Boko Haram, ACF And Igbo Exodus From The North: Implications For Nigeria —Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema


Recently I read the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) ‘s response to the massive Igbo exodus from Northern Nigeria in the wake of the Boko Haram bombings and was shocked to the bone marrow. When I got a grip on my emotions and perused ACF ‘s comments they got me thinking.

Permit me to quote ACF ‘s comments as published in the February 2 2012 edition of P.M. newspaper: ‘’ A political pressure group based in Northern Nigeria, Arewa Consultative Forum, has justified the 2 January Boko Haram order issued to southerners residing in the north to leave or be attacked by the dreaded group.

‘ACF last Wednesday at a press conference in Kaduna at the Sokoto Road ACF headquarters said those blaming Boko Haram for issuing the order were unfair, when in the first place the southerners were the first to issue such orders that northerners should leave the south.

“Though ACF chairman, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, said the group is not supporting Boko Haram for issuing such order, he said there was need to properly understand that the southerners started first before Boko Haram retaliated.

“On his reaction concerning the large number of Igbo leaving the north, Mohammed claimed they as northern leaders have not asked the Igbos to leave, but later said the Igbos can go if they want to go.”

Related News

To the best of my knowledge Boko Haram did not begin as a Southern phenomenon. Since the group’s bloody campaign began in 2009, Southern Nigerians in the North have borne the brunt of its attacks. What measures have the ACF taken to end the mayhem? ACF commands a lot of influence in Northern, indeed Nigerian, politics. If their mandate is protecting Northern interests in a pan-Nigerian setting should they tacitly endorse a terrorist group? That is how I read their response, in spite of their claim not to back the group. In a dicey situation like the one facing Nigeria, comments by groups like ACF, Ohaneze, Odua People’s Congress and prominent leaders of thought must be weighed before utterance.

ACF accuses Southerners of starting the return-to -your-homes orders. All honest people watching developments in Nigeria since 2010 will recollect that it was the upsurge in Boko Haram operations in the North that angered extreme militants across the Niger to ask Northerners to leave the Niger Delta as reprisals would come. The attack on a Sapele Arabic school came after the Madalla church bombing. Maybe if the ACF and other powers that be in the North compelled Boko Haram to cease their orgy of blood such orders would not have been issued. I am not justifying bloodshed. Every life is precious. But comparatively, Boko Haram has been much bloodier in effecting their threats.

If ACF does not care about the massive Igbo exodus from the North then the basis of Nigeria’s corporate existence must be reexamined. Northern leaders need not adopt a formal policy document kicking out their Southern compatriots before honest people know their stand. I concede that the Federal Government should take the issue of security nationwide seriously, protecting all Nigerians wherever they live. But Jonathan and his men cannot do much if groups like ACF do not key into the efforts by openly standing against terrorism and reassuring their non-Northern compatriots that their presence is not offensive. The road to the Nigerian civil war was built when the Northern establishment took an ambivalent position on the July-October 1966 massacres of Eastern Nigerians.

•Onyema is a Lagos-based writer and historian. Email: [email protected]

Load more