By Dr Dons Eze
Since November last year when Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Nweze Umahi, left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), we have not been hearing much about the South East Governors' Forum. We do not know whether Umahi is still the Chairman of the Governors' Forum, or has been replaced by some other person, as the PDP in the South East has done, with the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, replacing Umahi as the new leader of the party in the zone.
If Dave Umahi is still the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum, or a new Chairman of the forum has been selected, then something must have been wrong somewhere, because the person has closed his eyes on recent happenings in the South East.
As our Igbo people would say, an elder does not sit idly by, and watch while a she goat delivers in teethers. A lot of things have been happening in the South East in recent past, which ought to have attracted the attention of whoever is the Chairman of the Governors' Forum. But the person seems to be slumbering, or missing in action. He simply keeps mute, and has his ears shut.
First, there was the rancourous election of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, held in January, this year, which produced parallel executives. We had expected whoever is the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum to rise to the occasion and call the warring factions to order, but the man did not say anything.
When the federal government rejigged its security architecture and appointed new Service Chiefs, but completely ignored the South East, we thought that the Chairman of the Governors' Forum would say something. But he did not.
Currently, there have been air and land bombardments of some parts of the South East, in particular, Orlu, Orsu and Njaba local government areas of Imo State, by the Nigerian military and the police, but the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum has gone to bed. We have not heard anything from him.
Curiously, a member of the South East Governors' Forum, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, was reported to have admitted that he was the one who invited the military to descend on the people of his State.
Speaking through his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Cyprian Akaolisa, Hope Uzodinma said he invited the military to"flush out" members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), an offshoot of the Indigenes People of Biafra (IPOB). He described the operatives of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) as "hoodlums" terrorising the state, and said that the group would be treated as "murderers" by the state government.
But we did not hear anything from the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum, whether Hope Uzodinma's assertion represented the collective view of the governors of the South East Zone, or that the Imo State Governor acted on his own.
Somehow, sometime ago, we thought we heard the Chairman of South East Governors' Forum, Dave Umahi, said that open grazing of cattle had been outlawed in the South East. But since then, we have been seeing many cattle blocking our highways as well as our township roads, and descending on people's farms. But nobody has done anything to stop them, or to enforce the proclamation made by the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum, Dave Umahi.
Ironically, the South East Governors were the first to announce that they would set up a joint security network to police the area, in view of the reported cases of kidnappings and killings of many innocent people in the area. But when the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, flew into the South East and had talks with the Governors, they began to sing a different tune, that they would go for "community policing", which many people believed, was not different from the present security arrangement.
The South East Governors were still dilly-dallying on what to do or were slumbering, when the South West Governors beat them to the game, took up the gauntlet, and set up the Amotekun Security Network. And the South East Governors were confounded.
But since nature abhors a vacuum, and there was no improvement in the security situation in the South East, the Indigenes People of Biafra (IPOB), seized the initiative, and came up with the Eastern Security Network (ESN). But the South East Governors' Forum, probably still led by Dave Umahi, instead of embracing the group, became jittery or jealous. They did not acknowledge the Igbo saying that "Onye kpoo Oba ya nkpokolo, umu ntakili jili ya gwuo egwu", that is to say, if you call your cup a pebble, little children will begin to play with it. That is exactly what they have done with the Eastern Security Network.
Sunday Igboho and the Amotekun security group are everywhere in the forests of the South West, smoking out criminals from the area, and their Governors are hailing and supporting them. But here, we choose to demonize the Eastern Security Network. We call them "hoodlums" and "miscreants", and invite the Nigerian military to descend on them, because we would want to be seen as "good boys" and "obedient servants" in the eyes of our masters.
We think that it was the same Dave Umahi who was the Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum in 2017, when the federal government proscribed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), declared it a terrorist organization, and drove its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, underground, even when there were worse groups in the country, like the Miyetti Allah, which were being embraced by the federal government.
We do not think that the best way to handle a stubborn child would be to drive the child away and treat him like a criminal. Our thinking is that it would be better to welcome back the child, as a good father did to his prodigal son. You then show him where he went wrong so that the child would take correction.
Presently, we are beginning to rethink our position in supporting or canvassing for an Igbo President in 2023, when the Igbo people we currently have in positions of authority in Nigeria cannot stand up to speak for their people or to defend them in times of need, and sometimes have even proved to be worse than the perceived enemies of the Igbo.
...Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI, is public affairs analyst. NNL.