This came as the South East Governors Forum, SEGF, summoned an emergency meeting of Igbo leaders to discuss the persisting protests by members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which have paralysed economic activities in the old Eastern region.
In a 10-point communique issued at Uyo at the end of a meeting held under the auspices of the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the South-South at Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, chaired by HRM, Obong (Dr) EU Ekidem, Ntisong Ibibio III, the Ntisong of Ibibio land, they dissociated the South-South zone from the “so-called Biafra.”
Representatives of Ibibio, Efik, Anang, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ikwerre, Oro, Isoko and several other nationalities attended the summit. Among them were the interim chair of the group, HRM Ekidem, Convener of the meeting and Secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, Delta state, Barrister Edward Ekpoko, Albert Akpomudje, SAN (Urhobo) and president general of Ogbakor- Ikwerre in Rivers state, Prof A.M Onyeozu.
Pastor Nelson CocoBassey (Efik ethnic nationality), Ulap Bidiak Uloh (Oro ethnic nationality), Amechi Ogbonnia (Itsekiri), Obong Ukpong Umoh and Obong Aniedi Ndem were at the conference and signed the communique.
The South South nationalities said, “We will not allow any inch of the land of the ethnic nationalities mentioned above and other lands of the South-South to be part of the ill-thought-out enterprise.
“We call for a halt to demonstrations for Biafra on our land henceforth as it touches on the collective sensibilities of our people and could provoke ethnic crisis.
“We are not only surprised but shocked that Igbos who returned to Nigeria after the fall of Biafra in January 15, 1970 with tales of woes and horrors can talk about Biafra.”
They added: “It is in the interest of Igbos that Nigeria is protected as they have more investments outside their homeland.”
The Conference called on governors, political leaders and traditional rulers of the South-East geopolitical zone to “speak out now as their silence is becoming eloquent.” Furthermore, the South-South ethnic nationalities urged “well-meaning Igbos to call their children/wards to order to prevent an avoidable crisis.”
“We call on the law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant.
“We believe in one Nigeria and will do all within our power to protect the unity of Nigeria,” they stated.
A call for peace
The South East Governors’ position was contained in a communique issued after a meeting of the governors in Enugu yesterday. The communique read by the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha after the meeting at the Government House Enugu in the evening said.
“The South East Governors met today (yesterday) November 17, 2015, and deliberated on a number of issues and resolved as follows:
“To appoint a high level Economic Advisory Committee to harness the economic potentials of the people of the South East working together.
“The governors are concerned about the poor state of the Federal Government roads in the zone namely the Enugu – Onitsha, Aba- Ikot Ekpene , Owerri – Port Harcourt, Enugu – Port Harcourt, among others which need urgent intervention by the Federal Government.
“On security, the issue of MASSOB/ IPOB, was discussed and they resolved to consult widely with Ohanaeze (Ndigbo), traditional rulers, development unions, clergy, and other stakeholders on how to ensure lasting peace in the zone. In furtherance to this, the South East Governors scheduled an emergency meeting of stakeholders on Sunday, November 22, 2015, at Enugu. “Expected to attend the emergency meeting include all National Assembly members, all ministers and other invited stakeholders from the zone.
“They meanwhile, advised MASSOB/IPOB to continue to toe the line of peace as this is the only way to ensure economic development of the zone.”
Those who signed the communique included Governors Okorocha, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke, who stood in for Governor Willie Obiano. The Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi who lost his mother recently was absent at the meeting and no reasons were given for his absence.
Answering reporters’ questions on which faction of Ohanaeze the governors wished to work with, in view of the disunity within the group, Okorocha said that “whatever is available as Ohanaeze, we will see to it” that they participate.
He said also, said that there was no vacuum in the leadership of the governors’ forum as any of them could be chairman. The forum has not had a substantive chairman since the exit of the former Governor of Abia State, Ochendo Theodore Oji, who is now in the senate.
Itsekiri, Warri territories not Biafra—INYC
In tandem with the communiqué issued in Uyo, President of the Itsekiri National Youth Congress, INYC, Esimaje Awani in a statement in Warri, Delta State, yesterday, warned that “Itsekiri and its territories should not be included in any IPOB or Biafran plan.”
He stated that Itsekiri were an indigenous ethnic group of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region of Delta State presently resident in the Warri South, Warri North and Warri South West Local Government Areas bordering the Atlantic Coast of Nigeria as their homeland with their only neighbours being the Bini to the North, the Ijaw to the South, the Urhobo to the East and the Yoruba of Ondo State to the Northwest.
Awani noted that from about 1490 – 1884, the Itsekiri had an independent political kingdom known as Warri Kingdom that was not subordinate to any of the World Powers in Europe or any African Kingdom, adding that it was in 1894 when the Niger Coast Protectorate was established that it came under the protection of Her Britannic Majesty vide the Treaty of 1884.
According to him, by another Treaty of 1894, the Itsekiri remained under the British until the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was created and in 1914, without consultation with the Itsekiri people, Lord Lugard decreed Nigeria into existence and made Warri Kingdom (Itsekiri homeland) part of this enterprise.
He said by the map of The Republic of Biafra of May 1967, Edo and Delta states of Nigeria was never envisioned as a part of Biafra by the legendary Chukwuemeka Dim Ojukwu, saying that the current inclusion of present Delta State, including the Itsekiri National territories of Warri Kingdom without due consultation is preposterous, totally unacceptable and ultimately invalid.
“IPOB and Biafra have their rights of agitation for freedom of self determination as enshrined in the United Nations declaration, but other minority ethnic groups not duly consulted and their approval secured should not be dragged along to avoid the mistake that led to the civil war.
“The magnanimity of Itsekiri in allowing Igbos celebrate the Igbo Cultural Day in our land should not be taken for granted as we urge IPOB to de-list Itsekiri territories and Warri areas from its proposed map,” he said.
Spurred by President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on the indivisibility of Nigeria,a faction of MASSOB,yesterday, asserted that the people of Eastern Nigeria are bent on secession.
MASSOB frowned at the skewed structural existence of Nigeria insisting that it favoured no ethnic group rather the ‘cabals’.
Factional Director of Information,MASSOB,Mr. Uchenna Madu disclosed this in a statement to newsmen noting that,”Nigeria in the real existence favours no ethnic group but only the cabals,politicians,high profile personalities. Biafranism is deeply rooted in consciousness of every Igboman and major ethnic groups in the South-South geopolitical zone.
“The Biafran referendum that will be conducted by the United Nations,UN,will testify to our popularity and acceptance by Biafrans. We view the Nigerian Army’s decision to hit Biafran protesters as a rancour of jittery and dislocated institution. “Non-violent Biafra agitators are very much disappointed and amazed that the Nigerian military will descend so low in threatening the non violent Biafra agitators. The military should not heat up the polity. The threat from the Army is a wrong signal to Nigeria because the current Biafra is heavily rooted outside Nigeria. We shall remain non-violent in our pursuit for Biafra.”
MASSOB went further to describe Buhari’s second coming as a vendetta mission, and he has not hidden it from the way he is marginalizing the South East .
“As the President of Nigeria, he can never openly agree that there is something wrong with the unity of Nigeria, but in his mind and in the mind of his people, oneness of Nigeria is now a thing of the past and President Buhari himself is promoting division with his recent appointments and the ones he did some months ago.
“In the last six months of President Buhari’s administration, he has not hidden his hatred for the South East. Even his northern brothers are supporting him and have refused to call him to order over, the type of marginalization the South East has been witnessing in the past six months of his administration or thereabouts.
“President Buhari is not pretending about it, and his Northern brothers are equally not pretending, if they have a way of exterminating or wiping the South East out of Nigeria, they will do that, but it is not going to be easy for them, and so they should stop deceiving Nigerians that they stand for oneness of Nigeria, they are not at all interested in one Nigeria” he said.
Negotiating Kanu’s release
Meantime, the youth wing of the Igbo apex socio-cultural group, Ohaneze Youth Council [OYC] has said that it would convene a meeting of Igbo youths stakeholders next Tuesday in Enugu to seek solution to the wave of protests in South East and parts of South South by pro-Biafran groups.
Meanwhile, the Council has urged President Buhari to ignore those urging him to declare a state of emergency in the South East zone over the wave of protests by Biafran agitators, saying that anybody recommending declaration of state of emergency or military engagement as the best solution to the escalating protests for self-rule by Biafran groups is deceptive and economical with the truth.
OYC said it decided to call the meeting as a result of the failure of an earlier stakeholders meeting scheduled yesterday by South East Governors initiated by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
A statement signed by the National President of OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and the Secretary, Okwu Nnabuike, said named those expected at the Enugu meeting include youth leaders of all communities in Igbo land, including Igbo-speaking communities in Delta and Rivers States and representatives of MASSOB and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB].
A case for discontinuation of protests
In a similar vein, the Abia State government has urged the groups, notably The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra IPOB and (MASSOB) to discontinue their protests, saying that their message has been communicated and their voices heard nationally and internationally.
The government advised the groups to engage the Federal Government in dialogue rather than street protests which it said could be hijacked by trouble makers and detractors.
Abia government also warned that the entire South East could not afford militancy at this period of time and urged the groups to change their strategy.
According to the government, the pro-Biafra groups have made their statement on their demand for the release of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the Director of Radio Biafra and believed that the message has reached the highest places of power.
A statement issued by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s spokesman, Godwin Adindu said that “Government observed that though the protest [on Monday] has been largely peaceful in Abia State without any incident of violence, it actually disturbed the socio-economic life of the state, hence the need for the pro-Biafra groups to change strategy from street marches to peaceful negotiation with the Federal Government.
Faulting Army’s riot act
A human right group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety yesterday faulted the Nigerian Army for threatening to crush members of Indegenous People of Biafra, IPOB who are currently protesting in all parts of Southeast and Southsouth zones over the continued detention of its leader and Director of Radio of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
It stated that the stern warning was totally misguided, vexatious, shallow, dubiously intended and constitutionally incoherent, adding that it was also grossly misdirected, as it ought to have been directed to the Boko Haram terror insurgents who have severally disclosed their intention to violently destroy the country’s existence socio-legal system and put in place radical Islamic theocracy.
According to Intersociety, “We wish to warn and remind the leadership of the Nigerian Army not to forget that there still exists International Criminal Court and other formidable local and international mechanisms through which its commanding officers found engaged in “brutal suppression or quelling” of ongoing peaceful and non violent protests shall be held accountable for crimes against humanity”.