Prominent traditional rulers of the South East geopolitical zone met yesterday with President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss various issues affecting the region.
The traditional rulers affirmed their belief in the unity of Nigeria but presented some of the demands of pro-Biafra groups like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
The Chairman of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Eberechi Dick (Abia), led the monarchs to the meeting which took place at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While disagreeing with IPOB and other agitators demanding the restoration of Biafra as a separate country from Nigeria, the delegation, however, declared that some of their demands needed to be addressed by the Federal Government.
In their position paper read out by Eze Dick to Buhari, the royal fathers, who supported the President’s war against insecurity and corruption, said: “On the issue of the agitation by some of our youths like IPOB and others for a Biafran Republic, we have continued to engage and preach to them that every problem of the country can be best resolved through dialogue and respect for the rule of law.
“While we reassure Your Excellency of our total belief in a united and indivisible Nigeria, we also want to call the attention of the Federal Government to some of their mentioned grievances for serious considerations, which include:
“Neglect of the South East in the Amnesty Programme; deplorable state of Federal Roads and other infrastructure in the South East; relegation of oil-producing States of the South East in NDDC projects and exclusion of the South East in key federal appointments; anti-nationalistic treatment of Igbo people by other Nigerians.
“We also want to call the attention of Your Excellency to the criminal activities of kidnappers, some cattle herdsmen which are posing serious security challenges to the people of the South East.
“In the recent times, so many lives and properties worth billions of naira have been lost. While the Governors and Traditional Rulers of the zone have been managing the situation, we want to call on the Federal Government to use all the instruments of power and resources available to you to come to our aid and rescue.”
They commended the President on his choice of some South East sons for the positions of Ministers in his cabinet, and appealed to him to appoint more.
The monarchs added that “while we are happy over the award of contracts for the construction and maintenance of some federal roads within the zone, we want to use this opportunity to request for the rehabilitation of Aba-Ikot Ekpene, Onitsha-Enugu, Owerri Port Harcourt, Owerri-Aba, Abakaliki federal roads.
“We also express our gratitude to you for continuing with the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge, which when completed, will surely reduce the suffering of our using that route.”
In his response, Buhari stressed the unity of the country and urged separatists contemplating its break-up to have a rethink because the question of having another country out of Nigeria was misplaced.
“The question of having another country out of Nigeria is going to be very difficult. From 1914, we have more than 200 cultures living with one another. God had endowed this country with natural resources and talented people. We should concentrate on these and be very productive,” the President said.
Addressing specific issues raised by the monarchs, the President said the South East will benefit from the new railway architecture being packaged by his administration.
On their request for more representation for the South East in his government, the President said that he was “very conscious of the sensitivities of the South East”, on account of which he gave four of the five states of the region senior ranking ministers in his cabinet.
He appealed to the traditional rulers to persuade their people to give his government a chance and to continue to serve as beacons of culture and traditions of their people.
The President assured the delegation that kidnapping and cattle rustling, which he described as “unfortunate”, would be the government’s next target, now that “we have managed to calm down the North East zone.”
On the delegation of the monarchs were the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe (Anambra); the Chairman Imo Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri (Imo); Eze Ralph Ugboji; Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu (Enugu); Ezeudi Uche Egenti; Eze J.O. Akaliro; Eze Laz Umahi Nweze (Ebonyi); Eze O.S. Igwilo (Imo); and Eze (Prof) Chukwuemeka Ike (Anambra).
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