Amidst a renewed agitation by pro-Biafra protesters across the South east and South south parts of the country with the subsequent clamp down on them by the Federal Government, a former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmad Sani Yerima, has said that the Biafra agitators were on a legitimate struggle for self determination.
The former governor, now a Senator, told newsmen that consequently, the federal government and the security agencies must allow them to exercise their fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Yerima, a politician known for his radical views on national issues, cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigeria Armed Forces against the use of force on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Survival of the Sovereign State of Biafra ( MASSOB), saying the groups were on a legitimate struggle for self-determination and should be allowed to exercise their fundamental rights.
He disagreed with President Buhari and the top echelon of the Nigeria Armed Forces on the handling of the renewed agitation by the groups to revive the defunct Republic of Biafra saying they should be more matured and accommodating in a democracy.
Yarima, who was speaking in Abuja said it was wrong for people to classify the agitators who have been campaigning for the revival of the defunct Republic of Biafra as secessionist because they have legitimate rights under the Nigerian Constitution to express their views on any issue.
He said that rather than treat the agitators as rebels who must be forced to either remain in Nigeria or be crushed, the Federal Government should find out why the agitation has been growing by the day.
In recent weeks, there have been a series of public demonstrations across the five states of the South-East geo- political zone as well as spreading into Delta and Rivers states in the South- South geo- political zone. In the wake of the mass rallies, President Buhari had warned the groups that he would not tolerate actions that could lead to the dismemberment of the country.
On the strength of that pronouncement, the Nigeria Armed Forces has also issued warnings to the agitators to bury their dreams of having a separate country or be prepared to face the full weight of the military. But Yarima argued that though he believed in the unity of Nigeria, the agitators should be allowed to express their views freely.
According to him, there should be no compulsion in a democracy and the Indigenous People of Biafra must not be compelled to belong to Nigeria. He said that rather than use force to subdue the agitators, the Federal Government could hold a referendum in the region to ascertain if it is the wish of the majority of the people to pull out of Nigeria and form a new country.
“These are people that want self determination. They believe that they are homogeneous in terms of tribe, language and culture and they want to live together and have their own community.
“In the end, you see, this is politics. I don’t believe in using force to make them succumb, submit or follow Nigeria and to stay in Nigeria”, he stressed.
It would be recalled that the Nigeria Army relying on the military Rule of Engagement for internal security operations, recently warned the pro- Biafra agitators to desist from holding rallies in different towns and cities as the military had powers under the constitution to suppress any act insurrection or civil disobedience.
Following allegations of killings of Igbo in some parts of the north, Nigeria went to war in 1967 when the then Military Governor of the defunct Eastern Region, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the birth of Republic of Biafra from Nigeria. The war raged for 30 months leaving deaths and destruction in its wake before the secessionists surrendered.