Southeast leaders on Saturday rose in unison to warn the prime agitators for Biafra Republic that they were on their own in their quest to balkanize Nigeria.
The Igbo leaders disowned the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro-Biafra groups, saying the generality of the people of the geo-political zone prefer to remain in Nigeria.
They reaffirmed their commitment to one united Nigeria guided by justice, equality of rights, fairness, love and respect for one another.
But IPOB and MASSOB told the Igbo leaders who had met in Enugu that their support was immaterial in the campaign for Biafra.
The Igbo leaders, among whom were present and past governors, ministers, National Assembly members, other members of the political class, religious leaders and traditional rulers from the zone, condemned the resort to violence by the secession agitators.
They said: “We do not support them. They do not speak for Southeast.”
Reading from a communique at the end of the four-hour meeting held in Enugu, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, said the meeting set up a committee to engage the agitators to stop and allow the elders of the Southeast to address their fears.
Similar committees were set up on “Agitation; engagement with other regions; those of our people in the North, South East, South-South and South West; IPOB, MASSOB, Youths and Market people, Okada and Keke; Diaspora; Advocacy; and Diplomatic engagement with Foreign Missions.”
Umahi, who doubles as chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum, also assured the non-Igbo living in the Southeast of their security and protection.
The meeting mandated Southeast governors and Ohanaeze Ndigbo to liaise with Northerners and other Nigerians living in the Southeast to come out openly to assure their people and Nigerians that they are safe and well protected while living in the area.
Umahi said the meeting was a follow up to the one between a presidential delegation led by Defence Minister Bashir Magashi and Igbo leaders on June 11, 2021, on the security challenges confronting the region in particular and Nigeria in general.
The meeting, he added, was to enable the leaders articulate their position to enable them not only engage the presidential team but to also engage their people on all burning issues.
The communiqué reads in part: “We the Southeast leaders condemn in totality the violent secessionist agitations in the Southeast. We firmly proclaim that we do not support them. They do not speak for Southeast.
“The impression that Southeast leaders are silent over the agitations of our youths for secession is not correct.
“Southeast governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo president and our National Assembly members, our ministers and our leadership from Southeast, notable leaders from Southeast had come out publicly many times in the past to speak against such agitations.
“In order not to mismanage the unfortunate situation we found ourselves, Southeast leaders have set up a committee to engage such youths to stop and allow the elders of Southeast to address their fears.
“Meeting directed our governors and Ohanaeze Ndigbo to liaise with indigenes from Northern part of Nigeria and other indigenes of other regions that are living in the Southeast to come out openly to assure their people and Nigerians that they are very safe and well protected while living in the Southeast.
“The meeting also set up a committee under Ohanaeze to articulate and address all burning issues to further meet amongst ourselves and further meet with the presidential team.
“We the Igbo reaffirm commitment to one united Nigeria under the platform of justice, equality of rights, fairness, love and respect for one another.”
The communiqué also noted the threats by some groups in some other regions against the people of Southeast even as the leaders firmly promised to protect everyone either from the Southeast or anywhere living in the Southeast.
“We plead with the leaders of other regions to please note the threats against our people and protect them.
“We condemn the killing of security agents, burning of security infrastructure and killing of civilians in Southeast and even other regions. We request the security agencies to discharge their duties within the rules of engagement under the rule of law.”
The communiqué endorsed the Southeast joint security outfit, Ebube Agu, and asked all the personnel of Ebube Agu to work with security agencies and respect the rights and privileges of all those living in the Southeast and her visitors.
The communiqué also requested National Assembly members from the Southeast to support state police creation in the ongoing Constitutional amendment.
It commended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for taking the pains of hosting them at all times without complaining.
The meeting also had in attendance Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State while Governor Hope Uzodimma and his Anambra State counterpart, Chief Willie Obiano, were represented by their deputies, Prof. Placid Njoku and Nkem Okeke respectively.
Other leaders present were former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; former governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu; former Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo and president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor and his predecessor, Chief Nnia Nwodo.
Others were Labour and Productivity Minister Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Mines and Steel, Uche Ogah; former secretary to the government of the federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma and Bishop Callistus Onaga of Enugu Anglican and Catholic Dioceses; Southeast CAN Chairman, Bishop Emmanuel Ede and Former INEC chairman, Maurice Iwu.
The rest included Allison Madueke, Mark Wabara, Senators Julius Ucha and Obinna Ogba as well as traditional rulers.
IPOB, MASSOB to Igbo leaders: Your support for our agitation immaterial
Responding last night to the disclaimer by the Igbo leaders, IPOB and MASSOB said they were unperturbed.
Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Comrade Emma Powerful, said the Igbo leaders had never been with his group from time.
“Were they with us before now?” Powerful asked when contacted.
He said: “We were not looking for them before. We are not bothered about their statement or action towards the restoration of Biafra.
“It’s unfortunate that the general public never understood the position of the South East governors.
“The governors cannot talk and tell their master the position of their subjects because they know that their master would tell them to relinquish their political positions.
“They can say whatever they like, but we want to assure them that Biafra must come.
“We have the support and mandate of Biafrans both at home and abroad for the freedom and independence of Biafra, and nothing will stop it; not the compromised South East governors and other political job seekers.
“The governors are allowing their masters to kill innocent people so as to weaken the spirit of the struggle. But what they don’t know is that Biafrans are fully aware of the struggle for Biafra restoration.
“The governors are entitled to one vote during referendum. Even their families will vote for the freedom and independence of Biafra.”
Powerful also said the Igbo leaders’ day of judgment would also come when they too would be publicly disowned.
He said: “We have been disowned by them before and saying it now means they do not know what they are doing.
“We too are also disowning them and our own would be so devastating. Whatever they like let them do.”
Factional leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, said his group remained committed to Biafra’s actualization and restoration.
“The people of Biafra have lost confidence, faith and trust in the Nigeria state. We don’t believe in the unity and existence of Nigeria.
“The governors and other leaders of South East are aware that Ndigbo no longer believe in Nigeria because of the current leadership style of President Muhamadu Buhari who always shows pathological hatred for the people of Biafra.”