After four hours of a closed-door meeting yesterday at the Enugu Government House, the governors of the south-east zone could not convince the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to drop his agitation for Biafra Republic.
It was also learnt that the meeting failed to stop Kanu’s threat over the planned November 18 governorship election in Anambra State.
The governors were said to have invited Kanu to discuss issues bordering on the said violation of his bail conditions for which the Federal Government has asked an Abuja High court to issue an order to re-arrest him.
Also on the agenda of the meeting was the Biafra Secret Service (BSS), which he was said to have inaugurated at Umuahia, Abia State and has been described as unlawful by the police.
At the meeting attended by constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze and Deputy Secretary General, Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT), Mr. Elliot Uko, Kanu was said to have “remained hell-bent” on having the republic of Biafra.
The IPOB leader was said to have told the governors that the BSS was not “a terror group and does not bear weapons but was formed to monitor Igbo returning from the northern part of the country in the event of the expiration of the October 1 deadline of the quit notice issued to Ndigbo by the Arewa youths.”
However, Ebonyi State governor and Chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi has said that the governors would further dialogue with the leadership of IPOB on their demands and the way forward.
In a one-paragraph statement he read after the meeting, Umahi said: “The meeting agreed that these demands by IPOB should not be absolute, rather the south-east governors shall immediately engage Nnamdi Kanu and the entire leadership of IPOB to further meetings and dialogue with a view to quickening the resolutions of all issues amicably.”
Also at the meeting were Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke. Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) were said to be out of the country on official engagements.
The governors had resumed their meeting after Kanu and his group left the Government House. The meeting had not ended as at the time of filing this report.
While this meeting was on in Enugu, Arewa leaders yesterday were calling on the south-eastern governors and Ndigbo leaders to prevail on those agitating for the creation of a Biafran State, particularly Kanu to desist from such a campaign and respect the sovereignty of Nigeria.
The leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) lamented the agitation by Kanu in a message to usher in the Sallah celebration, saying that the south-east governors should emulate their counterparts in the north by calling the IPOB leader and supporters to order.
In a statement, the National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, said “in the spirit of the season, therefore, we urge all Nigerians to avoid hate speeches and acts that are capable of jeopardising our peaceful coexistence as a nation. In this regard, ACF particularly calls upon our respected governors of the south eastern states and Ndigbo leaders to emulate their northern counterparts and prevail on the IPOB agitators to respect the sovereignty of Nigeria”.
The Arewa leaders pointed out that “we all have grievances, but they can best be addressed through dialogue and negotiation, not by violent agitations, threats and intimidation to lives and property.”
But faulting the move by the presidency to re-arrest Kanu, former military governor of Kaduna State and civil society activist, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd) said that any attempt to carry out the order would be politically suicidal for the nation.
Umar, the Chairman of the Movement for Unity and Progress (MUP) also pointed out yesterday that Kanu is not a common criminal as the Federal Government appears to think, rather he is a bitter Nigerian fighting for a fairer deal for his Igbo kinsmen.
In a statement issued in Kaduna and titled “Do Not Arrest Nnamdi Kanu Please” Umar explained that the IPOB leader “seeming militant in approach is the result of the strong arm tactics with which the Federal Government deals with him. His long incarceration before a court granted him bail testifies to this.”
According to Umar, “reports in the media indicate that the Federal Government has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail granted Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and have him rearrested”, warning that “these are both dangerous and politically unwise.”
Umar argued that “like Kanu, many Igbo genuinely feel marginalised since they belong to the category of those who gave Mr. President only 5 percent of their votes and appeared to have fallen out of his favour.
“President Buhari’s insistence that the unity of Nigeria is a settled issue is a nationalistic wish and is no surprise coming from a veteran of the civil war who fought to keep the country one. However, this does not take into account the mood of the nation as indicated by the growing agitations for self-determination, restructuring and many other similar demands.
“If indeed the president is able to ignore and silence those agitators, it will be a case of suspended animation. All indications are that Nigeria has become so polarised that it requires a strong personality like General Buhari to sustain its fragile unity. Needless to say that this does not bode well for the survival of the nation.”
Quoting from the teachings of Sheikh Usman Danfadio, the former Kaduna governor remarked that “One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favour to one group of people rather than another, and to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those that should be drawn near.”
Meanwhile, pro-Buhari groups have alleged that secessionist call by IPOB and the clamour for resource control by militants in the Niger Delta are a ploy to distract his administration.
The groups noted that the country’s domestic challenges which are not limited to infrastructural deficiencies, insecurity, and corruption by public office holders are being tackled by the president from their roots.
The Chairman of Rivers State coalition of non-governmental and community-based organisations in collaboration with the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Boma Tella, stated these at the end of a meeting held in Port Harcourt yesterday.
Tella explained that President Buhari, from available figures, has been working hard to provide good governance and exemplary leadership to the good people of Nigeria despite the legions of challenges and distractions such as the secessionist call by IPOB and the agitation for resource control by militant groups in the Niger Delta .
The groups and the state APC condemned the unwarranted, unjustified and illegal quit notices issued by the Arewa youths and politically sponsored Niger Delta militant groups. According to them, hate speeches are being sponsored and engineered by persons facing corruption charges and political jobbers within and without Nigeria.