The apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to release Igbo youths detained by security agencies across the country.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, who stated this on the occasion of the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Owerri, Imo State, also called for the establishment of a zonal and state police apparatus to support and complement the existing federal security architecture.
The group also tackled President Muhammadu Buhari on inclusive governance to address the contentious issue of secession in the southeast.
Among the leaders who attended the southeast stakeholders meeting were President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor; Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; Deputy Governor of Abia State, Ude Chukwu; Chairman, Elders Council, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu; Retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe; former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika; Minister of Steel and Mines, Uche Oga; Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; APC governorship Candidate for Anambra, Senator Andy Uba, among others.
In a town hall meeting with the President, Igbo leaders demanded that the southeast zone should begin participation in the Nigeria project, saying this would go a long way to resolve secession in the region.
According to Obiozor, the security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has become a compelling primary responsibility of serious concern for Ndigbo.
He said: ”Regrettably, our South East Zone has recently become a theatre of conflict, negating the peace-loving nature of our people.
” Mr President, in spite of all the threats of secessionism or separatism facing the country, there is no doubt that no secessionist element can succeed in Nigeria, provided there is good governance based on equity, justice and fairness to all the citizens.
“Ndigbo are committed to Nigerian unity and there is news for those trying to push us out of Nigeria. Ndigbo in Nigeria are like fish in the ocean, no matter how rough the storm is, it cannot drive the fish out of the ocean.
“Your Excellency, the most urgent and imperative need of Ndigbo today is security. The security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has become a compelling primary responsibility of serious concern for Ndigbo. Regrettably, our South East Zone has recently become a theatre of conflict, negating the peace-loving nature of our people.
“However, the South-East zone is in dire need of more infrastructure sponsored by the Federal Government. Amongst these are roads, bridges, railways and ports. It is the considered view of Ohanaeze Ndigbo that federal investments in these critical areas will revitalize the economy and will have the tangential effect of dousing the youth restiveness and unemployment in the zone.
“Mr President, your visit and presence today in Igboland and Owerri, Imo State in particular has more than political significance. In a manner of symbolism, this visit has thrown light into the cloudiness and doubts surrounding the perception of the relation between your government and Ndigbo. Your presence reassures us that there is still reason for optimism for Nigeria and Nigerian unity.
“I feel very pleased in my capacity as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and on behalf of the galaxy of Ndigbo leaders gathered here today, and the entire Igbo Nation, to welcome Your Excellency wholeheartedly to Igboland. It is also our firm belief that this visit will mark the beginning of a new chapter of dialogue, cooperation and understanding between Ndigbo and your administration.
“Mr President, after all, Nigeria has gone through in its nearly sixty years of the chequered history of crises and continuity and the spectacular patriotic role of Ndigbo to ensure its unity and survival, the consistent perception that the Igbos are separatists and secessionists agitators is a historical fallacy.
“Indeed, if the truth must be told, Ndigbo are the most federating unit among all Nigerian citizens. Generally speaking, anywhere in Nigeria, you don’t find the Igbos, run away something is wrong there. Igbos are market people and travel adventurers. Consequently, what defines the Igbo character is the propensity for friendliness and harmonious peaceful coexistence and spirit of the universalism of mankind. This is who we are. Our Igbo adage says “Ojemba Enwe Iro”, literally translated – A traveller makes no enemies.
“Also another misconception of Ndigbo is that Igbos cannot speak with one voice. Ironically, that is another fallacy, there are more things that unite Ndigbo than divide them. But the Igbo spirit defies conditions that are obstacles to the expression of their individual or group opinion. This sense of egalitarianism is what defines the Igbo system of governance based on liberal democracy and social justice.
“Mr President, it is in this context, that we see a new dawn in your distinguished presence in Igboland and believe that on your return to Abuja, the significance and substance of this visit will form a new foundation of a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues of concern to the Igbo Nation.
“Mr President, we appreciate the infrastructural work being undertaken by the Federal Government in the South East such as the 2nd Niger bridge. It symbolizes unity and a bridge across the various regions of the country. However, the South-East zone is in dire need of more infrastructure sponsored by the Federal Government amongst these are roads, bridges, railways and ports. It is the considered view of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, one that is also shared by the Igbo people that federal investments in these critical areas will revitalize the economy and will have the tangential effect of dousing the youth restiveness and unemployment in the zone.
“In conclusion, Mr President, nothing is more important to the Igbos in Nigeria today more than the restoration of a serious sense of belonging and the spirit of Nigeria’s founding fathers based on one nation, one destiny. And we believe this is possible through devolution of power and ensuring a sense of balance in our political system.”
In his response, President Buhari told the leaders of the South East that it was unthinkable for any Igbo man to consider himself not part of Nigeria. He also said that without peace, there was nothing anyone could do, no matter how much the person tried. The President told the people that he would want to be remembered as the President who stabilised Nigeria in the area of security, economic prosperity and triumph over corruption.
The President, who was clothed in the Isi Agu Igbo native attire, was welcomed to Imo State by the chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum and Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi; Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma and other southeast leaders.
Buhari was equally greeted by empty streets as Imo residents and other residents across the southeast stayed back in their homes when he arrived in Owerri to commission some projects in Imo. There were no vehicular movements on the roads, even as banks, filling stations, schools and markets were completely shut down due to the sit-at-home order at the instance of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.IPOB’s sit-at-home order over Buhari’s visit paralyses Onitsha, Nnewi
People who came to the streets with banners to welcome the President were mostly members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and those allegedly paid by the state government to do that so as not to embarrass the governor, Uzodinma.
The President’s visit to Imo State happened at a time the state and parts of the southeast are just recovering from the wave of attacks and killings the zone experienced recently.
Also on a day President Buhari was on a working visit in the southeast, the Federal Government again restated its firm resolve to deal decisively with separatist groups in the southern part of the country, saying it will never abdicate its role in securing the nation.
President Buhari, who spoke at a town hall meeting with South-East leaders during his one-day official visit to Imo State, said with less than two years left in his eight-year tenure as President, security still remains a major priority for his administration.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity quoted Buhari to have said, ‘‘If there is no security, there is nothing anyone can do no matter how much you try or the initiative you have.
‘‘Security is the number one priority and then the economy. When people feel secure, they will mind their own business.”
He told South-East leaders that while fighting corruption in Nigeria had become very sophisticated and difficult, he would continue to strive to leave a lasting legacy of integrity and accountability in the system.
According to him, ‘‘Nobody can accuse me of having companies or mansions anywhere in the country and I thank God that I try to keep myself as clean as possible so that I cannot be taken hostage. I will do my best to ensure that Nigerians that try hard, succeed in their efforts.”
On the forthcoming 2023 elections, the President reaffirmed his commitment to free, fair and credible polls, urging the leaders to honestly educate their constituencies on the need to hold their elected representatives accountable.
He promised that the Federal Government would complete ongoing key projects in the South East, including the 2nd Niger Bridge as well as the railway lines and routes linking the region with other parts of the country.
‘‘I firmly believe that when you get infrastructure right, Nigerians will mind their own businesses,’’ he said, adding that as a group, the Igbos stand to benefit more from the ongoing development of infrastructure in the country because ‘‘they are more enterprising.’’
President Buhari had earlier commissioned four projects executed by Governor Hope Uzodinma, including the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze link road, the Balloon Driven/Flood Control drainage at Dick Tiger Road, the Egbeada Bypass road and the New Exco-Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
Speaking earlier, the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, said: “When I assumed office as governor of Imo State last year, I undertook a holistic study of the needs of our people. I found out to my horror that the infrastructure base of the state had collapsed. Almost all the road networks were broken. Owerri, the state capital was worse hit. Flood had sacked several parts of the city while in some areas, property owners had surrendered their property to flood, especially within the Dick Tiger and Chukwuma Nwoha road axis, where the base of the current Balloon driven tunnel is located.
“Mr President, the state of Naze/ Ihiagwa/ Nekede/Obinze link road, was pathetic, to say the least. The road was taken over by gullies, not potholes. It was nightmarish to the road users. And this is a strategic road that leads to two federal institutions of higher learning, namely the Federal University of Technology, Ihiagwa, and Federal Polytechnic Nekede. The lives of students and staff of these institutions, as well as residents, were endangered because the poor state of the road turned it into a haven for robbers.
“That’s exactly what informed our decision to permanently solve the perennial flooding of the capital city. The Balloon-driven tunnel at the base of Dick Tiger road, which we are commissioning today, was built to check the flooding in the area and recover property swallowed by flood in the last twenty years. The tunnel is 2.45 kilometres in length, 1.8m in diameter and between 0.9 and 11.5m in depth with 94 manholes. It is taking floodwater from Dick Tiger, Chukwuma Nwoha, Ihechiowa, Aladinma, Relief Market roads and parts of Trans Egbu to Otamiri river. We are planning another one from the Akwakuma, Egbeada to the Alvan Ikoku axis of the city. The flood from this second tunnel shall be discharged at Nwaorie river. When this second phase is completed, in the next couple of months, we are confident that Owerri will be flood-free.”
Residents in the southeast showed solidarity to Kanu. Across the five southeast states Aba to Umuahia; Abakaliki to Enugu, Nsukka and the Imo State Capital Territory, Owerri, there was total lockdown.
As early as 6.30 am, the major roads and streets in the southeast were deserted.
Banks and other commercial outfits also obeyed the order, including business and artisans shops on the roads and street also did not operate, making everywhere in the major cities dry. Federal and State Governments establishments, including hospital workers, stayed away from office also in observance of the sit-at-home.
Markets, banks, road and street business outfits were shut down by traders and residents who stayed at home to observed the pro-Biafra group directive.
National Security Adviser NSA, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd) made the vow yesterday in Abuja while speaking at the Third Quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security ICCES.
Represented by Sanusi Galadima, the NSA who is the co-Chairman of ICCES, he assured of the readiness of the government to provide a conducive environment for a hitch-free governorship election in Anambra state come November 6.
He said: “With the prevalence of security threats occasioned by different dissident separatist groups in the Southern region of the country, who are bent on scuttling efforts of government in achieving national cohesion and undermining the democratic processes in the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria will not tolerate any group or persons planning to impede smooth conduct of elections.
“While acknowledging the constitutional rights of citizens to freely express their legitimate grievances within the ambits of the law, it is also important to state that the Federal Government will not abdicate its constitutional responsibility of securing lives and property as well as a secure environment for citizens to pursue their legitimate means of livelihood.
“In furtherance of the coordinating mandate of the ONSA, we are poised to ensure robust deployments before, during and after the polls, with a view to countering any threats and ensuring peaceful conduct of the polls, especially in the forthcoming off-cycle Anambra State Gubernatorial Election”.
Earlier, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who also chairs the ICCES said this year alone, the Commission has conducted eight bye-elections made up of four Federal Constituencies, three State Constituencies and one Councillorship Constituency in the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
“The last by-election was held about four weeks ago in Kaduna State. The next bye-election will be held in Delta State. We look forward to the support of the security agencies to ensure that we deliver yet another credible election for the Isoko South I State Assembly Constituency this weekend”, he stated.
In Anambra, INEC said there are now 5, 720 polling units to which personnel and materials will be delivered.
“Similarly, the number of registered voters has increased because of the CVR. All 18 political parties are fielding candidates in the election. The campaign by parties and their candidates has commenced.
“As you are aware, our State Office in Awka was attacked resulting in extensive damage to the building and the destruction of critical facilities for the election including ballot boxes, voting cubicles, vehicles, power generators and several non-sensitive materials for the election. I am glad to report that we have made arrangements to replace all lost movable materials. Similarly, we are making efforts to rebuild the physical facilities which will be completed before the election.
“For voter accreditation during the Anambra Governorship election, the Commission intends to introduce a new technology called the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which has the capability for both the fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation. Over the last three days, we have explained and demonstrated how the new device will work during our consultative meetings with political parties, civil society organisations and the media”, Yakubu added.