PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s one-day official visit to Imo State on Thursday, September 9, 2021, was more of a visit to the South East zone as a whole.
Outside election campaign times, it was his first visit to that part of the country as an elected president.
He was received by a cross-section of the Igbo elite, the full complements of the Imo State Government and his All Progressives Congress, APC, adherents. However, the South East grassroots as a whole turned their backs on him and his entourage.
They complied with the call by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to stay indoors as a sign of their rejection of his administration’s policies towards the Igbo nation since he assumed power in 2015.
His perceived nepotism based on the belief that the zone is severely under-represented in his government, the menace of land-grabbing herdsmen terrorists which the administration allegedly condones and the oppressive activities of the military and law enforcement agencies in the zone have driven the people into the waiting arms of the separatist IPOB.
We are pleased that the president’s erstwhile truculent remarks which painted the picture of a war footing with the Igbo nation a few months ago gave way to a far more pacifist rhetoric while Buhari was in Owerri.
In his speech, he appeared to wave the olive branch. We want the president to follow up his call for the Igbo nation to shun separatism by adjusting his governance policies and style to buoy the confidence of those who still believe in the unity of Nigeria.
With two years left of his administration, Buhari can still correct his mistakes and repair a lot of damage before he goes. The Igbo nation should be given their dues in terms of appointments and the distribution of government patronage. They should be given their rightful place in the armed forces, security agencies and police of our country.
The oppressive activities of the armed forces and police in the zone should stop. Law-abiding citizens should be allowed to go about their livelihoods without harassment. The president should look into the Ohanaeze leadership’s request to release thousands of Igbo youth in detention or try them for whatever offences they were arrested for.
The menace of armed herdsmen is a major reason for the existence of self-help outfits such as the Eastern Security Network, ESN. The law enforcement agencies should remove these herdsmen terrorists from our forests all over the country.
The Federal Government must also desist from imposing any programme that deprives people of their lands or puts them at daggers-drawn with other ethnic nationalities living among them.
We would like to remember Buhari as a leader who corrected his mistakes and left a legacy of unity and peaceful coexistence among all Nigerians.