By Sunday Ani and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
South East Council of Traditional Rulers and representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops have called on the Federal Government to release the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Service (DSS) since June.
They also urged government to de-proscribe IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
A statement signed by 12 first class Igbo traditional rulers and Christian clerics noted that the move, which would amount to an act of courage and statesmanship on the part of the Federal Government was not only imperative but would also speedily de-escalate the heightened state of insecurity and dislocation in the South East zone.
Expressing concerns over the high level of insecurity and socio-economic disruption in the South East, which has deepened the hardships being faced by the citizens and rendered prostrate the socio-political and economic lives of the people, the leaders also called for dialogue and negotiation to resolve the crisis just as were done to bring peace to other troubled parts of the country.
“We refer to our earlier request for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to the South East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, and restate this call even more strongly. We are of the firm belief that this act of courage and statesmanship is not only imperative but will speedily de-escalate the heightened state of insecurity and dislocation in the South East zone.
They further called on government to jettison the military option in the search for lasting peace in the zone.
“We call on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to demilitarise the South East zone, more so as it has become apparent that a continued military siege on the region can only lead to heightened tension, skirmishes and endless bloodletting between the security agencies and our youths. It has become urgent, imperative and compelling to de-emphasize the military option and move towards finding a political solution that will lead to sustainable peace.”
The leaders also stressed that heightened inequality and marginalisation remained responsible for youth restiveness in the region and the national leadership to note that until it takes deliberate steps to run government on the basis of fairness, equity, justice and non-discrimination, the restiveness would continue.
They promised to continue to seek audience with President Buhari to discuss the nagging issues so as to explore political solutions and ensure the release of Kanu, even as they assured the youths that they had heard their cries of marginalisation, injustice and long-suffering.
“As concerned parents, we feel your pain. However, we urge you to de-escalate the tension and remain law-abiding to enable us to engage, especially the Federal Government, in finding a lasting solution to the crises.”
They urged IPOB not to do anything that would hinder or be seen to be hindering the smooth running of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
“Finally, we call on all the candidates in the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election to eschew violence and commit to a free, fair and credible election.”
In a related development, former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, also appealed to IPOB to shelve their proposed one week sit-at-home scheduled for November 5 if Kanu was not unconditionally released from the Department of State Services (DSS)custody.
The elders statesman noted that suspending the order would be a good development for the South East.