By Vincent Kalu, Oluseye Ojo and Chukwudi Nweje
A proposed plan by the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS) to hold a one million-man march at the United Nations in New York, United States next month during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 76th session seems to have divided Southern and Middle Belt groups, investigations by Saturday Sun has revealed.
NINAS spokesman, Maxwell Adeleye had earlier in the week announced the proposed march, saying it will be led by NINAS’ chairman, Prof Banji Akintoye among other leaders of the group.
The march, scheduled for between September 14 and 21 2021, is to protest the socio-political conditions in Nigeria. Among the demands of the group are a referendum on self-determination and abolition of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
But some of the groups have stated that they are not aware of any planned protest.
Middle Belt Forum National Publicity Secretary, Dr Dogo Isuwa, told Saturday Sun in a telephone interview that his group did not participate in any meeting where a decision to hold such a protest march was discussed or taken.
He also said the author of the statement in question is not known to the MBF, neither is the person or his principal the Yoruba leader.
He said: “If you look at it, the person that was talking, it’s Chief Akintoye, not Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere. There are also no known leaders of Southern Nigeria mentioned in the statement. So, who did they meet? They did not mention the leader of the South South, Chief Edwin Clark. They did not mention Afenifere leader, Chief Adebanjo, they did not mention Dr Bitrus Pogn, president of MBF. The person that signed the statement also signed on behalf of Akintoye, who is not leader of Afenifere. He is unknown to us, I’ve not heard of him before. If any such thing will take place, they would have called me. So I can’t confirm if any such thing is going to take place.”
Attempts to contact Afenifere last night were unsuccessful, as the group was said to be in a crucial meeting.
Ilana Omo Oodua had in a statement titled, ‘Akintoye, others, lead NINAS one million March to United Nations General Assembly,’ said other prominent leaders of Southern Nigeria, including Prof. Yusuf Turaki; NINAS Secretary-General, Tony Nnadi; former Commissioner for Education in Osun State and National Chairman of Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof. Wale Adeniran, among others will be part of the protest march.
“What will be happening at UNGA is that the members of Ilana Omo Oodua, under the leadership of Emeritus Prof. Banji Akintoye, alongside other members of NINAS from the Lower Niger and Middle Belt of Nigeria will be holding a one million march opposite the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the United States from September 14 to 21, 2021 to demand a referendum to decide on the rights to self-determination of the people who want an end to unitary system of Nigeria, which has been turned into an apartheid state.
“We shall also be demanding the abolition of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria… All the sons and daughters of the Lower Niger (South-East, South-South, South-West and Middle Belt) living in the United States of America are being mobilised to stand up for their indigenous nationalities by participating in the one-week one million march for the liberation of their people,” the statement said.
Meanwhile the spokesman for NINAS, Maxwell Adeleye said the group had begun mobilization in the United States for the proposed march which he said would be the mother of all marches by Nigerians in America.
He admitted that Afenifere, Ohanaeze Middle Belt Forum and some other groups were yet unaware of the planned march but said the group would soon reach out to all necessary stakeholders.
Meanwhile Secretary-General of NINAS, Mr. Tony Nnadi, has said that the group does not need the approval of Afenifere, Ohanaeze, PANDEF and Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for proposed march at the UN.
Nnadi said is a culmination of a 21-year process.
He said: “It is something involving the entire alliance fellowship, talking about the East, West and Middle Belt and all of us who are fed up with Nigeria.
“Whether they come or not, the constitution would go down; the discussions with world stakeholders have happened, whether they come or not, the consciousness with the three blocs not to continue with the madness is in view; whether they come or not, the UN has already sent a rapporteur that came to the conclusion that our constitution is now a danger to the global community.
“ Does it mean that if they don’t come along, the matter will not go to where it is?
“The proclamation has 127 signatories. There is nobody in Afenifere today that can claim to be more Afenifere than Banji Akintoye. Nwodo signed for Ohanaeze, and the group has not come to tell us they are no more with us. So if a few individuals now go round to say otherwise, they are not speaking for Ohanaeze. The presidents-general of all these groups signed the proclamation. So, why will it become a matter of debate whether they are in or not?
“In December last year, when we came out, the heads of all the blocs signed – PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum; Afenifere was having issues at that time, Banji, Akintoye, a confidant of Awolowo signed.
“If anybody thinks that if these groups are not in, then the person is wrong. The machinery is moving; it doesn’t matter who is on the side-lines talking.”
He insisted that the march would take place when the UN is in session.