The governor of Abia state, Okezie Ikpeazu, has explained why leaders from the south east would not allow Biafra agitation take place in the region.
He said the move will protect millions of Igbo living outside the region.
Mr. Ikpeazu, who spoke in a short interview with State House journalists shortly after emerging from a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday, said there are 11.6 million Igbos outside the south east.
He spoke in response to the recent tension arising from agitation by the group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Q: Nigerians are beginning to wonder what went wrong?
A: It depends from what point to what point. But if you are referring to what happened in the past one week. Nigerians know that for some time now that this group called IPOB was agitating for a separate nation called Biafra and that the home state of the leader of that group happens to be Abia State.
As expected, when such things happen there is an interface between some members of that group and the military, and the theater was Abia state. And some people attempted to hijack that event to conflagrate our country. To the glory of God the rest is history, we are still working to stabilise the fragile peace in the region. I thank God also for the instruments he used to be able to keep our country as one. We are humbled by the privileges.
Q: You received northern governor’s in your state, what did you have to say to them?
A: Well, I assured them of safety of lives and property of everybody that resides in Abia whether you are an Abian or not. I swore with the Bible to protect lives and property and because I take such things seriously, I will continue to protect the lives and property of my brothers and sisters irrespective of where they come from. You know that the main stay of our economy in Abia State is trade and commerce and I do not think it will augur well for our economy if we make our kitchen the theater of Biafra.
A native wisdom in my place says you shouldn’t allow fight to ensue from your mother’s kitchen. It is my responsibility also to grow prosperity from my state.
Q: People are calling for the dethronement of Nnamdi Kanu’s father. How do you react?
A: I clearly separate Kanu from his father. The processes of handling traditional institutions are enshrined in the laws of our land. And traditional rulers who are members of our constituency have leadership, they will do the needful at the appropriate time. But for me, I think there is a clear division between Nnamdi Kanu and his father.
Q: What was the meeting with the vice president all about?
A: Well, naturally I’m heading a subnational government when this kind of thing happens which would have had a dimension of national proportion, it is right that you will come and brief the C-in-C or his vice and that is exactly what I have come to do.
Q: How do you react to allegations that this IPOB crisis is as a result of failure of leadership in the South East?
A: Allegations are supposed to be investigated by investigative officers and I’m not trying to investigate such things. You know, we are perception builders and we should try to say things that are good about our country not things that are bad. I think there are enough reasons to see that under our circumstance that we may not be at Eldorado yet, but that there are concerted efforts and attempts to make our place a better place. I do not see how as an Ibo man, boxing myself into a smaller geographic entity without recourse of the most widely traveled people in Nigeria. There are Igbos in Sambisa, what are you expecting of them if I narrow their geography of coverage? But agitation, marginalisation, infrastructural deficiencies are issues which are germane and they can be discussed, they can be spoken about, they can be addressed. But I do not know how in the 21st century, how carrying arms in my kitchen will grow the prosperity of my people.
Q: What’s your message to Igbos all over the world?
A: First and foremost I think it’s our relationship with our brothers from northern Nigeria. The governors have assured that every part of Nigeria is safe for every Nigerian including Igbos to continue in their businesses and enterprise.
I want to announce that the population of Igbos outside Ibo enclave is about 11.6 million, you don’t play with the lives of 11.6 million. So we all have to be careful, the press, the leadership at the state level, the leadership at the federal government level, everybody. I think we should be guarded by the rule of law and grow confidence in the Nigerian citizens that under our laws that he is protected.