Deputy Speaker’s Peace Project Spurs FG’s Commitment to End Insecurity in South East
National Assembly Pledges Support with Appropriate Legislations as Needed
By Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo
With the formal unveiling of the peace project initiated by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Benjamin Okezie Kalu, the Federal Government has come out with firm commitment to free the Southeast zone from the spate of insecurity ravaging the zone.
This commitment was expressed on Friday December 29, 2023 by both the executive and legislative arms of the federal government during the grand civic reception, thanksgiving and homecoming of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Benjamin Okezie Kalu held in Bende, Abia State.
The multifaceted event featured the formal unveiling of the Peace in the Southeast Project(PISE-P) release of white pigeons by leaders to symbolise pursuit for peace, cultural displays and conferrement of chieftaincy titltes.
All the stakeholders, including federal authorities, Southeast political leaders, leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, as well as traditional institutions and religious leaders were all united in the quest for lasting peace in the zone.
While the Presidency promised to deploy every available resources, kinetic and non-kinetic, to restore peace in the Southeast, the National Assembly leadership assured that every nèeded legislative support would be provided.
Vice President of Nigeria, Kashim Shettima, who represented President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said that Mr. President was “concerned about the extensive economic devastation inflicted by non-state actors on this beautiful region since we took office”.
In his speech entitled “Why we are all Umunna”(which translates to why we are all brothers), apparently to underscore the deep concern of Mr. President about the reign of insecurity in Nigeria’s economically vibrant zone, stated that the time has come to bring peace to the Southeast.
“The problem we are here to solve as a community, as an Umunna, is a creation of self-serving criminals who do not represent the interests of Ndigbo and Nigerians,” he said.
Accordihg to him, Mr. President understands the situation “better than all of us” hence in the spirit of democracy “he has never held any group accountable for the infractions of law-breaking individuals who identify as their members”.
The VP assured Ndigbo that Tinubu “is determined to utilize all available resources to ensure that the peace we’re establishing in this region is not cosmetic”.
But he was quick to point out that the federal government “can’t guarantee” the much needed peace “unless all of us see through the falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against our unity.”
Taking a jab at the sepatatist agitation, which is largely blamed for the insecurity in the Southeast, Shettima insisted the agitators were on self-serving mission with the backing of “forces exploiting the situation for dangerous political agenda”.
“Today, we stand united to firmly declare: enough is enough,” VP Shettima announced to the leaders and people of Southeast.
He stated that the presence of the FG at the event was an assurance of its resolve to ensure the return of peace and normal life in the Southeast, adding that Mr. President would not renege on his promise.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin in his remarks noted the urgency of addressing the insecurity problem in the Southeast in order to restore the economic vibrancy of the zone.
He advised all stakeholders to put aside their political differences and work for the peace, economic growth and overall development of Southeast and Nigeria in general.
In his message of support, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Tajudeen Abbas said that he was saddened that insecurity has “significantly paralysed socio-economic endeavours in a region whose people are renowned for their resourcefulness and economic enterprise”.
He said that he came to Bende as a friend of Ndigbo and to identify with “my brother” Kalu in his efforts to free the Southeast from the devastating effects of insecurity, “which has cast a dark shadow over the region”.
The Speaker delved into “the rich history” Southeast to recall the economic, industrial, entrepreneurial prowess of Ndigbo and their creativity, saying that the South-east (which) “has remained an economic powerhouse in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa” should be saved from insecurity.
He stressed the need to understand “the root causes” of the security challenges in the Southeast zone in order to “address these issues effectively”,
Abbas listed the “underlying causes (to) include the sense of marginalisation and the feeling by many people in the South East that their voices are not heard and their concerns are not adequately addressed in the national discourse”.
He said: “Secondly, the general economic challenges and the attendant lack of sufficient economic opportunities fuel frustration and make the youth more susceptible to radical ideologies. This is true for most parts of Nigeria, not just the South East.
“Additionally, we cannot ignore, neither should we be ashamed to acknowledge the historical context, including memories of past conflicts and perceived injustices that continue to influence the current sentiments in the region”.
The governor of Imo State and Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, Hope Uzodinma, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, and the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, both plegded their support for peace in the zone.
The Abia State governor, Alex Otti read the Peace Declaration of the Southeast to further accentuate the collective desire of the zone to restore sustainable peace and development.
The Obi of Onitsha, HRH, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, who chaired the event said that the gathering of the relevant stakeholders for the event at Bende was an indication that “peace starts today” in the Southeast, adding the state governors would drive the initiative.
In appreciation, the Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers through its chairman, HRH Eze Linus Nto Mba conferred chieftaincy titles on the national leaders for their peace efforts.
President Tinubu was given the title of Omezirigbo, VP Shettima is Enyioma Ndigbo, while Senate President Godswill Akpabio got Dikedinanmba while House Speaker Abbas was conferred with Onunekwuruoha.