GOVERNORS of the five Igbo-speaking states in the southeast geo-political zone have said they are ready to engage in dialogue with the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) to resolve their differences.
Over recent weeks, the relationship between the governors and Ipob has become very frosty after former deputy senate president Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was attacked in Germany by members of the separatist group. Ipob, which is campaigning for an independent nation of Biafra, accused Senator Ekweremadu of failing to support their cause and had threatened that a similar fate awaits all governors who travel abroad.
Ipob had threatened to attack southeast governors and other Igbo leaders outside the country after beating up Senator Ekweremadu for allegedly working their interest. Since then, a war of words has broken out between the two sides with the governors describing Ipob as a bunch of miscreants and an illegal proscribed organisation.
However, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, the chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, appears to be softening his stance, declaring that they never proscribed Ipob but just its activities across the region. He then asked Ipob to convene a meeting and invite the governors for discussions.
Governor Umahi said: “Ipob are our children, they are our brothers and sisters. They fight their fight on the pages of newspapers and social media, which does not help but the best thing is for all of us to sit down and talk, as the governors are ready to speak with them.
“They should have a way of coming home or convene a meeting and the governors will attend anywhere they want. Let us sit down and discuss it and they should know that the governors did not proscribe them as they lack constitutional powers to do so but only banned their activities in the region where they have jurisdiction.”
Last Wednesday, Ipob’s legal counsel Aloy Ejimakor, wrote to the governors, giving conditions for peace to reign. His conditions included the immediate and unconditional de-proscription of Ipob and the delisting of the group as a terrorist organisation.
Ipob’s other demands included genuine dialogue on its referendum demand for the restoration of Biafra and discontinuance of the ongoing prosecution of its members and no future arrests and prosecutions. However, the governors said the group were channelling their demands to the wrong people.
Governor Umahi said: “Why can’t they channel their grievances straight to the federal government? That demand is dead on arrival because it is not the governors that will apologise to them but rather they should apologise to the governors and Ndigbo.”
On whether they will lift the ban on Ipob activities in the zone, Governor Umahi said the issue would be discussed at any convened meeting. It is not yet clear if Ipob will accept the olive branch offered by the governors.