It is late in the night. But I think it is in order to say Good morning to South- east Governors. So, Good morning Your Excellencies.
In case you want to know why, the Governors have just woken up from an anastasia-induced sleep. It was a sleep so deep that their counterparts had since eaten lunch, waiting for dinner. And Their Excellencies from the South-east are just getting ready for breakfast.
We must thank whatever and/or whoever woke them up from that deep slumber. On waking up, they saw that the referee had since blown the whistle. The race had started without them. So, they scrambled to Owerri to start from where others had since left.
On Sunday, April 11, the five of them met at the Government House, Owerri, to take a look at the disaster that has become their Zone while they snored. They had company – Heads of Security Agencies in the Zone, and a couple of other stakeholders. The leadership of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Nd’Igbo was, also, there. The main agenda: The terrifying security situation in the zone.
The questions however are: Why did it take the Zone this long to set-up this outfit. Leadership deficit? Sabotage? Ambition? Conflicting allegiance/Interest? Self preservation? Or a combination of all? What pushed the Governors to, suddenly, set up a unified Security outfit?
A couple of weeks ago, Governor Umahi, the Forum’s Chairman, reportedly said it will not be possible for the SE to set up a unified security outfit. So what changed? There are more questions.
Were there any consultations across board? If so, who and who were consulted? Which other groups bought into it? Or was it strictly an exclusive of the Governors and the Professor George Obiozor-led Ohaneze Nd’Igbo? How will it operate, especially, alongside the ESN? How will the members be recruited? Will they be strong enough to face and/or withstand ESN operatives? Or, will they incorporate them, and work with them? Will the leaders of Nigeria’s Seurity Agencies in the SE, who were at the meeting, and who will definitely have a hand in the recruitment and training of Ebube Agu operatives, work with the ESN? Will it enjoy the people’s confidence? Not likely.
Here is a teaser of how difficult it will be for Ebube Agu to operate, or even take-off:
The IPOB, in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Emma Powerful, has ordered SE youths not to register as members of Ebube Agu Any youth who does that, the statement warned, “should be prepared to meet his ancestors”. IPOB insists it is meant to spy on the ESN. Scary? Sure.
Yet, another group, the South East Revival Group, SERG, in a statement signed by its President/National Coordinator, Willie Ezugwu, dismisses Ebube Agu as another jamboree by Governors. It is a “convenient political outing aimed at pleasing the Federal establishment rather than the people.”, SERG said.
The ESN is a baby of IPOB, a group hastily proscribed by both the Federal and South-east Governments. It was labelled a terrorist group. I take pride, no matter how inefficient Nigeria is, in being a Nigerian. And I am very proudly Igbo. I believe in one Nigeria (which will be) based on equity, justice and, the rule of law. So, I cannot but ask why nobody has declared the Bandits, or the rogue herdsmen, moving about with dangerous weapons, from the North to the South, terrorist groups. Or did I miss it? If not why?
Their Governors led by the new Northern Champion, Zamfara Governor, Bello Matawelle, Katsina’s Bello Masari, and Borno’s attack-prone Governor, Babagana Zulum, pamper them. Supported spiritually and otherwise by Dr Abubakar Gumi, an Islamic Scholar adept at locating Bandits in forests, these guys sit down and dialogue with heavily armed bandits. They negotiate the way forward with them. You know, like a kindred meeting. And they pay the bandits handsomely.
The other day, Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger State Governor, and son-in-law to former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, lamented that Bandits deceived them,(the government), took huge sums of money from them, and used same to buy more weapons. “E shock you?”
The questions are: Why are SE Governors and Clerics and Elders not dialoguing with IPOB members? Why is IPOB which was,still is not, by any stretch of imagination, as deadly as the bandits, proscribed? Why are the bandits not officially labelled terrorists? Why is IPOB labelled a terrorist organisation, and rogue Fulani herdsmen, free to roam around?
In the South-west, the new Sheriff in town, Sunday Igboho, has become a celebrity. He is called a freedom fighter, a hero. He is wining and dining with South-west Governors, Afenifere, top politicians. They are consulting and dialoguing. He does what he likes. This other day, he called the bluff of former IGP, Mohammed Adamu. He taunted Adamu, and refused an invitation to see him. Igboho is still going about his business, hailed by his people. Why is the case of IPOB and its leadership different? Why doesn’t anybody invite them to a roundtable?
For almost two years, these Governors watched as the insecurity in the zone blossomed. Kidnappers, and cultists held sway. They still do. They were on the prowl. They still are. Then, enter, rogue herdsmen, invading farms with their cows, destroying farmlands, raping women and girls. They graduated to kidnapping, and then a killing spree.
The first ports of call were parts of Enugu and Ebonyi States. Gradually, but surely, it spread to the other parts of the Zone. These crimes were also, at the same time, being committed in the South-west. It was not an exclusive of the South-east.
Like play, like play, the South-east is going. It is not an exaggeration. That is why the Governors suddenly woke up. Their reign over their Empire is threatened. They woke up a year after Amotekun was launched with fanfare by their more serious South-west counterparts. All well and good. Better late than the late. “Tagboo” ( Today is early), the Igbo would say.
But it is still morning. Announcing the setting-up of Ebube Agu is just a beginning. It is likely to take months before it takes off. There is no framework yet. The House of Assembly in each State has to approve it. Recruitment has to begin. But of who? Many of the youths would rather listen to IPOB than the Governors. Meaning: the Governors have so much work to do. They need to get back the trust of the people. The politics of bitterness between the APC and the PDP, especially, in Imo, will be a big obstacle. Caution should be the word, because nobody – APC or PDP – will be safe when the doom wished and yearned for, everyday, unfolds.
I have read the communique issued at the end of the SE Governors’ meeting. There was nothing particularly new, nor particularly exciting. They say open grazing has been banned. We have heard that before. But where are the Ranches? Herdsmen and their cows still roam the roads, villages and farmlands and forests in the Zone. They still harass the people. They still rape and kill and kidnap.
The South-east Governors do not, yet, have the will to get them to comply, or be arrested. They don’t have the courage of Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his colleagues in the SW Zone. They don’t have the courage of Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje. This guy uses Hisbah, the Shariah Police, to destroy the businesses of Southerners dealing in alcohol beverages.They lose hundreds of millions of Naira periodically. Yet, Ganduje’s Kano State shares in VAT from alcohol. That’s inappropriate. By sharing in that VAT, Ganduje is committing a sin.
But back to Ebube Agu. I have my fears. How will it operate alongside ESN? Is it possible for them to work together, along with the Police? Or will the ESN, Ebube Agu and Security Agencies reduce the Zone to a war zone, a rubble? It would be nice if they could work together. Afterall, they all claim they want to secure the South-east.
It is important for them to meet and sort issues out. The Governors should rise above all petty talks, propaganda and playing to the gallery. They should do what their counterparts in the North and South-west are doing. There must be people in the zone who IPOB and its leadership respect. Reach out to them. A roundtable will go a long way into arresting the situation. By all means, look for peace. Find it.
Don’t reduce the South-east to a war zone. There will be no winner. Everybody will be a loser. “Gra-gra” serves no purpose.