The pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has said that it can no longer guarantee peace in the East in the face of the continued killing of the Igbo in some states in the North.
The group said that stopping its youths from carrying out reprisal over the years, even in the face of extreme anger, had been an onerous job.
It added that it was not sure if it would continue to restrain them from doing so, especially in the South-East.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a statement by its Secretary General, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, said this on Wednesday while reacting to last Monday’s bombings in Kano State in which many Igbo were killed.
But just as the statement was made available to journalists, Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a group led by Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, called on the Federal Government to urgently track down and bring those behind the series of bombings and killings in the country to book.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however, still appealed to its youth wing to maintain the peace while awaiting President Goodluck Jonathan’s reaction to the latest “dastardly” act. It advised that in the future, “ Islamists fundamentalist murderers must be tackled with the same ruthlessness with which they destroy lives.”
Its statement reads, “We roundly condemn the sponsors and perpetrators of the continued cold blooded murder of fellow Nigerians. The Igbo nation is taking the heaviest toll on the casualty list and Ndigbo are grossly pained by this organised pogrom on her people.
“Ndigbo cannot continue to bear this unnecessary and unprovoked loss of their blood. Patriotism is just not enough. Keeping our restive youths calm has been an onerous job and only God has helped thus far. We can no longer guarantee the civil response of our people in a country that has become one huge slaughter house.
“The Federal Government must convince the people, especially Ndigbo, that they are safe in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Ohanaeze state chapters are to compile the names of all those affected in the bomb blasts.
“Let’s act fast. However, as a reminder, no tribe is essentially completely made up of cowards and Ndigbo are certainly no cowards.
“Need we remind these murderers that no ethnic group has the monopoly of violence? A final position will be taken in due course after due consultation with Igbo leadership.”
The National Organising Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths, Mr. Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said that Ohanaeze youths would no longer keep quiet if the killings continued.
“For now, we will not do anything because we have chosen to listen to the advice of our leaders who have asked us to be quiet and calm. But if it happens again, or something similar to that occurs again in any northern state, advice or no advice, we would be forced to retaliate,” Isiguzoro said.
Sultan Abubakar-led JNI, has however, condemned the Kano explosions, saying those responsible for the killings in the country deserved no mercy.
The group, in what seems to be at variance with Abubakar’s call for “total amnesty” for members of an Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, said concerted “efforts and strategies” were needed to stem the bloodletting in the nation.
The Sultan of Sokoto had at a JNI meeting on March 5, 2013 said, “We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr. President, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants without thinking twice; that will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed as criminal . If the amnesty is declared, the majority of those young men running would come out and embrace that amnesty.”
But the JNI, in a statement by its Secretary General, Sheikh Khalid Aliyu, specifically flayed the Monday bomb blasts in Kano, Kano State, saying the killing of innocent people was “disturbing and alarming.”
Boko Haram, which is believed to be largely responsible for the bombings and killings in parts of the North, including Abuja, has yet to make any comment on the Kano incident.
The JNI statement was made public just as the Kano State chapter of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said 35 corpses had been identified by relatives who had already started preparations for their (corpses) burial.
The JNI statement reads in part, “This new trend of bombing at a motor park, and the killing of innocent people that gathered to travel to various destinations, at New Road Motor Park, Sabon Gari, Kano, Kano State on Monday, March 18, 2013 is disturbing and alarming.
“We, therefore, call for calm and restraint. The situation is very worrisome, and calls for more concerted efforts and strategies of averting such ugly situations.
“Therefore, the JNI once more calls on government at all levels to as a matter of urgency nip in the bud future recurrence and the perpetrators of these barbaric acts be brought to face the wrath of the law.
“Human lives are sacred and must be treated as such, in line with the teachings of the revered books.
“More so, our concern is why was the park targeted? It seems there is a design to set the entire North on fire and by extension, the whole country, starting with Kano.”
In Kano, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the state, Chief Tobias Idika,said the association was opposed to any plan to conduct a mass burial for bodies yet to be identified.
Idika, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, explained that he and other members of the association were worried about reports of a planned mass burial of such bodies.
He said, “So far, relatives of the dead have identified 35 bodies. Some identified their dead using the clothes they wore last. Some used their shoes and other physical attributes because some of them were badly burnt; others had their faces still intact. We are still trying to identify others but we now hear that there are plans to conduct a mass burial.
“We are worried about this information. We would like to use this opportunity to warn the Kano State Government and the Police not to bury our people in a mass grave because this will increase tension. We will like to see the bodies of our people to give them a proper burial.
“How do you tell a mother, father, brother or sister that their loved one is dead and you do not have the body for them to see and bury properly? It is not done. We have suffered enough; people must not add salt to our injury by committing further abominations against us.”
The Ohanaeze leader also expressed sadness that the state Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, had yet to visit the site of the incident.
But the Director of Press and Public Relations to the Kano State Governor, Haliru Dantiye, said he was not aware of any plan to give the victims a mass burial.
Dantiye, who added that the state government was doing all within its power to deal with the situation, explained that the injured had been visited by government officials in their various hospitals and instructions given for their treatment.
He said, “As you are aware, government is taking responsibility for their medical bills. I believe there may be a policy pronouncement. On the issue of mass burial, I am not aware of any such plan.”
The Kano blasts were also deliberated upon by the Senate at its plenary on Wednesday.
During the session, a member, Uche Chukwumerije, said the Igbo in Kano State believed that the blasts were pre-meditated against them.
Chukwumerije, who read a script titled,”Bomb Explosions in Luxirious Buses Park, New Road, Sabon Gari, Kano on March 18, 2013,” said the Igbo in the state felt so because about 80 per cent of the passengers in the two South-bound luxury buses first attacked by the bombers were their kinsmen.
He said that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Kano State would want the Federal Government to set up a committee to collect and manage any compensation for the victims because the Igbo no longer trusted the Kwankwaso administration.
The lawmaker added, “ More dangerous still, they (Igbo in Kano) believe that the Monday mayhem was a pre-meditated attack primarily aimed at them. This is the view of a group, a major component of our plural community. This view has two strategic implications for the viability and vitality of the Federation.
“The first implication is the possibility of extreme alienation and resort to the option of withdrawing allegiances from the State since the most crucial of the obligations of a State in this Social Contract is protection of life and property.”
Making specific demands on the Nigerian State, Chukwumerije said, “For the Igbo in Kano, the people and their leadership insist on three immediate remedial actions from government
One is permission to arrange private burials, in place of mass burials, for their loved ones because some of the deceased were their leaders.
“The Federal Government should beef up security around the Igbo and other endangered groups in the North. They demand a visibly effective termination of terrorism in Nigeria.
“The fight against terrorism is like a football match. The people are not interested in stories of efforts being made, but in actual results like victory goals in a football match.”
Commenting on the issue, Senator Kabiru Gaya said it was sad that enemies of the Nigerian State were seeking to exploit ethno-religious differences to destroy “our nation.”
He said, “From history, Kano people had been business partners with other tribes in Sabon-Gari; we are worried that some people are working against the unity of this country, yet government is not doing anything.