From Magnus Eze, Enugu and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Igbo leaders have, again, called for the release of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
They also said the position of the region on the Igbo question, especially on next year’s presidency, would soon be announced.
This is as Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, appealed to other Nigerians to give priority to the South East in choosing the next president, declaring the Igbo have “cried enough in Nigeria” and should be comforted.
They made their position known at a civic reception organised by the Imo State Government for the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, George Obiozor, on Saturday.
Almost all the leaders in the zone spoke against the continued detention of Kanu, noting that his release would douse tension in the region.
Igbo notables at the event, included Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former presidents of the Senate, Aldolphus Wabara, and Anyim Pius Anyim, Ike Nwachukwu, Nnia Nwodo, Gary Enwo Igariwey, the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Achebe and Mrs. Victoria Akanwa.
Others were former Imo State governor, Ikedi Ohakim; Minister of State for Steel Development, Uche Ogah, and ABC Nwosu.
Meanwhile, elder statesman, Mbazuluike Amaechi, vowed not to relent in his push for Kanu’s freedom.
Recalling his earlier meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue, the First Republic minister expressed worry that more groups may spring up for the agitation if he was not released now that the ovation was high.
He was upbeat that he will hand Kanu over to Ndigbo on his release as part of his promise when he met with the president but kicked against the destruction of property in the South East by hoodlums. He maintained the destruction will never impact positively on the economy of the zone.
He said: “I begged Buhari last year, I was with Bishop Onuoha and others, that he should release Kanu, if you don’t release him, what is happening will continue, more groups are coming up and we must stop that in Igbo land, if they release him, 70 percent of these crises will stop.”
Obiozor in his speech appealed to President Buhari to exercise his prerogative of mercy and release Kanu.
He urged that the state and Federal Government should dialogue with the restive youths towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis in the zone.
“We wish to appeal to IPOB leaders, our sons and daughters, not to unwittingly add to the burdens of our people,” he said.
Obiozor equally appealed to the group to completely lift the sit-at-home in the South East, saying its effect has created hardship on the people.
“Sit-at-home is not a favour to Ndigbo but condemnation of these countless millions of daily income earners to untold hardship,” he said.
To achieve the presidency, Uzodimma reiterated: “My position had been that we Igbo need a united Nigeria to vent our God-given talents. This is because Nigeria provides us with the space and opportunities we need to actualise our political and socio-economic destiny.
“This is why I think the time has come for every patriot to rise and address the Igbo question. What cannot be taken away is that for too long, the Igbo have cried out profusely over their plight. This plight is comparable to the plight of the South West over the annulment of the June 12 election.
“Following that annulment, the South West felt short changed. They cried out for justice. While some groups did so responsibly, others resorted to violence. The instructive thing here is that at a point, the patriotic zeal in the political class in Nigeria was touched and they rose in unison to acknowledge that the Yoruba had cried enough and that it was time to wipe their tears.
“It is now obvious from every indication that Ndigbo have also cried enough about their marginalization. It should also be clear to the political class that the time has come to wipe these historical tears of Ndigbo. What is more, most of the patriots who engineered the plan that made the South West produce the presidential candidates for the two major political parties in 1999 are still alive and active in politics.
“That same undying love for the country that inspired them to do what they did for the South West in 1999, should inspire them to do the same for the South East in 2023.”