The governors of Nigeria’s South-east region, on Thursday, converged in Owerri, Imo State for a two-day summit to x-ray the challenges of insecurity and economic disruptions facing the region and explore ways to end them.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the five governors took turns to give their perspectives on the consequences of the escalating insecurity on the once strong and progressive economy of the region.
The Chairperson of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodinma, underscored the need for greater unity and synergy among the five states in addressing the security breaches and declining economic fortunes of the region.
Mr Uzodinma, who is the governor of Imo State, said “The sustainability and functional deployment of the micro Igbo kindred spirit and macro Igbo republican spirit thrives in a private sector-driven initiative”.
He expressed the need for successful Igbo investors to support Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural organisation, to galvanise the South-east people into one united body that would speak with one voice.
The governor called for routine engagement of the private and public sector operators from the region to collectively redefine the Igbo agenda.
“A special forum should be established for all political office holders in the region to meet at least twice a year to exchange ideas and form a synergy on Igbo matters.
“In ensuring a renaissance of the Igbo unity and development, I believe the place to start is to begin to address the security challenges in our land.
“We must rise from this summit on a clear road map to ensure that Igbo people are not interrupted in their legitimate quest to make ends meet with the sit-at-home madness,” he said.
Mr Uzodinma, who maintained that the region was part of the Nigerian project, expressed confidence that a president of Igbo extraction would emerge someday in the country.
He called for the establishment of the South-East Orient Technology Unit to serve as a hub for translating research findings into new products.
He also called for the establishment of a South-East Commodity Board to boost agriculture and commerce in the region.
He argued that the dredging of the Oguta Lake into the Atlantic Ocean by his government was geared towards boosting the economy of the region.
‘We cannot afford to be an intolerant people’
In a remark, Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State expressed the “unwavering and unalloyed commitment of the governors of the region to the South-east agenda.”
Mr Soludo underscored the need for a 100-year plan for the region and a homeland consciousness of self-belief to execute the plan.
He expressed the readiness of the region to do business but highlighted the need for partnership with the rest of the country, the diaspora and the international community.
“As an itinerant people, who are everywhere, we cannot afford to be intolerant people. We cannot afford to be provincial.
“We must think home to build a livable and prosperous homeland,” Mr Soludo said.
In a speech, Governor Alex Otti of Abia State said the issues of security and economy were critical to the survival of the Igbo people.
Mr Otti said that solving the problems of the region must go beyond trading blames and pointing fingers at others but required collective involvement of all.
He emphasised the need to open the “window of engagement” with youths, ensure justice in communities, stop the exploitation of the people by those in power, and ensure freedom for every individual.
“As political leaders, we must set the pace by identifying investment opportunities in our domain and committing adequate public resources to motivate private investors.
“Leaders must create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the region.
“Where necessary, the government must intervene in businesses,” he further said.
Sadness over killings in South-east
Also speaking, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State said the goal of securing the region “does not really depend on one state as a single unit but requires a common strategy and operational plan”.
Mr Mbah called for the setting up of a command and control centre common to the entire South-east states to tackle the problem of insecurity.
He also expressed the need to consider the non-kinetic approach in dealing with insecurity.
He said: “Some of our youths are being misled into believing that they are fighting a just cause. We need to make our youths see the folly in their misguided actions.”
Mr Mbah urged South-east leaders to deal with the root causes of insecurity by tackling unemployment and poverty in the region.
He further called for the integration of the region into a common market to attract large investment.
Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State, represented by Deputy Governor Patricia Onyemaechi, emphasised the need for women to play vital roles in moulding youths to curb social vices.
“The women are ready to take this cause and we will go back home to talk our children out from the wrong track to the rightful one.
“All we need in the South-east is to believe in ourselves and harness all the wisdom in the region,” he said.
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, commended the governors’ forum for organising the summit.
“Ohaneze will be willing to have this summit as one of the annual events in the Igbo calendar,” he said.
Mr Iwuanyanwu, who expressed sadness over the killings in the region, urged those aggrieved to sheath their swords.
He urged the South-east governors to apply the non-kinetic approach in solving the insecurity issues, saying “I don’t feel happy losing the lives of my children.”
He appealed to the Federal Government to support the efforts of the South-east governors in their quest to engage youths in the region, through skills training, empowerment and job creation.
Mr Iwuanyanwu also commended the Federal Government for the dredging of Oguta Lake, initiated by Governor Uzodinma.
He said many Igbos were interested in dredging Azummili, Ihiala and Okija Lake for possible seaports.
He said the projects had the potential to scale up the economy of the region.
The Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Achebe, called for unity and collaboration among the states in dealing with insecurity and economic retardation in the region.
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