From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senator Rochas Okorocha (APC – Imo West) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dialogue with the Igbo separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The lawmaker said the Federal Government’s use of force or arms will not solve the security situation in the South East. He urged the government to embark on massive education and enlightenment of the populace.
He offered his thoughts on Monday at the Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory FCT Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) during an event tagged “Conversations with Owelle at 59”, which is part of his activities leading to his 59th birthday celebration on September 22.
‘I called for a meeting in the Government House when I was governor. They obliged me and came. They complained to me how security forces killed theory people in Okigwe and they were asking me a lot of funny questions,’ the senator and former Imo governor said.
‘I asked them to convince me why I should another passport. If you convince me, then I join you but if I convince you, then you will join me. One of them said to me, ‘Oga, if you are not wise, the person who killed your father will kill you. So, at the end of our discussions, I found myself shaking hands with them and they started laughing.
‘These are our children. The handling of the situation has to change. It is not warfare. It is not a machine gun thing. I was against the military in Imo when I started this project because the Operation Python Dance, you shoot them, how many can you shoot? You shoot 500, and then the ones in Secondary School are still in poverty and hoping to join them. The earlier we educate these our children, the better it is for all of us.
‘Nnamdi Kanu’s matter has become a tribal issue and we have lost a sense of the sensitivity of the matter. Ab initio, I had advised that government should have been careful in handling the issue and not to shoot the image of the boy too high.
‘The Federal Government and southeast should meet and find a way out to this issue. It is an evil wind that will blow no one no good. Nnamdi Kanu should not be made a very big issue. I wish like a senator said, that we call this young man and ask him to convince us why he wants to give us another passport or to ask him about his anger. If we can talk, we would find out that this issue is not worth the trouble we are going through.
‘We need to reorient them because what is common now in the Southeast is that they are saying that they heard that ‘they’ want to give Boko Haram amnesty while Nnamdi Kanu is in detention. So, it is no longer a Kanu thing but has taken a tribal dimension.
‘The earlier we get this issue off and see him as an overzealous young man who didn’t even experience the civil war but who is talking about the war more than those who experienced it, the better for all of us.’
He said the agitation for a President of South East extraction is possible, but faulted the approach. He urged South East leaders to opt for negotiation instead of the current posture.
Earlier, chairman of Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche congratulated Okorocha on clocking 59, saying the union decided to honour him with the dialogue because his life has been defined by service and philanthropy.
‘Nigeria is said to have about 11.5 million out of school children and if not for the benevolence of people like you, perhaps the figure could have risen to 14 million.
‘It is in the recognition of your service to humanity, your unbridled philanthropy that we are persuaded at the FCT Council of the NUJ to honour you and to make it serve as a marker for others to do more for humanity,’ he said.
Okorocha also used the occasion to give out 59 academic scholarships to the NUJ for onward disbursement to deserving children.
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