The last may not have been heard about the South-East demand for a shot at Nigeria’s presidency as the leaders of the zone, on Saturday, announced there was no withdrawal of pursuit to producing a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023.
This is also as the leaders told President Muhammadu Buhari that they were saddened with the sidelining of the region in security architecture of the country.
The leaders spoke when the Presidential delegation led by the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, met with South-East governors, members of the National Assembly from South-East, Federal Ministers from the zone, among others, at the Government House, Enugu.
The leaders of various groups in the zone made a series of demands including, the creation of additional states in the South-East geo-political zone in the spirit of equity and Justice as well as urgent construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of all federal roads in the zone, which they lamented, had turned to death traps.
They also asked for equitable representation of the South-East in the security architecture among the five Service Chiefs, Immigration and Inspector General of Police as well as disarming of the killer herdsmen operating with AK-47s in the zone.
Those who took turns to speak included the Obi of Onitsha, HRM Igwe Alfred Achebe, Ohanaeze President, Chief Nnia Nwodo and elder statesman, South-East CAN Chairman, Bishop Goddy Okafor and Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who asked Gambari to tell the President that Ndigbo were not happy.
At the later part of the meeting, the Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum, Engr. David Umahi, presented a communiqué on behalf of the zone.
“We, therefore, with humility, request our President, the father of our nation, to please look into the demands of the various groups of our people, as presented today, review same with a view to solving them,” he stated.
The meeting was also attended by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, their Imo State counterpart, Senator Hope Uzodinma and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke, among other leaders of the zone.
Stressed Umahi: “South East people believe in one Nigeria and this is the reason we are in every part of this country erecting infrastructure, living peacefully with our host communities and doing our businesses”.
The South-East leaders also requested for “a joint operation into all our forests to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK-47” and pledged their commitment to continuous co-existence with herdsmen who have been living peacefully in the zone for years.
Said they: “We pledge to continue to protect all the various ethnic groups living in the South-East. We enjoin them to go about their businesses peacefully. We thank Mr. President, Governors and Traditional Rulers in other parts of Nigeria for their commitment to protect our people, especially during and after the protests. We must continue to live in peace.”
While appreciating President Buhari for sending the powerful delegation, comprising his Chief of Staff, the Inspector General of Police, Director General, Department of State Services, Minister of Information and Ministers from the South-East zone, to visit and hear from the people of the zone, the Igbo leaders maintained that they “stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice”.
“We believe that under this platform, we are bigger and stronger”, they said, pledging their undivided support and love to the President and his administration.
The leaders also thanked President Buhari “for all the great works he is doing at the Second Niger Bridge, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, dualized road of Enugu to Port Harcourt and some other projects in the South East”.
They went further to thank the President for his kind commitment towards the struggle for the emergence of Prof. Okonjo Iweala (our sister) as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, saying: “We are particularly grateful with the way you have engaged the world leaders to see her through the process. May God crown your efforts with success – Amen”.
The Igbo leaders expressed appreciation to “Mr. President’s delegation for carefully listening to, engaging with stakeholders and undertaking to report faithfully to Mr. President for his consideration and necessary action”.
Earlier in his address as the host, Gov. Ugwuanyi welcomed members of the Presidential delegation and South East stakeholders, to the Government House, Enugu.
The governor stated that the strategic dialogue between the Presidential delegation and the expanded meeting of the South East stakeholders was historic and momentous as it presented an uncommon opportunity for deepening the common ideas between the zone and the Presidency, “while setting the agenda and framework for a focused and continuous engagement on matters of common interest”.
Gov. Ugwuanyi therefore reiterated their abiding faith in the Nigeria project and unwavering commitment to a united, peaceful and equitable Nigeria.
Also present at the meeting were the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; the House of Representatives’ Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Toby Okechukwu; Senator Sam Egwu; Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, Amb. Justina Eze; Chief Mrs. Josephine Anenih, representatives of Igbo youths and students, among others.