Leaders of the South East zone met in Owerri the capital city of Imo state yesterday with a call by the chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, to the five governors of the region to take up the release of detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, as a one-point agenda to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, noting that a positive outcome would end the restiveness in the region and usher in sustainable prosperity.
Leo Stan Ekeh, who made the call at the South-East Summit on Economy and Security, said no concrete investment or development can take place in an atmosphere of tension and insecurity, while urging the governors to put aside party affiliations and forge a common front to press for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
He said the South-East is a huge economy waiting to happen, adding that the region is blessed with an abundance of human capital, a new breed of outstanding leaders and willing investors ready to turn its fortunes around for good. According to his words; ‘‘The average Igbo youth is smart, energetic and imbued with a dose of spirituality. Equipped with the necessary tools in an enabling environment, these qualities can transform our youths into world beaters and global champions.
We also have quality leaders as governors in the five South East states with the confidence to transform the region, an example of which I witnessed yesterday with the unprecedented gesture of the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, to youths in the state. Working together, I believe we can build a centralized digital hub in the region which would produce certified billionaires in the next few years.
‘‘However, we must first take steps to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu as this would instantly bring about a measure of calm and sanity in the region. Nnamdi Kanu is a critical factor in the security issues of the South-East. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not a stubborn or inconsiderate leader. I am sure he will listen. When he was governor of Lagos State, he took the advice of some of us to include deserving Igbos in his cabinet and this was how Ben Akabueze emerged,’’ he stated.
In his welcome address, Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, who doubles as chairman, South-East Governor’s Forum, harped on the need for unity among people from the zone to rescue it from implosion. Gov Hope Uzodinma cited the spate of insecurity and the antics of non-state actors in the region. He promised that governors of South-East are working together to ensure that Igboland returns to its previous glorious era.
‘‘Participants must rise from the summit with a clear road map that our people will follow to regain the lost freedom and businesses without molestations and harassments. We must stop the senseless sit-at-home,” he stated.
Anambra State Governor Soludo called for a 100-year development plan for the region. He said the region must make all efforts to thrive despite the ongoing insecurity, adding that the South-East zone is not the most insecure place in the world.
According to his words; ‘‘it is very good to lament but I would rather like to see a glass as half full than half empty. The South-East is ready for business. We must all believe in our ability to turn things around and get the South-East going again. We need not just ourselves, we need Nigeria. Ndigbo needs Nigeria and Nigeria needs Ndigbo. Ndigbo needs Africa and the world and the world and Africa need Ndigbo. We need the partnership of everybody, partnership of the rest of the country, partnership of the diaspora and partnership with the international community.”
Abia state governor, Dr. Alex Otti, dialogue represents the way forward in addressing the insecurity in the zone. He called for an understanding of the anger in the land, adding that leaders in the region must pursue justice, stamp out all forms of violence and stop the extortion of the poor by the rich.
Enugu State governor, Dr. Peter Mbah, spoke of the need for a connecting road to all South-East states and a unified market to aid the region. He also encouraged the need for regular meetings between all stakeholders in the states.
Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State who was represented by his deputy, Princess Patricia Onyemechi buttressed some of the points raised by the other speakers, while also recommending closer monitoring of children to nip nefarious associations in the bud and the need for the people of the South-East to believe in themselves.
The keynote speaker and director general of the World Trade Organization, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, lamented the regressing fortunes of the South-East and the negative impacts of the insecurity in the zone on potential investment.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke via Zoom, referenced the rich human capital of the region. Among her recommendations to the governors is the convening of an investment forum, the creation of an apprentice scheme from which talented youths can secure gainful employment, set-up a digital infrastructural centre in the region, leveraging the connections and competencies of professionals of South-East technocrats in the Diaspora to come back home and help in developing the region, establishment of a financial bond by the governors and optimization of the opportunities in Agriculture, Oil and Gas and other sectors.
Former senate president and secretary to the government of the federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, also called for a review of the Biafra agitation. He also emphasized the need for better strategies to rid the region of the prevailing insecurity which he described as brutal.
The summit also got goodwill messages from the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, with its president, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, calling for more investment by the federal government in the South-East.
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