President Muhammadu Buhari on September 9 visited Imo State on a one-day visit. The visit came and passed after a debate on whether the President would eventually visit the state or not.
That was owing to a stay-at-home order imposed on the South- East by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The separatist group said the President was not welcomed in the state. But against the wishes of the outlawed group, Buhari made his journey and left, after meeting with Igbo leaders.
We are glad that the President acted like the Commander-in-Chief that he is by ignoring the threats of the separatist group. It would have been a dangerous precedent if the President of Nigeria refused to go to the region because of the threat by some non-state actors. The visit also reinforced the President’s belief that the country is indivisible under his watch.
Again, it allowed him to have a face-to-face meeting with Igbo leaders, who for genuine and other reasons, feel his government has been unfair to the region. We do not believe that the visit is the end of the dialogue between the President and South-East.
We also do not believe that with the visit, the problems or complaints of the region have ended.
But what is possible is that leaders of the region have heard first hand from the President, challenged him where necessary and also told him their needs and grievances directly.
But we must not fail to point out that the onus is now on the governors of the region and leaders to put an end to the nuisance IPOB and other criminal elements within the zone have constituted for some time now. It is trite to state that the activities of IPOB and its criminal conspirators are harming the interest of the region more than helping it.
Although the people of Imo State heeded the call to stay at home when the President visited, thereby leading to empty and deserted streets in Owerri, the state capital, there is no gainsaying it did not stop Buhari from visiting the state and performing his duties.
It is also important to point out to IPOB and their hangers-on that the President of Nigeria is too big to be threatened by a group, except he accepts to be threatened. By implication, even if there is only one soldier left in the whole Nigeria, he would be used to defend the President as the last resort.
We hold that view because time has come for leaders and governors of the region to save Igbo land from economic losses, hardships and all the attendant difficulties IPOB’s activities have brought on the region. It is the region and its people that are losing, not the governors, not Buhari.
We believe the South-East is one region where the bulk of the people thrive on daily going out and feeding their families through businesses of all types. Most of the people in the region depend on daily incomes to feed their families.
A situation, where one group lords it over the people to stay at home for one flimsy reason or the other is injurious to the same people the group claims to be protecting.
Already, it has been estimated that any stay-at-home order costs the region figures running to billions of naira. That is the money being lost by South Easterners, not Buhari or the governors. We are aware that leaders of major markets in Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi, Abakaliki and other areas are already lamenting their losses.
That is why we believe leaders of and governors have a major job to do before the problems in the zone would snowball from IPOB to mass rebellion. It is inconceivable that IPOB now has more authority of controlling movement of South Easterners than the governors, who were duly elected to govern the spaces.
We know that it was such soft attitudes of governors at the initial stage of the then nascent insurgencies that grew to become demons in the North-East and North- West.
By the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the governors and not IPOB or any other diversionary sect, are the Chief Security Officers of their states. Whereby for any reasons the governors cede their authorities to such renegades, they should as well resign and hand over power to the group.
We believe that Buhari’s visit to Imo State has left the needed lessons – that no individual or group is bigger than the state. We hope that governors have learnt from that visit, with the knowledge that IPOB cannot dictate for the state or any sane society.
While we again commend the President for doing what is right, we urge governors and people of the zone to be strong enough to move ahead with their lives and without their businesses being threatened.
Rather, leaders of the zone can ensure that the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, is fair, honest and just, where a political solution cannot be reached to save him from the hands of the Federal Government.
But where they can use dialogue to save the day, it is in their best interest and for the good of the region to do so. At least, we are gratified that IPOB has declared that it is no longer ordering stay-at-home for now.
Let us hope that reason will prevail that the South- East, not Buhari is bleeding