By Charles Ogbu.
Mr governor Sir,
It is with a heart burdened with grief that I address this memo to you IN YOUR CAPACITY AS THE CHAIRMAN OF SOUTHEAST GOVERNORS FORUM. And forgive me for not addressing you as ‘His Excellency’ because in this context, I honestly don’t think you are deserving of that title.
Mr governor Sir, as the governor of Ebonyi state, you have been remarkably outstanding in terms of infrastructural development like roads, bridges, fly-overs etc especially in the state capital, Abakali. One who finds himself in Abakali at night would be forgiven to mistake the city for London or Dubai and this is no exaggeration. The quality of the roads, the fly-overs and other solid structures leaves one with a smiling face. Indeed, it is my view that other governors of the southeast should come to you for tutorial on how to build solid durable roads with indigenous contractors and manpower. This is not to say that governance starts and ends with building roads, bridges, fly-overs and other physical structures. Not at all. But it is a very important part of it. And in this respect, you deserve some accolades.
That’s as far as the harvests of praises go.
With regards to your role as the Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum sir, you have been a SPECTACULAR FAILURE. Very very uninspiring, irresponsible and irresponsive to the yearnings of Ndigbo. There is no ‘but’. There is no ‘if’ here. And please, do not let any sycophants deceive you by telling you otherwise.
As I write, Mr governor, the southeastern part of Nigeria is effectively under the control of non-state actors who order Ndigbo around. They decide when we come out and when we stay indoors. They tell us when to remove the Nigerian flag and when to put it back. And like a people without alternative, we obey them ex abundantia cautela (out of the abundance of caution). As I write, Mr governor, our region has been a killing field. Innocent Igbo lives and property have been terminated and continue to be terminated in a most brutal way by criminals and terrorists who now run the show in a region rated the most peaceful in the country not so long ago.
In the midst of all these, Mr governor, it’s been nothing but a very thunderous silence and inaction from you and your colleague governors who we elected to protect and keep us safe.
Despite billions of naira available to you guys as federal allocation, internally generated revenue and security votes, Where is the leadership????
As the Chairman of the southeast governors forum, pray tell, Mr governor, what exactly is your job if not to galvanise and organise your fellow governors to protect and defend the interest of the Southeast? And which interest could be more important than their right to life? In all honesty, can you say you have done this job at all, let’s not talk of doing it well?
Few days ago, I watched you condemn in strong terms the now-suspended sit-at-home by the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) describing it as destroying the Eastern economy which depends largely on every day buying and selling. You equally lamented that we the Igbos are now killing ourselves.
Unlike some Igbos especially those of them in diaspora scattered in so many Igbo WhatsApp fora who believe in Igbo Exceptionalism of ‘Igbos don’t kill each other’, I am of the opinion that what we are going through now is largely self-inflicted. Yes, we are the main authors of this current misfortune of ours. The weekly sit-at-home was a very foolish measure which would only achieve the evil aim the economic/food blockade during the Biafra war failed to achieve. And yes, the festival of blood happening in the southeast is by Igbos against their fellow Igbos. If non-Igbos are involved, it is Igbos who created the fertile ground. We as Ndigbo should be humble enough to do some introspection and take responsibility instead of this very irresponsible act of blaming other people for woes we knowingly brought upon ourselves. So on that, I agree with you.
But Mr governor sir, if we are to pay ourselves the courtesy of being blunt, we’d admit we didn’t just get here by magic. We got here as a result of FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP by the forum you lead. The DELIBERATE REFUSAL of the Southeast Governors Forum under your watch to listen to the cries of Ndigbo on Regional Security got us here.
For years, the Igbo masses cried, wailed, shouted and pleaded with you governors to set up a regional security outfit to combat the menace of marauding Fulani herdsmen operating with STATE-SPONSORED IMPUNITY. Not only did you guys refuse to heed to the demand of the Igbo people you are supposedly in office to serve, you, in your capacity as the Chairman of the forum went on Channels TV to vehemently argue that regional security outfit is unconstitutional in a federal system of government. You made this argument at a time the southwest was already establishing their own regional security outfit known as AMOTEKUN. You made this argument knowing that the first and most important duty of any government anywhere in the world is protection of lives and property and that the federal government has manifestly REFUSED to use their security operatives to combat the herdsmen terrorism.
Riding on the vacuum created by the southeast governors forum under you, IPOB created an armed wing known as the Eastern Security Network which they claim was to fight the menace of the herdsmen.
To be clear, Mr governor, I don’t believe that putting AK-47 in the hands of non-state actors who are not accountable to any constituted authority, have no known office and no clear structure will produce anything but total anarchy and insecurity no matter how well intentioned. But the truth is, your REFUSAL to listen to the cry of Ndigbo on the necessity of a Regional Security created a vacuum which, as you know, nature abhors. So you bear maximum responsibility for getting us here.
Mr governor sir, I don’t agree that you and your colleagues are completely responsible for some extremely foolish and suicidal actions taken by SOME Igbos. Actions such as OPENLY showing support and hailing the activities of the Unknown-Gun-Men as they go about killing security operatives and taking their weapons some of which are now being used against Ndigbo, breaking the Owerri prison and releasing hundreds of criminals back into the Igbo society etc but I do think your irresponsible leadership as the chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum left Ndigbo hopeless and frustrated. Out of this hopelessness and frustration, most Igbos turned to non-state actors for mental and psychological refuge. So there is a sense in which those who blame all of this on your failure to show leadership are not entirely wrong. When leaders fail or refuse to do the right thing, the wrong people may step in and end up making things worse.
Your failure is not only limited to refusal to set up a regional security outfit for the region, it extends to your non-chalant attitude to other regional issues of existential nature. For instance, after the Southern Governors Forum met in Lagos to agree that all Southern states should pass a law banning Anti-Open Grazing of Cattle in their respective states, a major umbrella under which terrorist herdsmen hide to carry out their terror, the Southeast region under your leadership has been the only region that has shown less commitment to the resolution of the Southern Governors block. And let’s face it, this is because of your lack of leadership. Enugwu and Abia are the only two Eastern states that have passed this law. Imo governor has made it clear he has no intention of implementing the law even if it has been passed by the previous government. Anambra governor clearly stated the state doesn’t need such a law even as I understand it is now before the state parliament. But in your own state which has witnessed worst cases of herdsmen atrocities, mum has been the word. This is even as you ought to be the main mobiliser and motivator to your colleague governors in this respect.
The last Southern Governors Forum meeting held in the same region where you are the Chairman of the Governors and ought to be the Chief host, you violated a very fundamental Igbo tradition of not welcoming the same people you yourself invited to your home. The next we saw was you going on Channels TV to ridicule the decision of the same Southern Governors Forum to which you belong.
Mr governor sir, this is supposed to be a short memo so let me summarise; Ndigbo are facing a grave existential crisis right about now. And leadership is an act, not just a mere rhetoric. So please, take a deep introspection and make up your mind on whether you are ready to discharge the duties expected of your office as the Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum. And in the event you are not ready, please, honorably step aside and give room for another.
While hoping you will take urgent steps with your colleague governors toward putting an end to the mindless killings going on in the East, do kindly accept the assurances of my highest esteem.