Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Wednesday took a swipe at the leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, for what it called “incendiary, unsubstantiated and inflammatory statement, credited to him on the role of the Igbo during the October #EndSARS protests in Rivers State.
The organisation called on the Federal Government to call the Abdullahi-led group to order, saying its comments were “capable of setting the country ablaze.”
Also on Wednesday, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) flayed NEF, saying it “is very unfortunate and disappointing that the wheels of disunity and disaffection among ethnic nationalities’’ is being promoted by the group.
Abdullahi had at a town hall meeting with the Northern community in Rivers State on Tuesday claimed that his kinsmen were the targets of attacks during the $EndSARS protests.
He made a veiled reference to the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) as spearheading the attacks, alleging that people came from the Southeast to visit mayhem on Northerners residing in Rivers.
Abdullahi warned that if the perpetrators were not reined in by governors and security agencies in the South, Northern communities may not be able to protect Southerners in the North the future.
In Enugu, the NEF issued a fresh warning against any form of attack on Northerners living in the southern part of the country.
Reacting to Abdullahi’s threat, Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General Nnia Nwodo said the apex socio-cultural group was stunned by the “dangerous gaffe by a man who by learning, experience, and exposure should know better.”
Nwodo, in a statement by his media adviser, Emeka Attamah, wondered “where and when the Igbo could have killed their northern brothers when there has never been any case of mayhem and killings against people of the North in any Igbo-speaking state.”
He challenged Abdullahi to provide evidence to substantiate his “wild and malicious claims.”
Nwodo said he suspected the NEF leader’s comments were intended to set up the Igbo for another round of killings in the North.
The President-General reminded Abdullahi that the Igbo have been victims of age-long and misguided attacks and bloody orgies by their northern “brothers” at the slightest upheavals.
Nwodo said the Federal Government should call NEF to order and make rescind its inflammatory statement to avoid mayhem and confusion in the country.”
He also advised the NEF to exhibit greater caution and wisdom in addressing sensitive national issues instead of stoking the fire with “unguarded, unsubstantiated, garrulous and vitriolic claims capable of igniting fire and breakdown of law and order.”
He said since Nigeria is now a tinderbox, especially with the heightened frayed nerves arising from the mismanagement of the tensed situation in the country, caution should be the watchword.
Nwodo said at the twilight of his life, he should espouse salutary views that should bind and heal the wounds of the past.
MASSOB, in a statement by its leader Uchenna Madu, said it was “very unfortunate and disappointing that such comments could come from “a supposedly nationalist like Abdullahi.”
The group maintained that the Igbo never killed Arewa dwellers in Igboland during the EndSARS protests.
MASSOB said: “It is not in our nature to hurt non-indigenous people dwelling or residing in Igbo land but it is historic and eloquent records that the people of Arewa have killed the Igbos on several occasions in the northern region.”
Describing the visit of NEF to Rivers State as a failed mission, the group said: “The primary aim of NEF to Rivers State is to continue in their mission of divide and rule syndrome, they saw in Governor Nyesom Wike, a willing tool of continuous perpetrating their enmity virus against Ndigbo.
“They may have succeeded in deceiving some leaders of the Southsouth in seeing the Igbo as their enemies in the past.”
MASSOB described Abdullahi as an expired politician trying to evade reality.
According to the group, “He is the worst thing that happened to the people of Arewa because he denied the Arewa youths quality education, human development, economic stability, and freedom of religious slavery when he was the vice-chancellor of the University of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.”
MASSOB advised Southeast governors and leaders not to accord “ Abdullahi and his team a resounding reception because of his hatred for Ndigbo.”
At their Enugu meeting with the representatives of Northern groups in the Southeast, NEF reiterated that the alleged attack on Northerners during the protests was unprovoked and should not be repeated.
The elders said Northerners had the right to live in any part of the country and should not be marked for attacks under whatever guise.
The forum’s spokesman, Hakeem Ahmed, said: “We were very concerned with the fate of our kith and kin who live in the Southern part of the country.
”When we observed that it was taking another dimension, we called up our youths to come off the streets, our young people are law-abiding, they respected us and stopped when we discovered that the protest has an underlying intention and that it was going to jeopardise the security of everybody in this country, we put up a statement and said we think this protest should stop.
“We continued to observe the experience of our people in the Southern part of the country; experiences that were very sad; we didn’t find a reason our people should be subject of attack. Our people were not against this protest, they did not stop anybody, we have evidence.
“What you went through must never be allowed to happen again; we have been to Rivers State where the Governor (Nyesom Wike) gave us his word and we are beginning to see the result of that engagement.
”We are here in Enugu because it is the capital of the five Southeast states. We will meet with the governor and we know he will relate our message to his colleagues.
“We want a situation where no Northerner unjustly attacks anybody from the Southern part of the country and not one person from the North should be attacked here in the Southern part.”
At the meeting were Abdullahi, a former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Party (NRP), Bashir Tofa, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Ghali Na’Abba.