Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has warned against playing “extreme and dangerous politics” with insecurity in the South East.
Ekweremadu described charges of silence against South East leaders over the rising security concerns in the region as “sheer blackmail and out of place”, noting that the region’s leaders had always spoken up and that the present situation could been avoided were the suggestions made to the federal government over the past several years been put to use.
The lawmaker, who is also the Leader of the South East Caucus of the Senate, bared his mind on Wednesday in a personally signed statement entitled “Playing Extreme Politics with South East Insecurity”, which was also made available to newsmen in Abuja.
He said: “I have noted with concern the growing and well-choreographed attack on the South East opposition leaders for allegedly not condemning the rising insecurity and agitations in the South East of Nigeria and the activities of non-state actors.
“I believed initially that those were genuine concern about the security situation in the South East. However, I have come to the realisation that those making and inducing the statements are only playing politics with a very serious matter. The objective is to lay the foundation for the harassment and possible destruction of the opposition in the South East ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
“It is on record that the South East leaders have at various times individually and collectively stated their positions on the challenges in the region, the concerns and demands of the South East people of Nigeria. South East leaders have also reiterated their opposition to the use of violence to resolve problems.
“I have personally reached out to the President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, both privately and publicly to advise on the treatment of the South East, restiveness in the region and the need to address their concerns.
“As Deputy President of the 8th Senate, I recall leading a delegation of South East Senate Caucus alongside our Caucus Leader at the time, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, to meet with Mr. President as early as November 9, 2016 to discuss the rising insecurity, growing agitations and germane concerns of the people of the South East region. With benefit of hindsight, we recalled to the President that such steps as we proffered proved very productive in resolving the agitations and the detention of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike during the tenure of the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
“My personal position was well laid out in my address entitled ‘Biafra: The Political, Economic, and Social Questions’ presented at the meeting of South East leaders (South-east Governors, National Assembly members, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, traditional rulers, religious leaders, and leaders of thought) on political developments in the South-east and state of the nation held at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel on July 1, 2017. The same was adopted by meeting and also widely published by national dailies.
“I equally made my position known in a letter entitled “Rising Tension in the South East: Re: Appeal to Call Off Operation Egwu Eke” and dated Thursday, 14th September, 2017 wherein I gave compelling reasons for dialogue and volunteered to rally Igbo leadership and activists to a roundtable with the President. The letter was published by the Vanguard newspaper under the title “Python Dance: Ekweremadu Writes Buhari, Urges Dialogue to Avert Another War”. Unfortunately, all these efforts came to naught, as they were neither given appropriate attention nor operationalised.
“Importantly, I have consistently advocated that justice, equity, better management of our diversity, and decentralised policing, including state police of which I sponsored a Bill to that effect in the 8th and current Senate, are the sure paths to peace and security in Nigeria. But these have largely been ignored.”
He recalled a recent statement wherein the leaders of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly, himself inclusive, “unequivocally condemned the killings and attacks on public assets in the South East and called on the security agencies to immediately unveil the persons behind the crisis, especially the so-called unknown gunmen, and bring them to book.”
The Senator also said he had been in personal touch with Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and South East governors on the need for meetings of leaders and political stakeholders to collectively proffer solutions to the turbulence in that region.
“But it is unfortunate that some people prefer to blame everyone else, except themselves, believing that their brothers and sisters on opposing political divides will be profiled and taken out for them by federal might ahead of 2023 to make it easier for them to kidnap political positions in the South East. This is extreme and dangerous politics,” he stated.
Reiterating need for such meetings, Ekweremadu, however noted security challenges and separatist agitations had become nationwide challenges that the nation’s leaders must sincerely come together to resolve.
“It is imperative to underscore the fact that the rising insecurity and agitations in the South East are not peculiar to the region. It sadly has become a national new normal. From the North West to North Central, North East, South West, South East, and South South, there is a conflagration of insecurity, crises, and all forms of restiveness and separatist agitations.
“Therefore, for emphasis, I reiterate that it is extreme and dangerous to play national or regional politics with serious matters such as we have on our hands today rather than solving the challenges before it is too late. Pragmatic leadership and patriotism are needed at this time.
“We need to rally Nigerians, and come together as leaders to provide solutions and not trade blames or seek to make political capital out of what is clearly capable of consuming the entire nation, including even any political ambitions by anyone,” he warned.