• Anyaoku, Ekweremadu canvas restructuring •Buhari, ministers shun South-east summit
Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday in Enugu challenged the people of the South-east zone of the country to desist from further complaints of marginalisation and take their destiny in their own hands.
He insisted that the zone was blessed with enough human and natural resources to pull the people of the area out of the woods.
The former president who spoke at the maiden South -east Economic and Security Summit held at the Government House, Enugu, with the theme: ‘Repositioning the South-east for National Rebirth’, identified individualism as one major problem facing the people of the area, noting that for the Igbo people to effectively achieve their set goals, they must come together and leverage on their unique potentials.
President Muhammadu Buhari and federal ministers from the South-east zone as well as the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who were earlier projected as guests to the event were conspicuously absent and no excuses were made on their behalf fueling insinuations that their keeping away from the all-important summit may not be unconnected with the alleged threat by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to attack the president if he stepped his foot in the region without first releasing their leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
This came as the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, declared that the country could only achieve stability and national development if the federation is restructured to have fewer economically-viable federating units.
Anyaoku said by the time the polity is restructured, there would be no need for the federal government to periodically bailout some of the non-viable states from dire financial conditions.
Also, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, dispelled insinuations in some quarters that he was at war with President Buhari, and therefore frowned at the non-inclusion of his picture in the brochure for the programme by the organisers, apparently in deference to the president’s “body language”.
He however canvassed for the restructuring of the nation’s security and political architecture, noting that the time had come for the country to embrace state and community policing.
The senator also challenged the federal government to show regards for the rule of law by obeying court rulings. He condemned the continued detention of the leader of the IPOB, Kanu, despite court order, urging his release, saying it was totally unacceptable.
Ekweremadu said no matter Kanu’s offence, he should be allowed to have his day in open court, stressing that “if the court says he should be released, it has to be done immediately.”
Obasanjo who was the special guest of honour at the event which attracted notable Igbo leaders, including former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme; Governors of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu; Ebonyi, Dave Umahi; Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Anambra, Willie Obiano, who was represented by his Deputy, Nkem Okeke; former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji; President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Gary Igariwey; Senators Uche Ekwunife, Sam Egwu, Nkechi Nwaogu, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd) and Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo among others, said Ndigbo must come together if they must make any headway.
“The people of the South-east are extremely unique, and time has come for you to use your uniqueness to your advantage. It’s often said that if you want to walk faster, you walk alone but if you want to walk a long distance, walk together. If you have been walking alone, it’s time to stop it if you must go far. You have virtually everything you need in your area. You have land aside the enormous human resources that are enterprising and entrepreneurial. What you have has become so legendary that people are looking for it,” he said.
On the main focus of the summit which are economy and security, the former president said he did not need to be applauded for encouraging the South-east governors to come up with the summit, explaining that if he could go to Maiduguri in the heat of the Boko Haram onslaught, there was nothing he could not do for people of other areas.
He said the importance of security in our national live could not be over-emphasised since security itself was not divisible. According to him, if there is no security in any part of the country, it simply meant there is no security in the country.
Obasanjo who spoke on the topic ‘Sustainable Development-Zero hunger’, said if the leaders of the Southeast could effectively embrace agriculture, considering their comparative advantage in the sector ahead of other zones, the area could well become the food basket of the nation.
Also speaking, Anyaoku who expressed regrets over the absence of President Buhari at the event, as it would have afforded the people of the area the opportunity of presenting their challenges directly to the president, however said the outcome of the summit would be taken to the president.
He said the SEESS was a non-partisan and non-governmental initiative with a commitment to the economic and security wellbeing of the people of the South-east zone.
On his part, Ekweremadu said the need to decentralise the police had become imperative as according to him, 350, 000 policemen could no longer effectively police 170 million people, adding also that the nation equally needs to be restructured in order to allow the zones to develop at their own pace.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has said its threat to President Muhammadu Buhari not to attend yesterday’s South-east Economic Summit in Enugu State was responsible for his absence.
In a statement made available to THISDAY which was signed by its Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the group commended the “people of Biafra over their supports towards stopping the President Buhari from attending the economic summit in Enugu.”
Part of the statement noted that “we thank everybody who participated in making this effort a reality.”
The statement said the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and other leaders had drafted 2,020 men to Enugu who were ready to die with the president in Enugu if he had attended the occasion.
It said: “We thank Chukwu Okike Abiama because the federal government would have seen what they have not seen before, because we are Biafrans not Nigeria, and we know why we choose non-violent approach towards this noble cause, but it is not out of fear.”
The group warned Nigeria government and President Buhari to release Kanu and other members of the group in detention and also investigate the Amnesty International reports which indicted the security agencies in Nigeria.