S/East govs’ forum communique: you are disconnected from your people [open letter]
By Igbo Renaissance Forum
We send you solemn greetings from your grieving, bruised and forlorn citizens.
When news filtered in that Your Excellencies were having a meeting in the Coal City, our hearts leapt very high with joy, only to drop hopelessly in a dark pool of crushing disappointment when the outcome of your meeting was made public.
Since the evening of Sunday 24th May 2020 that your Communique from the meeting was issued, the Igbo Renaissance Forum has been consulting very widely, hence our seemingly late response to your Communique.
Be reminded that we have sent Your Excellencies two previous letters to make suggestions on the way forward as it affects out people in this critical time and to inform you of the true position of things as your fatally sycophantic aides might not make known to you for reasons best known to them.
• We want to firstly thank you for taking the meeting offline to the Executive Council Chambers of the Lion Building, Government House, Enugu. That at least gave us confidence that our issues would be discussed with the lowest risk of interception.
• We appeal to you to continue viewing our concerns with the spectacles of wisdom and deep reasoning. We are your people speaking their natural minds to Your Excellencies without any bias, coercion, sentiments or fear. The message we bring is the TRUTH as it is on the streets. Do not let the retinue of YES MEN that have opened up Your Excellencies to harsh and constructive criticisms for your actions and inactions influence your minds at this time.
As usual, we took time to digested your Communique issued after your meeting of the 24th of May, 2020, at The Executive Council Chambers, Lion Building, Government House, Enugu, and we came to the sad conclusion that something is obviously not right somewhere and somehow.
The Communique went straight to detail the AGREEMENTS reached at this crucial meeting and captured them in six points. It is however interesting to note that the MOST important issue facing us as Ndi Igbo currently was conveniently omitted from the Communique.
It is shocking that a matter as serious as the smuggling in of strange, weird, able-bodied young men in contravention of the Presidential Order on Interstate Border Lockdown into the South East did not find a tiny space in the Communique you issued!
Your Excellencies, we want to state that the omission of this very critical matter is a major failure in giving hope to your people at such a time as we find ourselves.
TO THE COMMUNIQUE
a. In our first open letter to your Excellencies, we suggested to you that, “there should be an immediate drive to get a database of Ndi Igbo both inside and outside Igbo land”. It would be more effective to reach out to all Igbo outposts wherever they may be, through a direct channel. This would be the beginning of the greatness that we yearn for as a people, as we this would help us become more networked and bonded through izu nwanne channels.
Sending messages to our people ONLY through the mainstream communication channels of the media that are public is certainly not the best way to bond our people and build confidence in them. We therefore reiterate the importance of a deliberate strategy to get a database of our people worldwide, because data is everything. Also, a detailed work in the demographic and psychographic data of ala Igbo must be commissioned ASAP. Without data, we would be wasting our time in trials and errors of all kinds.
b. The Communique also made known that the Governors’ Forum agreed to further engage the NCDC to scale up testing of corona virus in the South East States. We would like to know what this really implies. As at the last meeting of 14/05/2020, Your Excellencies were very hopeful that more states would open up test centres. It is important that the citizens are communicated with to avoid speculations that might lead to misconceptions.
We would have wanted to hear the current status of those states that are yet to set up test centres in their states, and what citizens should expect, and with timelines. That is called LEADERSHIP.
In our first Open letter to Your Excellencies, the very first point on our list of suggestions is that, “the South East Governors should come together immediately and set up a fund targeted at increasing the testing capacity of the South East Region”. We made this suggestion based on critical evaluation of peculiar circumstances that might be playing out now, which has informed Your Excellencies being compelled to engage the NCDC to scale up testing in the South East.
We believe that if the South East Governors’ Forum set a realistic target for this South East Health Fund Project, we shall be channeling the energy that would be spent on engaging the NCDC into actualizing this CENTRALIZED ACTION FUND to ensure that our people are saved the agonies of ill health and deaths. Significantly, post-Covid-19, this would be scaled up to improve our healthcare delivery in the South East.
a. We are disappointed that citizens are subjected to this open declaration of the fact that security is not being accorded the priority it rightly deserves at this precarious time in our history. It was a black Sunday for us in Igbo Renaissance Forum to realize with shock that there has never been any realistic move to secure our people. All we heard from the Communique issued is that the IGP is not keeping to earlier agreements, and we ask, WHAT ARE THOSE AGREEMENTS? DOES IT MEAN THAT NOTHING WAS GOING ON ALL THESE MONTHS APART FROM TALKING ABOUT TERMS AND AGREEMENTS?
b. We are appealing to Your Excellencies to kindly wake up to the realities of the times and do the needful for the protection of those who have entrusted their lives in your hands. Do not continue to give your citizens the impression that you either do not care, or compromised. These are deductions that can be made by such lax narrative on the security of a whole region.
c. We view with suspicion and palpable doubt your agreement that all States Houses of Assembly should commence the process of enacting State Security Laws in line with the South East Joint Security Programme.
d. We would most respectfully wish to state we are not aware that there is any SOUTH EAST JOINT SECURITY PROGRAMME that has been adopted. The last time we heard of any such thing was when the South East Governors’ Forum in February of this year announced that they were going to submit the South East Joint Security Programme to the President when it is ready.
e. We would first want to know if South East Joint Security Programme is ready. If it is ready, are Your Excellencies still planning to send it to the President and Commander in Chief to approve it? Are the State Assemblies going to wait until the President reverts to Your Excellencies before they start work?
f. We are asking because it would amount to causing wilful financial damage to the state to expend money working on a bill that would never see the light of day. Based on the fact that with the disagreement with the Inspector General of Police on how to secure our people, you do not expect the President to give you a nod to your proposed South East Joint Security Programme. It is sad that we have to be walking this path today after blazing the trail on this very important issue, only for another region to dust us due to lethargic and lackadaisical ways of approaching LEADERSHIP.
g. We therefore would want Your Excellencies to brace yourselves, put together a crack team that would help craft a very realistic, efficient and effective Regional Security Blueprint that would have been passed through the fire and then direct same to your State Assemblies for the legal process to become Law. We have already seen this done in the South West. WHAT IS OUR PROBLEM?
3. REJIGING THE ECONOMY:
a. It is a welcome idea to set up committees in the various States to work with the Federal Government, World Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority – NSIA in their various programmes lined up to rejig the economy, especially in the areas of Agriculture, SME and solid minerals. While doing this, we would like Your Excellencies to give serious thoughts to some of the suggestions we made in our first open letter to you (https://elombah.com/covid%E2%80%8A-%E2%80%8A19-nationwide-lockdown-the-coming-crises-and-how-the-south-east-can-be-secured-igbo-renaissance-forum/)
1) That the South East Governors should as a matter of urgency, institute a South East Food Security Commission that would immediately go to work, to craft a very comprehensive plan for a sustainable agricultural revolution in ala Igbo.
2) That the South East Governors immediately set up a South East Science, Technology and Economic Development Commission.
3) This Commission is to come up with viable economic pathways for the various sectors that would be identified by the Commission.
4) There is need for the South East Governors to immediately set up a South East Research and Technology Development Commission. This Commission would be responsible for putting together a strategic action document on how to harness the expertise and talents of our teeming number of scientists and professionals in various fields across the globe for a Technological Revolution in ala Igbo, and probably target developing a vaccine for the CORONA VIRUS.
b. The move to open up talks with the Group MD of NNPC on linking South East State capitals with gas pipeline alongside with the pipeline programme of Federal Government of Nigeria, which runs from Imo State to Lagos State is commendable, and we ask that it is pursued vigorously.
4. NDI IGBO STABILIZATION FUND:
a. We are very happy that there seems to be a renewed effort at making the South East Governors’ Forum and Ohaneze relationship an efficient partnership. It is very exhilarating to read that there is an agreement that Ohaneze should expeditiously submit a working document in the next meeting of the SEGF on setting up of a South East Stabilization Fund.
Having said all these, we would like to find out what measures the South East Governors put in place to ensure that Ohaneze can deliver on the assignment it has been given?
It is an open secret that the current President General of Ohaneze, Chief Nnia Nwodo, (Ike Ukehe) virtually runs the organization with his Executives on personal funds. We therefore start wondering how such an assignment that would need to task set Committees in Ohaneze would deliver efficiently and effectively, working under such debilitating financial impairment.
In view of this, we are calling on the Governors to make it a point of priority to make good some of their obligations to Ohaneze IMMEDIATELY to enable the organization take on its numerous and onerous responsibilities. Without going this way, we are going to see another lull in all these well stated points, and we shall be back to another round of very well-crafted grammar without impact.
5. AIRPORT REHABILITATION:
We have made our stand very clear on this matter severally. The only assurances that we shall hold as good for the bank is the reopening of the airport with all standards met as stipulated.
We are no more enthused by the rhetoric of commendations and assurances that have been proven over time to be elusive. If going by the initial timelines, no one should be talking about completing any part of the Ananu Ibiam International Airport by this month of May in 2020 (9 MONTHS AFTER SHUT DOWN), when it took only six weeks to execute about the same amount of job at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja!
The hopefulness of the Airport being re-opened soonest, subject to COVID-19 Federal Government Programme is a very stale dessert, and citizens are no more thrilled.
6. SECOND NIGER BRIDGE:
On the second Niger Bridge, we again took notice that Your Excellencies were so much engulfed in your usual commendation for Mr. President, the Minister of Works and the Governor of Anambra State that you conveniently lost sight of telling your citizens in details what the current status of that job is.
“Being happy with the work progress by Julius Berger”, is certainly not an alternative to giving a detailed report of the extent of work and what is left with timelines. We, maintain this stance because the 2nd Niger Bridge has become a major source of conning the South East electorate and afterwards, nothing to show for the whole noise.
Successive governments have used the 2nd Niger Bridge both as a political bait and a regime sustainer elixir, for the South East. We need Your Excellencies to kindly give your citizens detailed briefings with timelines.
WE ARE WISER NOW!
In conclusion, we would want to state that we as an organization would continually make suggestions and steadfastly hold leadership in the South East to account as that is the major job of the citizens.
We pray that you are protected as you go about your duties to the people who are dependent on your right actions for protection, sustenance and development.
Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi)
International Coordinator, Igbo Renaissance Forum