The Northern Elders Forum has backed a statement made by its spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed circulating in a viral video that Igbo people should be allowed to secede from Nigeria.
The northern group, however, berated the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for demanding the arrest Baba-Ahmed, for saying what they called the obvious truth.
It faulted Ohanaeze’s claims that Baba-Ahmed was making inciting statements.
Baba-Ahmed, who is the group’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, had in the video, said: “We said if secession is what every Igbo wants, and this is what the Igbos want, the nation should not fight a war over it.”
He also asked the northerners residing in Southern Nigeria to start relocating back to the North.
Angered by the statement, Ohanaeze through its spokesman, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, Wednesday, slammed Baba-Ahmed, describing his broadcast as extremely nauseating, uncouth, provocative, incendiary, inflammatory and above all very arrogant and licentious.
The convener of NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, in a statement on Thursday, said Ogbonnia’s comments “are, to say the least, dangerous and irresponsible, designed to achieve only one goal: to put the life of Dr Baba-Ahmed in peril.
“The Northern Elders Forum states categorically that all comments and statements made by Dr Baba-Ahmed are authorised, and they represent its positions.
“The press statement which he read on the 8th of June, 2021 at the Forum’s headquarters in Abuja in presence of the full Forum was the statement of the Forum by which it still stands.
“We’re aware of attempts to create the impression that this statement is recent as well as other attempts to misrepresent its contents to create scapegoats for the failure to limit the damage of irredentism.
“In spite of many efforts to inform the public appropriately, it appears that Ohaneze Ndigbo has fallen prey to more mischief, or is itself actively involved in incitement against a citizen.
“The Forum stands by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, a Nigerian whose pedigree and service to our nation have few parallels.
“It sees the claim that Dr Baba-Ahmed is a security risk and the demand that he should be arrested as pathetic and beneath even the ordinary standards of Ohaneze Ndigbo.
“We serve notice that we know who to hold responsible in the event of any harm to Dr Baba-Ahmed.
“The Forum advises Ohaneze Ndigbo to focus its attention on contributing to securing people of the South East from multiple threats, and ensuring that Ndigbo has a befitting relevance in Nigeria.
“The Forum affirms its full confidence in Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who will continue to serve the country and the North as we search for a future that accommodates all interests in Nigeria.