The Arewa Consultative Forum and apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, held a crucial meeting at the Universal Hotel in Enugu and emphasized the imperative of national unity, dialogue and consensus based on the principles of equity, justice and cooperation among the various people of Nigeria.
The Ohanaeze, in the two-page communique jointly signed by leaders of the groups, President General of Ohanaeze, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, and Chairman, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, however, requested for time to study and respond to the vital issues raised by its northern counterpart during the meeting.
The leadership of Ohanaeze and other Igbo leaders at the meeting, including former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, viewed the issues raised by the Arewa delegation as very weighty, noting that after a careful study of the points, they would make their response available for discussion at a future meeting.
The two organisations said the meeting, the first of its kind in the nation’s current dispensation, all the same, had opened a channel of communication that ought to be maintained for the benefit of the country.
The meeting, which was presided over by the respective chairmen of the two groups, Uwaechue and Mohammed, was attended by large delegations of leaders from both sides.
Participants from the Igbo group were former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former President Generals of Ohanaeze, Justice Eze Ozobu, Prof. Joe Irukwu, Justice Mbaduike Amaechi , former Ebonyi State governor, Dr. Sam Egwu, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Prof. Obiorah Ike, among others.
On the side of ACF delegation were the chairman national executive council, Alhaji Aliko Mohamed and the secretary general of the organisation, Col. Musa Shehu (rtd). Others in the entourage included the deputy chairman, Alhaji Saidu Barda; assistant chairman, Senator Joseph Kennedy Waku; Major General Lawrence Onoja; Ambassador Adamu Mohamed; Hajia Halima Alfa ; Amina Ladan Baki, Ambassador Ibrahim Mai Sule and Alhaji Ladan Shinnu.
There were also the legal adviser, Mr. Bitrus Gada; the publicity secretary, Anthony Sani; treasurer, Ismaila Zarma; Amina Ladan Baike and Col. Mohamed Abdu.
Earlier, Chairman of ACF, Aliko Mohammed, whose speech dwelt on many topical national issues, told the gathering that ACF was under pains to reassure Nigerians, “especially our brothers, the Igbo, that leaders of the North do not, and will never condone violence, let alone those targeted at specific groups of Nigerians.”
He stressed that all violence took the country many years backward since it destroyed whatever assets ‘we have managed to acquire,” pointing out that “Igbo people promote the concept and spirit of one nation through their settlement in larger numbers everywhere in Nigeria.”
He added, “If, for example, the over one million Igbo that live in Kano state were to leave today, there is no doubt that the economy of Kano would be affected.”
Responding, Ohanaeze leader, Amb. Ralph Uwaechue observed that the ACF presentation at the meeting showed that the north still believed in the unity of Nigeria.
“There is a lot in this presentation that shows that the entire and total commitment of the ACF to the unity, peace and survival of Nigeria, and we thank you for that,” he told the delegation.
In his remarks, Dr. Alex Ekwueme said the decision by the northern leaders to reach out to Ndigbo on national issues was commendable as it would afford both groups the opportunity to move the nation forward.