By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Apparently trying to quell the swelling agitations in the South-East region, paramount monarchs across Nigeria met in Imo State, to reassure the Igbo people that there is hope in the country called Nigeria.
South-East Voice followed the one day activities christened: South-East post-Election Peace Conference/Summit which took place at the Eze Imo palace, Samuel Ohiri, at Mbari Street in Owerri metropolis.
The royal fathers in attendance included the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Prof. Alfred Achebe.
Also the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Obong of Calabar, His Eminence, Ediden Ekpo Okon Abasi, Etsu Nupe, HRH. Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar , among others were present at the event.
The conference which was purely a traditional institution affair saw political leaders joining the monarchs to put in their views on how to achieve peace in the country, Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha as well as the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha. The other dignitaries were the Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwuka and an elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu among others.
There was also a line-up of over 600 traditional rulers in Imo State, as well as royal fathers from the five states of the South-East geo-political zone.
The Sultan of Sokoto described their journey as a peace mission to beg those agitating, to allow peace to reign. He admitted that many were not satisfied with the outcome of the last election, maintaining that Nigerians should believe that it is only God that gives power.
He also said that their move to the South-East region was conceptualised by the monarchs to visit the various zones in the country to preach peace.
While the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Ogunwusi, was of the opinion that the Igbo people should believe that the entity called Nigeria belongs to everybody. He said there would be an inclusive style of governance that would carry everybody along in the Nigeria project.
While the Obi of Onitsha, Prof. Achebe, said that for the peace tour to be fruitful, Nigerians must love one another and see the country as everybody’s collective effort and at the same time, respect each other’s rights.
He said that part of their assignment was to reach out to the other regions to preach the message of peace.
However, the President’s representative, SGF, Mustapha agreed that the struggle to achieve peace in Nigeria would only be effective if we collaborate with the monarchs.
He reinstated the Buhari administration’s resolve to partner the royal fathers in their resolve to tour the various zones to actualise the needed peace for the Nigerian people.
Also in his remark, the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, did not mince words when he said that the Igbo people have become the mostly misunderstood ethnic group in the country.
He likened the Igbo man to somebody who will always impact greatly the lives of the people living around him wherever he resides.
Okorocha said that as a result of that, he was worried in spite of the Igbo man’s contribution that other people have viewed their gesture as weakness.
In his message, the Sultan of Sokoto said: “We have, by the special grace of God, after our meetings in Abuja, agreed and zoned this zonal meetings to the various zones in this country, so that we can discuss how to achieve peace in this country.
“We are here to hold this meeting to further strengthen the unity as one great people in one country.
You remember that during the period of the election, there was plenty people crying for a lot of things. But one thing you must know is that God gives power to whoever he wants.
“We are here to support you. We are here to encourage you to do more and to do what is right. We are here to show solidarity and show love.
“We are here also to commission this wonderful edifice, in fact, the first of its kind in the whole of Nigeria built by the people’s governor. Also, the unity of Nigeria is of paramount interest to all of us, therefore, this is another reason why we are here.”
Speaking also, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi said: “We want to let you know and continue to assure you, particularly the entire South-Eastern Zone of this country that there would be all inclusive initiatives to carry everybody along across all the various geo-political zones in Nigeria and we know that Nigeria belongs to all of us and we don’t have any other place to go other than our dear country, Nigeria.
“Also, we want to associate with all the good things that we know that the South-Easterners are actually made of; and that is why you have seen a very rich and quality representation across the entire six geo-political zones. We only know unity in the traditional institution in Nigeria and that is what we want to foster in the nation.
“We will continue to move across the length and breadth of this nation to foster peace across the states of the federation irrespective of political or religious differences inherent in those states. We all belong to Nigeria and Nigeria is greater than all of us.
“We want to associate with the government of Imo State, particularly with Governor Okorocha who has done very well for the state over the last eight years. We shall continue to pray for you and wish you well as you are moving to another level. You have done your bit, and your legacies can never be erased. God bless you.”
Also speaking, the Obi of Onitsha, Professor Achebe, said: “We are here for a peace conference for the South-East zone.
“All of us know that our headquarters is in Enugu, and this conference is supposed to hold in Enugu, but our brother, Governor Rochas Okorocha, pleaded with us. Although it was very difficult for us to accept it but he also wants us to use the opportunity to commission some of his projects as it regards the traditional institutions in the state. But we are here basically for the peace conference and talk on how to achieve peace in this country.
“As Nigerians, we are a country of many people and we must cherish peace. We must love one another so that there will be peace for development to come. Take this message to our various homes and let us respect each other for peace to reign.”
While appreciating the royal fathers for taking up such a responsibility, the SGF, Boss Mustapha said: “The Federal Government will continue to collaborate with the traditional rulers in our country to ensure that the needed peace in Nigeria is realised.
“We will continue to work with the traditional rulers to maintain peace in our country and make sure that we achieve empowerment for our people in this country.
“The traditional rulers are in the front burner of the development of this country, and we will not forget the fact that for peace to be achieved in this country, the traditional rulers must be involved.”
The chief host and governor of Imo State, Okorocha, maintained that: “I always believe in the unity and indivisibility of this great nation especially as an Igbo man, brought up by the North and empowered by the West. I have every reason to believe in the country and her unity.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of nationhood because when that happens, other parts of the country will not be seeing the insurgency in the North as the problem of the North or the militancy in the Niger-Delta as the problem of the South-South or kidnapping in the South-East as the problem of the South-East people.”
He went further to say: “The Igbo man is the one who will hardly come back home to his grassroots without leaving a lasting impression of good development in the place he is living.
“But Nigerians have taken this for weakness. And that’s why at every side, they’re chased from pillar to post as if they’re not part of the entity called Nigeria.”
He continued: “The problem with our country, Nigeria is that they don’t understand the people called Igbos. The Igbos are the most misrepresented ethnic group in Nigeria. It’s only the Igbos amongst all other ethnic groups that can go to a place and settle to develop that place.”