BY DONS EZE
For quite a very long time, we have not heard anything about the South East Governors Forum, made up of governors of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, and which by the last information, had Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi as its chairman.
It is not that the South East Governors Forum had previously been performing wonderfully, or doing much to protect the interest of the South East zone, or to ameliorate myriads of problems confronting people of the area. It is because the occasional meeting of the South East Governors had some psychological effects of dousing tensions, massaging frayed nerves, and giving people the hope or the impression that their leaders were, at least, doing something positive.
Top among the problems facing the people of the South East is the worsening security situation in the area. Most people no longer sleep with their two eyes closed as gun wielding Fulani herdsmen have literally taken over many communities in the area, occupied their farmlands, killed and maimed people in their numbers, raped their womenfolks, destroyed their farm crops and burned down their houses.
When the situation became intense and so worrisome, the South East Governors Forum, under the chairmanship of Governor David Umahi, met and resolved to take the bull by the horns by agreeing to set up a joint security outfit, to be known as Ebubeagu. Many people were over-joyed. They heaved a sigh of relief and anxiously looked forward for the taking off of Ebubeagu.
Not long after, however, Ebubeagu died in the womb following the sudden resignation of the coordinator of the programme, retired Major General Abel Umahi. The reason he gave was due to lack of commitment and non-funding of the project by the South East Governors. Everybody was disappointed.
Following the miscarriage suffered by the South East governors in giving birth to Ebubeagu, a vacuum was created, which the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sought to fill by setting up of its own security outfit, known as the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
But the federal government of Nigeria did not take this kindly, and marshalled out their own security forces against the ESN. Then, there was war in the South East.
Yet, the South East Governors Forum did nothing. They stood akimbo, and watched, while the zone was on fire.
The existence of four opposing forces in the zone – the Eastern Security Network, the stranded Ebubeagu elements, the Fulani killer squad, and the federal government security agencies, led to the emergence of what is called the Unknown Gunmen (UGM), which rendered the South East desolate, almost a no-go area, due to the daily killings of both civilians and security personnel.
In the face of all these daily killings, the chaos and anarchy, the South East Governors Forum led by Governor David Umahi was unperturbed or unconcerned. They kept mute, or looked the other way.
Since August 2021, the people of the South East have been sitting at home every Monday, in addition to several other days when the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was taken to court, in protest over the arrest and detention of Kanu by the Directorate State Service (DSS).
It would not be easy to quantify or to estimate the colossal loss and damages done to the economy of the South East by these sittings at home. Because the South East governors play individual games, they have not been able to put their acts together to put these forced sittings-at-home to an end.
Then, the issue of Nigerian president of South East extraction in 2023, which most Southeasterners are very passionate about. Since political independence in 1960, nobody from the South East zone had presided over the affairs of Nigeria, save for the six months when Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi was in power, from January 15, 1966 to July 29, 1966. Since that time, the people of South East have been in the wilderness, lonely, and at the periphery of power.
Every expectation was that 2023 would be the turn of the South East to produce a Nigerian President, and that the South East Governors Forum would be in the forefront to actualize that expectation. But that was not to be.
Instead of the South East Governors Forum to see the Igbo Presidency Project as a serious challenge which they must collectively throw in their hats to ensure its realization, the individual Governors of the South East, chose to go their different ways, with different agenda, and began to speak in cacophony of voices.
For Governor David Umahi, in particular, as Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, he failed to rally the South East Governors to take a definite stand on the Igbo Presidency project.
To make matters worse, Governor Umahi and virtually all the other South East governors chose to absent themselves during the Southern Governors’ meetings held in Asaba, Lagos and Enugu, where these Governors categorically and unequivocally called on all political parties in the country to zone their 2023 Presidential Candidates to the Southern part of Nigeria.
Then, when the battle line was drawn for 2023 Presidential contest, the South East Governors went into the race as a divided house. Each of the Governors pursued their own selfish individual political agenda. The South East zone was declared an open market for Presidential Candidates from other zones to shop from. In the end, the South East zone got nothing from the two major political parties in the country.
Perhaps, it may not be out of place to suggest the placement of an obituary advert, declaring the present South East Governors Forum, formally dead.