Against the backdrop of the prolonged restiveness in the Southeast geo-political zone of the country that has claimed several lives and led to the destruction of properties worth billions of naira, stakeholders from the region have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to embrace the call for dialogue by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a step towards genuine reconciliation.
The stakeholders noted that the crisis in the South East could only be addressed through a political solution, adding that a genuine dialogue between the Tinubu-led Federal Government and the IPOB will amount to victory for both parties.
Recall that last Saturday, the IPOB initiated a bold move aimed at ending several years of agitation in the region, when it declared its readiness to resume talks with the Federal Government on referendum date for Biafra.
It had hinted that it was open for peaceful negotiations and dialogue for a peaceful exit of Biafra from Nigeria through a United Nations supervised referendum.
“A statement signed by the group’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, had stated that the earlier Federal Government scheduled a date for a referendum for Biafrans to decide whether they are willing to continue to stay in Nigeria, the better for everyone.”
Aside from the figures quoted by the IPOB as losses encountered in property and human lives to the struggle for Biafra, a recent investigation conducted by The Guardian on the Monday sit-at-home in the region ordered and enforced by a faction of the group indicated that the Southeast had lost over N7.6 trillion in investment and productivity.
The Monday sit-at-home, which governors of the five states that make up the region are currently seeking to stop, was imposed on the people to force the Federal Government to release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been held in the custody of the Department for State Services (DSS) for over two years.
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, had consistently asked the Federal Government to apply political solutions in resolving the matter, insisting that it was chiefly responsible for the restiveness in the South East.
While IPOB’s call for dialogue came ahead of the December 15, 2023, date the Supreme Court has fixed to deliver judgment on the case regarding the continued detention of Kanu, Powerful stated that IPOB was focused and stands for dialogue, stressing, “the cardinal rule under which the IPOB was formed is to lead the way to a peaceful separation of Biafra from Nigeria.”
In response to IPOB’s offer for dialogue, stakeholders and experts have voiced their opinions on the matter. Comrade Osmond Ugwu, the President of the International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (INSPHRI), stated that the offer by IPOB must first be considered by the Federal Government, which currently proscribes the group as a terrorist organization. He emphasized that de-proscribing IPOB would be a crucial step towards meaningful dialogue.
Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, pointed out that genuine reconciliation can only proceed if the Federal Government responds to IPOB’s offer and declares its disposition. He also stressed the importance of releasing Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, to ensure meaningful negotiations.
Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, the Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), expressed the need to understand the details of IPOB’s proposed dialogue before making a firm judgment on its genuineness. However, he urged the Federal Government to accept the offer and commence discussions to establish the sincerity of IPOB’s proposal.
Dr. Onyeukwu Nworie, a public affairs analyst, highlighted the importance of dialogue in democracy and emphasized that engaging with IPOB is crucial for finding a permanent solution to the insecurity and destruction in the Southeast. He also dismissed fears of violence from IPOB, stating that the group has shown its commitment to peace.
In conclusion, stakeholders and experts are urging President Tinubu to accept IPOB’s offer for dialogue as a means to achieve genuine reconciliation and address the restiveness in the Southeast. Accepting the offer would pave the way for meaningful discussions on the issues surrounding Biafra agitation and potentially lead to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.