Facts have emerged on the deft behind-the-scenes moves that made the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) to withdraw its October 1 deadline to Igbo to quit the North on Thursday.
A source privy to the development said the northern youths agreed to drop the quit notice after a series of peace talks initiated by the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema in conjunction with the leader of Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), Mohammed Danjuma and the Northern Governors Forum.
The Air Peace boss, the source added, had also begun talks with the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other self-determination groups in the South East to let peace reign in the country.
The Coalition of Northern Groups, it would be recalled, had issued Igbo in the North a three-month notice elapsing on October 1 to quit the area or face dire consequences.
The youths said the notice, which raised tension in the country, was in response to agitations by IPOB and other South East groups for the creation of Biafra.
A source, however, said immediately the notice was issued, Onyema reached out to the leader of Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), Mohammed Danjuma to open peace talks with CNG.
Onyema’s non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) and Danjuma’s Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI), it was gathered, agreed to broker peace on the platform of New Nigeria Project (NNP).
Insiders said Onyema, who helped in brokering peace between the Federal Government and militants in the Niger Delta, was already planning a series of peace programmes for the different youth groups agitating in the North, South East and other parts of the country.
Leaders of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) would also participate in the series of non-violence training, it was learnt.
The training programmes, it was gathered, would involve American experts from the University of Rhode Island Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA .
Sources said Onyema’s peace engagements with Northern youths started on July 17 at the Newton Park Hotel in Abuja.
The talks involving representatives of CNG led by its spokesman, Abdulazeez Suleiman, IPOB, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) eventually recorded a breakthrough on Thursday when the Northern youths agreed to revoke their quit notice to Igbo in the North.
“We met for several hours. Chief Allen Onyema and Alhaji Danjuma Mohammed addressed us. It was a very warm meeting that served as an eye-opener on the need for peaceful co-existence.
“Several other persons from our end, NYCN, NANS, CAN, and IPOB spoke and laid their cards on the table.
“It was after that meeting that we agreed to rescind the (quit) order, even though the information was communicated after a chain of successive meetings,” a CNG source said.
The source added: “We were particularly impressed with the patriotism of Chief Onyema, who committed tremendous time, human and material resources to making the meeting a huge success.
His decision to single-handedly fly all participants at the meeting free of cost and the offer to train over 50 members of ours in the United States were one gesture which we at CNG could not but take notice of.
His kindness contributed over 90 per cent to our resolve to revoke the order,” he disclosed.
The source alleged that some highly placed persons attempted to exploit the crisis to achieve their selfish goals, accounting for the intrigues that preceded the announcement of the withdrawal of the quit notice to Igbo in the North on Thursday.
“The Thursday press conference”, the CNG source said, “began about three hours behind schedule. We were under tremendous pressure from several quarters.
“There were those who wanted to gain political traction from it. There were those who sought to break our ranks. There were yet others who didn’t want us to withdraw the order, who felt we should spell certain conditions, which was a betrayal of our deal with the New Nigeria Project.”
The source, however, thanked the Governor of Borno State and Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Kashim Shettima for intervening in the peace talks to save it from collapsing.
Meanwhile, Shettima has commended the Air Peace boss for his role in the withdrawal of the quit notice to Igbo in the North.
Speaking during the press briefing to announce the withdrawal of the quit notice to Igbo in the North on Thursday, the governor confirmed that Onyema worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the peace project.