For the governors of the South East and South-South geo political zones of the country, their perceived marginalisation in the scheme of things in the Nigerian Federation informed the coming together of the leaders of the two regions to find solutions to their common problems.
Their meeting which was held recently at Nike lake Resort, Enugu ,was the first of its kind in the history of the country, especially since the return from long military to civilian rule on May 29, 1999 .The meeting was attended by nine governors that make up the two geopolitical zones.
Giving reasons for the reunion of both zones which were formerly under the Eastern Region of the country, host governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, stated that the challenges they face since their political delineation some years ago were similar, stressing that little or no effort had been put in place to improve on their situation by successive governments.
Ugwuanyi who lamented the deficit in infrastructures in the two zones, stressed that their leaders must come together to seek ways of addressing them to the benefit of their people.
He said: “What God has joined together not even the River Niger or delineation for administrative convenience will put us asunder. We are essentially one people, one brotherhood, one friendship. We also have common challenges and believe that this meeting will fundamentally help us to understand ourselves better and rekindle the spirit of brotherhood, strengthen ties and cooperation with common vision and agenda for the economic and political development of the regions.
“The cardinal essence of government is the welfare of the people. We are better together. Exactly one week ago, the South East caucus of the National Assembly, led by the traditional rulers and delegates met in Enugu to review the state of the nation especially the agitations in the land. We agreed to a united and restructured Nigeria where peace, love, equity and equality of opportunities are paramount, regardless of identity, ethnicity, gender and political affiliation.”
They also condemned all hate speeches emanating from any part of the nation and sued for peace.
“They recalled the earlier call on the federal government as it concerns the 2014 National conference. Importantly also, it is against this backdrop that the meeting of South-east and South-south becomes quite essential.
They said both regions are joined by history, geography and brotherhood but also by challenges. I believe that a sustained South-East and South-South consultation will foster the much needed inter regional cooperation which will accelerate competitive development, thoughtfulness, economic prosperity, industry, socio-political harmony.
“Even the Bible teaches that two heads are better than one. So in working together we have a chance of addressing socio-economic challenges facing the regions.
“Today it is difficult to travel from Enugu to Port Harcourt on roads in the regions. Currently about five percent of power generation on the national grid is allocated to the South-East, and in the same manner they cannot also fly from the South-East or South-South to other regions, but must fly to Abuja to get connecting flight to any of the regions unless you can afford chattered flight.
We have poor socio-economic infrastructures and the tourism sector is under developed in the South-East and South-South, while we lack industrial clusters.”
He said the cooperation of the two zones would bring about solutions to some of the problems facing their people, even as he called on the governors to support the idea.
The meeting was attended by Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Udom Emmanuel (AkwaIbom); Ben Ayade (Cross River); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); David Umahi (Ebonyi); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); host governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and Deputy governors of Anambra state. Edo and Delta State governors were absent.In a related development, South-East governors had on 1st July, held a meeting that included members of the National Assembly, leadership of Igbo socio-cultural organition, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and select Igbo Leaders of Thought where far reaching decisions were reached.
At the end of the meeting, a communiqué was issued where Ndigbo totally expressed its support for a united Nigeria where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity of opportunity will be paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation.
“The communiqué read: “That we condemn all hate speeches and conduct emanating from any segment of Nigeria. Those Igbo leaders lend their full support to the restructuring of the federal Republic of Nigeria on the basis of fairness and equity.
“We therefore, call on the Federal Government and all Nigerian leaders to commence a process of dialogue among Nigerians on the modalities of achieving this pressing question within a reasonable time frame.
“That Ndigbo support the Report of the National Conference of 2014 and urge the Federal Government to set up structures that will enable the implementation of same within a reasonable time. That the South-East governors, members of the National Assembly from the zone and the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo should henceforth constitute the official organs that will speak on behalf of Ndigbo on political matters.”
The communiqué added: “That the South-East leaders in consultation with leaders from other part of the country will engage the Federal Government on all areas of concern to Ndigbo and to Nigeria as a whole.
The absence of Igbo political appointees serving in the present administration, including ministers from the zone such as Dr. Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (Science and Technology), Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs), Okechukwu Enelamah (Trade and Investment), Prof. Anthony Anwuka (state for Education) and the Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Sir Osita Okechukwu, raised concern in some quarters.
It was not clear whether invitation was extended to them or not as Governor David Umahi and chairman of south-East governors’ forum, did not take question from newsmen after reading the communiqué.
But the governors of the South-East who were in attendance. They included the host, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi(Enugu),Rochas Okorocha (Imo),Willie Obiano (Anambra) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) had earlier met at Government House Enugu to harmonise their position before moving to the Nike Lake Resort, Enugu for the extended stakeholders’ meeting.
In his opening remarks, Governor Umahi stated that individually and as a forum, they have been deliberating on burning national issues both on regional and national levels, especially as they relate to Ndigbo, but now felt it was necessary to expand the scope of the meeting.
He said that as leaders, they must discuss how best to tackle escalating challenges of security, development, welfare of both workers and the general population, youth restiveness, the unity of Nigeria, unemployment, stagnant economy and Igbo culture, that was in a painful state of flux.
Apart from the governors, other dignitaries in attendance were Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other members of the National Assembly from the zone; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo; former senate presidents, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani; former chief of General staff, Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd); former Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, religious leaders and traditional rulers.
But, in swift reaction to the resolutions of the meeting, one of the pro-Biafran groups, movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) rejected the position of Igbo leaders, insisting that it was either referendum to determine the status of Biafra Republic or nothing. The group also distanced itself from any call for restructuring.
MASSOB, in a statement by its spokesman, Comrade Uchenna Madu, said it had severally insisted that it was not interested in restructuring because the foundation and intention of establishing Nigeria as a state does not favour such exercise.
It said: “The British sponsored northern domination of Nigeria political and military lives of the country can never allow restructuring, which will favour Northern Nigeria. There is no shortcut to our aspirations of achieving Biafra sovereignty; we cannot support restructuring or Igbo presidency. We believe in outright self-determination for Biafra independence from this British yoke entity called Nigeria.”
Prior to MASSOB position, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, had also insisted that it will not comporomise on its stand on Biafra. He went as far as calling for a boycott of the November governorship election in Anambra state. The call has, however, drawn some flaks against him.
Despite the challenges posed by youths and other Biafra agitators, many observers are commending the new leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Nwodo for his stabilizing role in the zone, especially the recent inauguration of 100-man Strategy and Planning Committee to articulate a political and economic development partway for Ndigbo.
The South-East Governors Forum, which before now appeared to have fallen into deep slumber has equally been revived with the election of Governor Umahi as its Chairman. The forum lending its voice on issues that affect the region.
It is hoped that with the determined effort of both platforms and a little more coordination and corporation with the business class, the academia, and diaspora Igbo, the South-East would bounce back to pre-civil war reckoning and the expected economic and political prosperity would douse the ranging quest for Biafra.
Leader of the Indigenous people of Biafra(IPOB)and the Biafra people National council(BPNC), Nnamdi Kanu, had recently revealed that he was not aware of any pact or agreement which the Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, Chief John Nwodo, said he allegedly had with the group.
Nwodo had accused IPOB leader of breaking an oath/agreement with the organisation by calling for a boycott of the governorship election coming up later in the year in Anambra state. He also alleged that as long as Biafra was not yet actualised as sovereignty state, the people should be allowed to participate in politics of Nigeria
MASSOB also tackled the South-East governors and the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for throwing their weight behind Nigeria’s restructuring. In a statement issued by MASSOB Director of information, Comrade Edeson Samuel, said the meeting of the south-East leaders in Enugu where they took a decision to remain in Nigeria on behalf of the entire Igbos, did not receive the endorsement of over 50 million Igbos.