By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State is the Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum. He was placed under travel ban alongside other Southeast Governors and top politicians from the zone by the separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. Speaking in an interview with journalists after visiting President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock, Umahi who was asked whether Southeast will be going for presidency in 2023 said it’s an insult to the occupier of the seat now to talk about who will succeed him less than one year in the office. He also dares the IPOB that he will inform them whenever he wants to travel.
Will the Igbos go for presidency in 2023?
You know, it is insulting to the occupier of a particular office when somebody has not even stayed one year people have started to talk about succeeding the person. What you are saying is that you are undermining the occupant of that office. So, I refuse to talk about 2023. And I have always maintained that when you are being led by God; don’t allow yourself to be led by men. When we get to 2023 we will see what God has in stock for each and every one of us.
The Southeast Governors seem to have just woken up from slumber on the spate of insecurity in the region. How are you coping?
The mistake people make is that leaders in this country including governors are not supposed to be talking carelessly, security matters are not discussed on the pages of newspapers. But we have to speak out now just to encourage our people let them know that we are doing everything possible to secure their lives.
In our states we have forest guards, we have vigilante, we have committees from the village level to the community to local government to the state level that interface with any kind of crisis arising from natives to farmers and herdsmen. We have been doing everything possible and that is why you see a lot of calm in our states. But when this herdsman that are terrorist and foreigners found their ways to the south-east, we started having the real insecurity problem and that is why we have to ban them from coming to the south-east.
This banning of terrorist herdsmen with AK47 is in agreement with traditional herdsmen, they are also not happy with what is happening – going into kidnapping, raping our women and making the farmland very much insecure and people are afraid of going to farms now and the resultant effect will be catastrophic because traditionally, we are farmers. It’s not as if we have not been doing things, we’ve been doing things but we can’t begin to shout on the pages of newspapers on what we are doing about security.
In recent times Southeast Governors have been under verbal attacks by IPOB. Why do you think this has been happening?
Well, it’s the price of leadership and it is the price we have to pay to stabilize the nation. Don’t forget that we have over 12 million people from the Southeast living in the north and we do not begin to talk to make IPOB happy and to suit their demands just because we want to make them happy. We want to do things as leaders of this country that we safeguard our people in the north, safeguard the northerners that are in Southeast and do everything as leaders to ensure that there is peace and there is unity amongst.
Their anger is that we proscribed IPOB, we didn’t have the powers to proscribe the activities of IPOB at the time we did to keep the country as one, to save the lives of northerners living in south east and the lives of the people of southeast living in the north. Once we did that and lives were saved we were very happy.
So, their threats and condemnations are the price we have to pay as leaders. The important thing is that we are here to represent our people and our conscience bear us witness that we are doing is what will bring peace to our nation and not what will integrate it. Don’t forget that we are governors of south east and if we begin to talk like the youths, people will be very happy with us especially our people, but the issue is will it guarantee peace of the nation, will it guarantee the safety of our people? So we have to do things as leaders that will first guarantee peace for our visitors and are our people who are also visitors in other locations of this country and beyond.
IPOB in an open letter to you and other Southeast governors made some demands including open apology, what is your take?
You see, we are servants of the people, we have no apology to tender because we represent them. There is misinformation because they said we should tender apology for proscribing IPOB we did not proscribed IPOB because we did not have the powers. But it was within our powers to say you have to stop the activities because you are trying to endanger the visitors to southeast and endanger lives of southeast people in the north. We had to do that and we don’t have apologies to offer for doing that and we also refuse to discuss the merits and demerits of our actions on the pages of newspapers. As leaders like I said you have to be economical with the way you speak so that you will continue to preserve the unity of this country.
IPOB has placed travel ban on the southeast governors, are you going to heed it or defile them?
There is no constitutional responsibility placed on IPOB to have the right to place travel ban. Incidentally, when I will travel, I will let IPOB know that I am coming to that particular nation. They remain our brothers, it doesn’t matter the misunderstanding. A woman was telling the dog that we can stay together it is a matter of understanding. So, I believe if we don’t have understanding today, we will have understanding tomorrow.