GOVERNORS of the five states of South East have appealed to the youths of the zone agitating over the alleged marginalization of the area by the Federal Government to come up with their demands and give them (governors) six months to dialogue with the federal government with a view to resolving their grievances.
The governors have also pleaded with the angry youths of the zone to sheathe their swords and stop attacking police stations, lamenting that over 95 percent of police officers killed by the unknown gun men were people from southeast.
Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi, disclosed this yesterday while featuring on the Presidential Ministerial Press Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja.
He pointed out that past governments failed to properly deal with the issue of marginalization, giving rise to the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and later, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
But he assured that the region will not secede from the country.
According to him, “Let me say that I am very delighted to be here, to interact with you on key burning national issues especially as they concern South East and also my state (Ebonyi) in particular. Let me start with security at the level of South East. The security situation in the South East is a mixture of realities, fake news and war propaganda.
“But do we have insecurity in the South East? Yes we do. And when we look at the IPOB in total isolation, the issue of agitation started with Ralph Uwazuruike and of course, even before Uwazuruike our late Odimegwu Ojukwu, war was fought in this regard and it was declared at the level of national governments of no victor, no vanquish.
“I think after some years, Uwazuruike came up with MASSOB and started with a couple of agitations and the key background of this agitation, has always been marginalization of the South East, which I had to say in specific terms are in the national civil service where the southeast people are not promoted like their counterparts from other regions; where development is not happening in South East; where appointments are skewed against South East. And it must be on record that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB was a member of that MASSOB, I think he was the second in command.
“But let me place it on record, that MASSOB was there during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and shortly before the end of the regime, Kanu pulled out and formed his own IPOB. IPOB was there during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan. And then they expanded their demands.
“I had intervened by way of holding meeting personally with Kanu in my state and intervened by way of holding meeting with all the commanders and that was before the altercation they had with Kanu at Abia State and we were going to find solutions before things escalated.
“Now, the ESN is also a product of IPOB. You can see how these things are being multiplied but the point remains that from the onset of MASSOB, the then government did not address the matters properly because when your children cry for any reason, you have to find out what is the problem, what are the reasons and you fix it.
“I think those people were so badly ignored and that shouldn’t have been. And so, what is happening today with regard to IPOB in the South East is not a product of this government per se, but it is a product of national governments that didn’t address the matters from the outset.
“ESN is also a child of necessity. We have been living with herders for hundreds of years with minor misunderstandings, you spoil my farm you pay some compensation, I kill your cow, I pay compensation. Nobody was hearing all that, it was an in-house thing. But with the crisis in Libya and some other West African countries, foreign herders with AK 47 infiltrated the entire country and so, you begin to see the foreign herders killing our farmers, raping our women.
“And these foreign herders are in the forests, beyond the control of any state governments and security agencies. And suddenly, the IPOB said look, we have formed Eastern Security Network to protect the farmers. Unfortunately, their abode is in the forest; the abode of the herders is also in the forest, and so what do we expect? A very high level of insecurity within such locations.
“And so, the situation in the South East right now is a situation in which non violent approach of IPOB at the beginning has been hijacked by bandits, by cultists, by criminals. Why do I say this? A lot of violence that happen in South East now, the IPOB people will come and say we are not violent, we are not the people killing the security agents, if you get any of such you have to decisively deal with such people. So it’s very confusing. Who and who are behind this insecurity in South East?
“What I will not deceive myself is to agree with anybody to say that foreign mercenaries have infiltrated southeast. It’s war propaganda. We are the ones killing ourselves; we are the ones burning down our police stations. And so, we don’t deceive ourselves if we want the problem to be solved.
“Are there rightful agitations? Yes? Has it turned violent? Yes, it’s been hijacked and that is the truth about the situation in the South East today. And so, the governors of South East appear to be unpopular with a very small section of the South East. Why? Because we refused to toe their own way of doing things and their way of doing things is war and we don’t want to secede, we want to belong to Nigeria, a fair Nigeria where justice, equity and freedom are the platform upon which we exist as the people and for each of the regions.