Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Dave Umahi, was in the presidential villa to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to present the region’s request as regards the closure of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; the insecurity, the recent ban on movement of cattle on foot across the region by herdsmen, and the reactivation and eventual passage of the Southeast Development Commission bill in the National Assembly. Fielding questions after the meeting, the governor also spoke on 2023 presidency, saying discussing it now will undermine Buhari’s administration. Excerpts by JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE.
South East Governors seem to have just woken up from their slumber on the spate of insecurity in the region. How do you respond to this?
The mistake people make is that leaders in this country including governors are not supposed to be talking carelessly, security matters are not discussed on the pages of newspapers. But we have to speak out now just to encourage our people, to let them know that we are doing everything possible to secure their lives.
In our states we have forest guards, we have vigilante, we have committees from the village level to the community to local government to the state level that interface with any kind of crisis arising from natives to farmers and herdsmen. We have been doing everything possible and that is why you see a lot of calm in our states. But when these herdsman that are terrorists and foreigners found their ways to the south-east, we started having the real insecurity problem and that is why we have to ban them from coming to the south-east.
This banning of terrorist herdsmen with AK47 is in agreement with traditional herdsmen, they are also not happy with what is happening – going into kidnapping, raping our women and making the farmland very much insecure and people are afraid of going to farms now and the resultant effect will be catastrophic because traditionally, we are farmers. It’s not as if we have not been doing things, we’ve been doing things but we can’t begin to shout on the pages of newspapers on what we are doing about security.
In recent times, South East Governors have been under verbal attacks by IPOB. Why do you think this has been happening?
Well, it’s the price of leadership and it is the price we have to pay to stabilize the nation. Don’t forget that we have over 12 million people from the South East living in the north and we do not begin to talk to make IPOB happy and to suit their demands just because we want to make them happy. We want to do things as leaders of this country that will safeguard our people in the north, safeguard the northerners that are in South East and do everything as leaders to ensure that there is peace and there is unity amongst all.