PAN-cultural association Ohanaeze Ndigbo has used the occasion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Imo State to urge him to release all the Igbo youth currently being held in detention centres across the country simply for agitating for a better society.
This morning, President Buhari arrived in Owerri, the Imo State capital for an official visit under controversial circumstances. Since assuming office in 2015, President Buhari has been accused of marginalising Igbos when it comes to appointments, which has spurred the growth of separatist bodies such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), who have been advocating for the creation of an independent Igbo nation state.
In response to such agitation, the federal government has cracked down hard, with security forces rounding up Ipob members. Their leader Nnamdi Kanu, was abducted under controversial circumstances in Kenya and is now in detention awaiting trial, while the southeast geo-political zone has been flooded with security operatives.
Looking for a solution to the crisis, Professor George Obiozor, the president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, used the occasion of President Buhari’s visit to ask for the release of Igbo youths currently being held by security agents across the country. Pointing out that Ndigbo are not separatists, Professor Obiozor said that the Igbo would continue to be part of Nigeria as long as there is justice in the country.
Professor Obiozor added: “Mr. President your visit and presence today in Igboland and Owerri, Imo State in particular, has more than political significance. In a manner of symbolism, this visit has thrown light into the cloudiness and doubts surrounding the perception of the relations between your government and Ndigbo.
“Your presence reassures us that there is still reason for optimism for Nigeria and Nigerian unity. I feel very pleased in my capacity as president-general Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and on behalf of the galaxy of Ndigbo leaders gathered here today and the entire Igbo nation, to welcome Your Excellency wholeheartedly to Igboland.
“It is also our firm belief that this visit will mark the beginning of a new chapter of dialogue, cooperation and understanding between Ndigbo and your administration. Your Excellency, the most urgent and imperative need of Ndigbo today is security as the security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has become a compelling primary responsibility of serious concern for Ndigbo.
“Regrettably our southeast zone has recently become a theatre of conflict, negating the peace-loving nature of our people. In this context, Ohanaeze Ndigbo calls for the establishment of a zonal and state police apparatus to support and complement the existing federal security architecture and it is in this same vein that Ohanaeze Ndigbo appeals to you, Mr President, to see to the release of Igbo youths detained by various security agencies across the country.”
Yesterday, Ipob had declared a sit-at-home protest across the southeast to protest President Buhari’s visit to Imo State. Ipob director of state Chika Edoziem, warned that severe consequences would await Igbo leaders, including traditional rulers, Ohanaeze Ndigbo leaders, women and youth groups, who dared came to welcome the president during the visit.