An expanded meeting of South-east leaders on Saturday night disagreed with calls for secession of the zone by pro-Biafran groups; advocating instead for a united Nigeria where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity and equality of opportunity are paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, or political affiliation.
The Igbo leaders in a communique at the end of the meeting also backed calls for restructuring of the country on the basis of fairness and equity.
The meeting, which held at the Nike Lake Resort Enugu and had in attendance governors from the region, National Assembly members from the zone, Ohaneze Ndigbo and selected Igbo leaders of thought, was convened by the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, and the leadership of Ohaneze.
The leaders further called on the federal government to immediately enter into dialogue with Nigerians that will lead to the restructuring of the country as soon as possible.
“Ndigbo are in support of a united Nigeria where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity and equality of opportunity are paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, or political affiliation”.
“Igbo leaders lend their full support to the restructuring of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the basis of fairness and equity. We therefore call on the Federal Government and all Nigerian leaders to commence a process of dialogue among Nigerians on the modalities of achieving this pressing question within a reasonable frame time.
The leaders further called for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference recommendations.
“Ndigbo support the report of the National Conference of 2014 and urge the Federal Government to set up structures that will enable the implementation of same within a reasonable time,” the communiqué read.
Despite the demand by some Nigerians for the implementation of the 2014 conference report, leaders of the country’s ruling APC including Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna have rejected the call.
While condemning hate speeches from any part of country, the Igbo leaders said henceforth only the governors, the South-East National Assembly caucus and the Ohaneze can speak for the zone on any political matters.
The statement on who speaks for the Igbos appears a response to the increasing popularity of the indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
Mr. Kanu, whose group wants an independent Biafran country, is currently being tried for treason by the federal government, but is on bail, after being held in custody for over a year.
A recent sit-at-home call by IPOB was largely effective across the South-East and Mr. Kanu recently asked Igbos to boycott future elections until the federal government allows a referendum on Biafra.
That call has also been condemned by various Igbo leaders including a popular political party in the South-East, APGA.
A nationally condemned northern group, which called for the exit of Igbos from Northern Nigeria, partly based their call on Mr. Kanu’s repeated statements and what they described as the non-condemnation of his hate speeches by Igbo political leaders.
In their statement after the late night Saturday meeting, however, the South-East leaders said they “condemn all the hate speeches and constructs emanating from any segment of Nigeria.”
“The South East Governors, members of the National Assembly from the South East and leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo should henceforth constitute the official organs that will speak on behalf of Ndigbo on political matters”.
“The South East leaders in consultation with leaders from all parts of the country will engage the federal government on all areas of concerns to Ndigbo as a whole,” they said.