Report by Kenneth Ofoma
As Political Intrigues Continued To Thicken Across The Country Ahead Of The 2019 General Elections, Which Gradually Draws Near Giving Rise To Different Political Interests, The South East Geo Political Zone Obviously Does Not Want To Be Caught In The Web Of Unpreparedness.
This Had Led To A Gathering Of Major Stakeholders In The Region, Who Looked At How The Economy And Security Of The People Of Igbo Extraction Can Either Force Them To Join The Mainstream Or Fashion A New Strategy That Will Give The People Reckoning In The Next Dispensation. Though Not Originally Slated To Be A Political Forum, The Summit Touched On Key Issues That May Affect The Political Lives Of The Igbos. KENNETH OFOMA Writes On The Parley.
Despite some shortcomings, the recent South East Economic and Security Summit (SEESS) held at the Government House in Enugu had been adjudged a huge start for the people of the South East geo-political zone in terms of charting a new course for socioeconomic and political development of the region, which had for long been wallowing in selfpity and endless cry of marginalisation.
Nothwithstanding the controversy that nearly marred the programme, the event provided a platform for fresh initiatives for Igbo sons and daughters to collaborate with the political leaders of the zone to begin a new development model for the zone blessed with the abundance of human and material resources.
The event lived up to its billing as an intellectual and business concourse with thought-provoking submissions from people like former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was the Special Guest of Honour, a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who chaired the occasion and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was billed to be the Chief Guest of Honour was absent contrary to the massive publicity announcing his attendance and no minister of Igbo extraction was in attendance. Nobody represented the Federal Government at the event which was attended by a galaxy of big players in the political and business arena from the zone.
Though The Presidency had given reasons for the president’s inability to attend, blaming it on the advice of some Igbo stakeholders, some political watchers disagreed with the explanations.
The Presidency had said Buhari was advised to stay away because the event, held on December 22, 2016, was too close to the yuletide celebrations as such would have added to security and logistic pressures causing inconveniences for the people of the zone.
Disputing reasons offered by The Presidency for Buhari’s inability to attend and not sending a representative, some analysts had recalled that pro-Biafra groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), had warned Buhari not to visit the region.
IPOB specifically pointed at the continued incarceration of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is standing trial for treason.
They also said that they were still bearing grudges against the president over the alleged mass killing of people of Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government area of the state by Fulani herdsmen and the killing of late Mrs. Bridget Agbahime in Kano as well as the mass killing of harmless Biafran agitators last June.
Aside from the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and a former governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu, no other serving senator or House of Representatives member from the zone attended the summit which bellies the earlier threat by the leader of the South East caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, that the caucus would boycott the event due to lack of proper commu-nication. Governors of Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia states, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, David Umahi and Okezie Ikpeazu respectively were on hand to support the conveners.
Others in attendance were; the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, who stood in for Willy Obiano; First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi; chairman of Diamond Bank, Chief Pascal Dozie; former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo; former Minister of Power and the convener of the summit, Prof. Barth Nnaji, as well as a host of others. Obasanjo at the event urged Ndigbo to take their destiny in their hands saying; “whatever we can do for ourselves, let us try and do it for ourselves. And of course where we need other people to do for us or to do with us, we get them to do with us”.
He said that it was needless to shower him accolades for helping to facilitate the summit saying that if he could go to Maiduguri at the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency, he should not be eulogised for being a catalyst for the summit.
The former president said the Igbo race is blessed with boundless enterprising human and material recourses and that all the people need was to build a synergy among themselves, especially in the area of economic cooperation among the South East states and the private sector to achieve their desired security and economic development.
He also spoke on sustainable development and achieving zero-hunger in Nigeria by 2025, counselling the summit organisers to set up steering committees.
“All the people that have spoken, particularly the governors, I was very impressed by what you have said and what you are saying that look, we have things that we can do if we are given the instrument to do it. But what I want to say to you is part of the instrument is already with you.
When I was growing up, one of the things we know the people of South East for or many of the things we know them for, let me recount; enterprise, entrepreneurship, communal efforts and communal spirit to take one member of the community and train him, and educate him in the hope that he will come back and influence the development of the community. “With the spirit of adventure, there is no place you go and there is no Igbo man.
There was Papa Okafor in my own village when I was growing up. “Now, those are things that were there, and nobody had taken that away from the people of South East. How can we utilise it, what should we do with it in the area of economy and security?
The symbiotic relationship between security and economy had been highlited by the governors and indeed by the chairman of the occasion and that is true; a state cannot have security if the economic wellbeing of the people is not taken care of, pure and simple.
And if the security of your people is not taken care of, the economic progress of your people will be strictly seriously diminished,” Obasanjo submitted.
Senator Ekweremadu at the occasion called for the immediate release of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, saying that the hallmark of democracy is obedience to the rule of law and respect to fundamental human rights.
“The constitution is clear in Chapter Four on the fundamental human right that is due to every person in Nigeria and one of them is the issue of liberty.
Liberty is something that God gave to us as part of our inalienable right; so it’s something that for you to take away somebody’s liberty, it must be a very extreme circumstance.
So if the court says you should be released from detention, government must do everything to recalspect that, and everybody who is accused of an offence must as a matter of necessity and in good time have his day in court.
“This reminds me of the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu. Whatever his offence, he must have his day in court and if the court said he should be released, he should as well be released,” the Deputy Senate President declared while calling for the restructuring of the economic architecture of Nigeria and creation of state police.
He also wants the inclusion of every part of the nation in governance regretting that there is no Igbo man in the commanding heights of the security architecture in Nigeria today to the extent that they can’t attend security council meeting.
Earlier governors Ugwuanyi, Umahi and Ikpeazu expressed gratitude to Obasanjo for showing interest in South East development and the organisers for bringing the summit together, noting that the summit will lead to regional economic and political integration of the zone for faster development.
They also stressed the need for Federal Government’s intervention in ecological challenges, and infrastructural development of the zone such as roads, seaports and upgrading of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu as well as the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport, Owerri.
They also advocated the speedy completion of the Second Niger Bridge and pleaded for the refund of billions of naira they expended in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the zone.
Anyaoku had earlier called for the restructuring of the country for greater political and economic stability.
“The SEESS recognises that although every part of this country is experiencing one challenge or the other at the moment, the South East zone is more grievously affected in some areas such as the condition of the federal roads in the region.
I admit that all parts of Nigeria are affected by maladies but the maladies affecting this part of Nigeria, the South East zone is in many respects, more grievous and the result of this affliction is the pathetic perception and sense of neglect and non inclusion by the Federal Government.
“I believe that each state of the zone has its own specific area of interest. But suffice it for me to say that it is around the problems of security and infrastructural deficiencies that many other problems of the zone revolve.
For this reason, if the security and infrastructural deficiencies are attended to many of the other challenges; manufacturing, agricultural food production, healthcare, tourism, foreign direct investment, and a host of others will certainly be more easily tackled.
“In this age of growing globalisation, commercial enterprises in many parts of the world are demonstrating the inherent benefits of economy of scale by expanding their reach through mergers and acquisitions.
Coordination of planning and execution of development projects among the five states of the South East zone is therefore both desirable and necessary. And I urge our five state governors to devote greater attention to taking up this challenge”, Anyaoku said.
On his part, the leader of the Summit Organising Committee, Prof Barth Nnaji, summed up the purpose of the gathering, saying it was intended to produce a generic model of regional development in which the people of the region are also very active players, and which is devoid of politics and ethnic colouration.
“Such a plan should address the infrastructural needs of the South East and thus facilitate and enhance economic integration of every sub-region in Nigeria,” he said.