforts by the Fulani to divide the country and subject its citizens to its whims and caprices.

When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said the view expressed by Gbajabiamila signposted the low level of intellectualism in the hallowed corridors of power in Nigeria.

“If an uninformed person had spoken in the manner that the fourth citizen in Nigeria spoke, one might excuse him or her. But for a person of Gbajabiamila’s status to have spoken the way he did is not only disappointing and unfortunate, but it is also frightening. Frightening because it gives us an insight into what the thinking of those at the helms of affairs currently is.

“How, for God’s sake, can any reasonable person liken those who are advocating for self-determination to Boko Haram, ISWAP etc, who have demonstrated that they are unrepentant terrorists. Yes, some youths, especially in the Southeast, maybe over reaching themselves under the guise of enforcing IPOB’s sit-at-home order, but likening them to avowed terrorists amounted to playing to the gallery.

“Bringing self-determination agitators in the Southwest into the calculation worsened the matter for Gbajabiamila. At what time and in what circumstance are the pronouncements and activities of Yoruba nation advocates indicative of criminality?”

A Yoruba diaspora group, Yoruba One Voice (YOV), also yesterday, said with the statement credited to the Speaker, it is evidence that the Speaker has lost touch with the realities of the present situation in the country.

YOV, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Omoladun Orolugbagbe, said the Speaker as part of the conspiracy that brought Nigeria on its kneel, disclosing that Gbajabiamila had always been a sell-out with no history of commitment to the ideals of the common people in Nigeria.

“On Tuesday, President Buhari sought another $4 billion loan, the lawmakers had apparently approved the loan without a single idea or thought of the backlog of loans and the amount involved in servicing these loans. This is the duty of the lawmakers to check excesses of the executive, especially, when it has to do with the future of the country, not trying to be men-pleasers to the powers at the center.”

This is coming as the 2021 Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey report released by the Africa Polling Institute has revealed that 65 per cent of Nigerians are questioning the reason for the continued existence of Nigeria as a nation.

Executive Director, Africa Polling Institute, Prof. Bell Ihua, said the report is against the backdrop that Nigeria as a nation is drifting apart along the political, religious, and ethnic divide.

Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, during the release of the report, Ihua lamented the wide division and polarisation among social, ethnic, religious, and political lines in the country despite many years of nationhood since independence.

He said the survey highlighted issues of marginalisation in appointments, corruption, gender equity, identity trust, and social cohesion, self-worth, and future expectations as it affects Nigerians and the role of politicians who fan the embers of violence and division during campaign and electioneering.

Ihua mentioned that the aim of the report was to assist the country in planning to achieve national cohesion amongst various social-cultural, ethnic and religious groups in the country.

He said, “despite all these gloomy findings, data gathered can assist the government in future national planning and provide a platform where Nigerians will think more nationalistic and not separatist.”

Meanwhile, activists and revolutionists have announced plans to hold a nationwide protest on October 1 – Independence Day – in the country. The protest is necessitated by nine demands, according to a statement by the Coalition for Revolution issued yesterday.

The statement, signed by CORE’s co-convener, Baba Aye, and co-convener, Gbenga Komolafe, was titled: ‘Poverty, insecurity, police brutality: CORE organises actions for October.’

Among their demands is the recognition of those who died during the #EndSARS protests as national heroes, with a national apology.

They complained that the administration of President Buhari has taken “the incompetence, corruption, and repressive tendencies of the country’s ruling class to the height of infamy.”

They also lamented that tens of thousands of workers have been sacked, while more have suffered salary cuts.

Some of the demands for the #1stOctoberProtest include Reinstatement of all sacked public sector workers, reversal of salary cuts in both the public and private sector, provision of needed credit for small businesses in the informal economy to get back on their feet, and full respect for the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and assembly.

The demands also include the immediate release of all detainees and prisoners being held for participating in peaceful protests or exercising their right to free speech; recognition of the #EndSARS rebellion’s martyrs as national heroes, with; their names immortalized; full implementation of the outstanding Memoranda of Understanding and all other collective agreements reached with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) & Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU); adequate public funding of health and education to ensure quality health and education for all; and implementation of the N30,000 national minimum wage in all states and private companies as stipulated in the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act.

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