South East Summit Heralds A Glorious New Dawn, Says Uzodimma
...Govs. Pledge To Implement Report.
…Okonjo-Iweala, Anyim, Others Seek Unity
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State who is also Chairman South East Governor’s Forum has appealed to people from the South East to come together and save the zone from the clutches of enemies who are bent on ensuring that the Igbos don’t progress beyond where they are today.
He made the appeal in his welcome address at the two days South East Summit on Security and Economy on the Theme: South East Beyond 2023, A Time for Reset held Thursday, September 28 at the Landmark Event Centre Owerri.
The Governor said that the summit was organized to take decisions that will affect the entire zone on security, economy and even cooperations between one State and another, hence he said “the summit heralds a glorious new dawn.”
Governor Uzodimma recalled the strengths of the Igbo man pre Independence era and immediately after, stemming from one sector to the other and regretted that “the trade mark of Igbo unity has been weakened.”
He asked some pertinent questions: “How did the mighty Igbo Nation fall from her Olympian heights to the basement? What actually happened to Igbo nation?”
He added that it was the Igbo unity that made the Igbo man trail blazers wherever they are found.
Recognizing that a lot of things had gone wrong Governor Uzodimma said that the Igbo technology and intellectual ingenuity are still alive and could still be applied to move the zone forward.
Governor Uzodimma regretted that “the Igbos can no longer speak with one voice, the Igbos are no longer united as they are divided and disorganised, a situation where some Igbos don’t want to be referred as Igbos.”
He said that the above problems are unfortunately, compounded by insecurity, with non state actors now holding sway in Igboland. He enjoined the participants to think of how the region can get out of the doldrums.
Governor Uzodimma who emphasized the role the old Igbo State Union played in advancing the unity and spirit of oneness, and development of the region, maintained that the time to go back to that era is now.
He assured that the Governors of South East are working together to ensure that Igboland returns to that glorious era when the spirit of oneness led to the building of schools in Igbo land and outside the region.
He suggested that Ohanaeze Ndigbo should have offices in the 36 States of the Federation and Abuja and advocated the need for a platform for dialogue between the leaders and the youths. This he encapsulated in the old Igbo slogan of “Onye aghala Nwanne ya,” meaning, no one should abandon the brother.
Governor Uzodimma regretted the defeat of the Igbos in the civil war and the fear it instilled in our people.
On the summit topic, he recalled that the discussion is centred on insecurity challenges in the South East which some criminals are hiding under in the name of agitation to destroy the zone economically and socially.
He suggested that “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.”
Governor Uzodimma suggested the floating of South East Development Fund as a means of funding researches that will help articulate the development of the place.
“We must stop the senseless sit-at-home.”
On his part, the Governor noted that the planned dredging of Oguta Lake to Atlantic Ocean is a bold step towards re- engineering the economy of the South East. He commended the Nnewi, Aba and Onitsha businessmen and women for exhibiting and sustaining the business spirit of Ndigbo.
In his address, the Governor of Anambra State Prof. Chukwuma Soludo expressed gratitude to the organizers, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and his brother Governors for agreeing to come together to discuss one general problem of the five States.
He who suggested that Igbos should have an unwavering and unalloyed commitment to the South East Agenda expressed delight to be part of the agenda.
“The South East needs a hundred years plan that will lead the zone to a destination.”
He talked of “homeland consciousness” where the Igbo must believe in themselves, by believing in our products, in their technology and in their entrepreneurship.
Soludo suggested that the Igbo must also need a partnership to achieve their security, political and economic destination because of their itinerant nature. Such partnership must be with Nigeria, the Diasporans and International Community, noting that “as itinerant people the Igbos don’t need to be provincial.”
In his address, the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti said that there is the need to engage our youths in dialogue and find out what their problems are.
“We must appreciate that there is anger in the land and amongst the persons that made up the area. We must work for justice for the land, people and groups and stop extortions of the poor by the rich and the leaders and do everything possible to stop bloodletting.”
Finally he suggested that “we must encourage our people to have peace and unity, and the right environment to carry out their normal businesses,” noting that “the Governors of the South East must work out a joint venture where they could commit resources for the overall interest of the zone.”
The Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah suggested the need for regular meetings between the security agencies and leaders of the zone and the establishment of command and control centres to always analyse ideas that will move the zone forward.
He added that “there is need for the use of non-kinethic approaches such as: morals, town unions and others to persuade the Igbo men and women to see the need for peace and unity of the zone.”
Dr. Mbah talked of having a “unified market that takes care of competitive products advantage but most importantly, the need to build a ring-road that connects all the South East States.”
The Governor of Ebonyi State, Rt. Hon. Francis Nwifuru, represented by his Deputy, Princess Patricia Onyemechi suggested the need for peace to be derived from family and home settings and the need to monitor our children and know what they do outside home.
She also re-emphasized the need for South East to believe on themselves and expressed full commitment to the project.
The keynote speaker, the Director General World Trade Organization, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who spoke via zoom, recalled that “the South East has so many talents, opportunities and resources begging to be exploited,” but regretted that “the zone has lost focus and his fragmented as a people who are disenchanted.”
She said that insecurity in the zone is sending wrong signals to those who would have wished to invest in the zone and concluded that “we cannot develop in the face of insecurity.”
Okonjo- Iweala said that the biggest resource of the zone is human resources as Ndigbo are seen in almost all spheres of live endeavour.
While she suggested the need to create an apprenticeship hub from where skilled youths will be recruited for lucrative employment, she proposed that the South East convenes an investment forum.
She noted that technology and digital economy are trending now globally, hence the need for digital infrastructural centre that can be located in Owerri and Abakilaki.
Dr. Okonjo Iweala challenged the South East Governors on the need to harness the abundant Diaspora resources where the different Professionals in Diaspora could be invited to develop the different sectors of South East economy like in education and health.
She also suggested that the South East Governors could come together to do financial engineering by establishing financial bond.
She drew the attention of the big opportunities in Agriculture, Oil and Gas and concluded that “to achieve all these and more there must be stability.” She said she is optimistic that the Igbos will rise again.
In their goodwill messages President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu promised to integrate and have an event such as the summit in the annual calendar of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
He recommended that the Federal Government adopts a non-kinetic approach on the matter of insecurity and that the Federal Government should support the State Governments to see that Industries are established in the South East in order to create employment and job opportunities for our youths.
He suggested improvement in power supply for the small and medium enterprises, especially the artisans to thrive and requested the Federal Government to grant approval for at least one major European airline to fly into the International Airport Enugu as well as the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport Owerri.
“This is in addition to the reactivation of a viable rail line connecting all the State capitals in the South East to Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja.”
A representative of the Chief of Defence Staff told the audience that the security challenges in the South East is not the worst in Nigeria and that the Security Services are not the enemies of the South East.
He said that “nobody is happy when any soul is lost to insecurity and worst still when an innocent soul is lost to the non-state actors.
He blamed the unknown gunmen in the South East for carrying the fight to their own homes, saying “no person in right senses carries fight into their own home and this is the case in the South East.”
He reassured the participants and the South East Stakeholders to count on the security agencies as partners in progress.
The Representative of the National Security Adviser, Major Gen. Okey Ugoh (Rtd.) said that the National Security Adviser and the office was resolute in contributing their quota in ensuring security of the region and Nigeria at large.
From the Private Sector the Chief Executive of Zinox Technologies Ltd, Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh said that “there is the need for a change in the economic thinking of our people because what worked yesterday cannot work today.”
Suggesting that “We should engage the youths in the critical development,” Ekeh enjoined the Governors of the South East to appeal to Mr. President to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, noting that “Kanu is a critical factor in the security issues of the South East.”
From the Royal and Traditional Institution, the Obi of Onitsha, HRM Nnaemeka Achebe appreciated the Governors for organising the summit and called for Ndigbo to sit up on overriding agenda devoid political colouration.
He emphasized that “Igbos are known for hard work and what they need is to have their values back to accomplish economic successes and development.”
The chairman of the event, former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, said unity, peace, and more were needed to achieve the desired development in the zone.
He congratulated the Governors for taking the bold initiative and said he was optimistic the outcome of the Summit will point the way to a better South East in all areas.
Earlier, the Chairman, Summit Planning Committee, Sen. Chris Anyanwu thanked the participants for coming and thanked the Governors particularly for the idea of the Summit.
Sen. Anyanwu expressed gratitude to Governor Uzodimma for not just initiating the idea, but finding it completely.
Ministers of South East extraction, Senators and House of Representatives members of South East extraction, representatives of women leaders, representatives of youth leaders, among others attended the event.