EBONYI State Governor and Chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum (SGF) Dave Umahi has ruled out the possibility of governors in the region apologizing to the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
Umahi’s foreclosure, on Thursday, was the direct response to IPOB’s demand for an open from the governors. He spoke with reporters at the State House in Abuja after meeting with President Muhamadu Buhari.
He said the out-lawed IPOB lacked the power to issue travel ban to the Southeast governors and other top politicians from the zone.
Noting that the governors did not proscribe IPOB because it did not have the power to do so, he said that it was the Federal Government that proscribed the group.
He stressed that the group often made empty threats and that no responsible government would allow a proscribed group to promote lawlessness.
The governor promised to notify the group any time he plans to travel out of Nigeria.
According to him, it was too early for him and his colleagues from the Southeast to start talking of whatever ambitions they may have on who succeeds President Buhari in 2023.
This, he said, would amount to insulting the occupier of the seat, who has spent less than a year in his second term of office.
On his mission to the Villa, Umahi said he came to see the President to thank him for closing the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, for urgent repairs.
He, however, demanded that it should be done with emergency funding intervention rather than relying on budgetary provisions.
Noting that the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, being the alternative airport, would encounter come security challenges, Umahi said efforts would be made with the Federal Government to secure the adjoining roads to the airport across the region.
Umahi said that governors had not been sleeping over the region’s security challenges, adding that they have been mature and circumspect in their utterances in other not to exacerbate the situation.
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Stressing that not all security issues are made public, he recalled the Southeast governors ban on the movement of cattle on foot across the region by herdsmen.
The governor said Buhari was happy with the meeting and that he sought for the President’s support for the reactivation and eventual passage of the Southeast Development Commission bill in the National Assembly.
He also sought presidential audience for another enlarged parley that will have in attendance all Southeast governors, other Igbo leaders and groups across board, including religious and traditional rulers, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and others.
Umahi said: “The mistake people make is that leaders in this country including governors are not supposed to be talking carelessly, security matters are not discussed on the pages of newspapers.
“But we have to speak out now just to encourage our people let them know that we are doing everything possible to secure their lives. In our states, we have forest guards, vigilance groups, committees from the village level to the community to local government to the state level that interface with any kind of crisis arising from natives to farmers and herdsmen.
“We have been doing everything possible and that is why you see a lot of calm in our states. But when these herdsmen that are terrorists and foreigners found their ways to the south-east, we started having the real insecurity problem and that is why we have to ban them from coming to the Southeast.
“This banning of terrorist herdsmen with AK47 is in agreement with traditional herdsmen, they are also not happy with what is happening – going into kidnapping, raping our women and making the farmlands very much insecure and people are afraid of going to farms now and the resultant effect will be catastrophic because traditionally, we are farmers.
“It’s not as if we have not been doing things, we’ve been doing things but we can’t begin to shout on the pages of newspapers on what we are doing about security.”
On the alleged travel ban IPOB placed governors and political leaders in the Southeast, Umahi said: “Well it is the price of leadership and the price we leaders will have to pay to stabilise the nation.
“Don’t forget that Southeast has over 12 million people living in the North and we do not need to talk to make IPOB happy to suite their demands just because we want to make them happy.
“We need to do things as leaders of this country that we safeguard our the North, safeguard the North people that are in South East and then do everything as leaders to ensure that there is peace and unity among us.
“IPOB said their anger was that we proscribed IPOB, we didn’t have the powers to proscribe IPOB but we have the power to Proscribe the activities of IPOB at the time we did to put the country into one to save the lives of the northern people living in the Southeast and to save the lives of South people living in the north.
“When the lives of our people are safe, we are very happy. So, their threats and condemnation are the price we need to pay as leaders. The important thing is that we are here to represent our people and our conscience bear us witness that we are doing is what will bring peace to our nation and not what will integrate it.
“Don’t forget that we are governors of Southeast and if we begin to talk like the youths, people will be very happy with us, especially our people, but the issue is will it guarantee peace of the nation, will it guarantee the safety of our people?”
On the open letter by IPOB to him and other governors in which the group made some demands for truce, he said: “You see, we are servants of the people, we have no apology to tender because we represent them.
“There is misinformation because they said we should tender apology for proscribing IPOB we did not proscribed IPOB because we did not have the powers. But it was within our powers to say you have to stop the activities because you are trying to endanger the visitors to south east and endanger our people in the north.
“We had to do that and we don’t have apologies to offer for doing that and we also refuse to discuss the merits and demerits of our actions on the pages of newspapers. As leaders like I said you have to be economical with the way you speak so that you will continue to preserve the unity of this country.”
On how the President responded, the governor said: “The President is well disposed to the request we made to him and I am sure he is going to meet our demands. Don’t forget that the last time we came we made a demand for accelerated process of awarding the Second Niger Bridge and that Mr. President granted.
“I think the second Niger Bridge is the fastest in terms of progress amongst Mr. President’s projects.”