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Rumble in the House of South East Governors

They work at cross purposes, don’t speak with one voice and suspect each other — Elder statesman

There is a vacuum of political leadership in Igboland — Archbishop Obinna

‘We have lackadaisical leaders; they are just selfish’

It is certain that all is not well with South East Governors. They don’t work in a harmonious manner but in discordant manner on issues common to the zone. Simply put, they operate on mutual suspicion. None seems to trust the other. Their umbrella body, South East Governors Forum, SEGF, is not functioning well. Nothing is working well at its secretariat.

In fact, they have no secretariat, if one will say. It is unbelievable that a regional body as South East Governors Forum is managing a small apartment given to them by the Enugu State Government at the Government House.

They don’t even hold regular meetings like other governors of other zones. The few staff working at the secretariat lament the way things are run there. They lay the blame for the poor running of the Forum squarely on the chairman of the Forum, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, who they alleged run the Forum like a personal outfit. The workers of the secretariat are owed arrears of salaries. There is not even a utility vehicle attached to the office.

The governors’ inability to accomplish the formation of the much touted regional security outfit, Ebubeagu, is one glaring case of their not working together. Till now, they could not float a central regional security outfit which they initially set out to do like their South West counterpart. Again, the discordant tunes coming out from the governors on the issue of Anti-open grazing law is another case for reference.

South East people have been condoning and tagging along with them thinking they would change but every passing day comes with more disappointments. The action that irked the people most was their disappointing and very embarrassing absence from the last meeting of the Southern Governors meeting.

This really embarrassed the Igbo and they were enraged that a very high level meeting of that nature was hosted by fellow South East Governor and at the regional headquarters of the zone was boycotted by four of the five governors, leaving the host, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, the host as the only governor who attended in person. Abia, Ebonyi and Imo States sent their deputies; while Anambra State was not represented at all and most of the South West and South South governors attended the meeting.

And to confirm that their house is leaking, shortly after the Enugu meeting, Governors David Umahi countered a collective decision of the Governors on Presidency coming to the South in 2023 just as Governor Hope Uzodinma was reported to have earlier opposed idea of Igbo Presidency.

These discordant views of the South East Governors have attracted the anger of Igbo who see them as people who can’t lead them to any good part. They said that is the reason IPOB has taken over and now dictates what happens in the zone. What leadership! And they could not move to stop them or approach the Federal Government to seek political settlement over the agitation of IPOB. This lack-luster leadership has attracted various reactions from Igbo across the zone.

According to the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna, the prevailing situation in the South East where insecurity, bloodletting, destruction of property and flagrant statements and orders being issued by non-state actors is due vacuum created by lack of good leadership and proper direction from the leaders, particularly the from the elected governors whose number one responsibility is to protect the people who elected them.

Archbishop Obinna has therefore urged the South East governors to wake up from “their leadership slumber”, cautioning them that “greed and selfishness must give way for purposeful governance, predicated on crisis management policy, peaceful dialogue, fairness and mutual understanding”.

His words: “The high sense of anxiety pervading the South East States is unfortunate and worrisome. The palpable tension, which is as a result of constant shedding of blood, destruction of properties and flagrant statements issued by non-state actors, is an indication that there is a vacuum of political leadership in Igbo land.

”Those who arrogate to themselves the power of issuing blatant statements like the sit-at-home order have taken over the mantle of leadership across the five states in Igbo land. This is an unfortunate development for every well meaning son and daughter of Igbo land.

The worrisome situation can only happen because those elected in various states to govern the region, no longer function as expected. ”The governors should wake up from their leadership slumber. Greed and selfishness must give way for purposeful governance, predicated crisis management policy, peaceful dialogue, fairness and mutual understanding.”

Truly, this is the way forward to retrieve our land from the dungeon of hatred and constant killings, which we sadly witness these days”.

For the former Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Imo State chapter, Professor Chidi Osuagwu, the leadership style and attitude of the governors portray Igbo before even their enemies as weak.

Osuagwu particularly expressed disappointment over the absence of four of the five governors in the last Southern Governors meeting in Enugu where very crucial decisions affecting zone and other zones were taken and ratified, moreso their discordant views on decisions already taken by the governors, namely anti-open grazing law and power shifting to the South. He said working at cross purposes as being done by the governors could expose the South East zone region to more risk.

“The Southern Governors Conference rotates from zone to zone. From Asaba in South-South to Lagos in South West and then Enugu in South East. For the South East Governors not to attend the meeting held in their own ‘Obi’ (their home) is an assault on Igbo tradition.

“Bullies perceived cowards more bullishly. The manifest ambivalence of the South East Governors towards the Anti-open-grazing Law etc, gives Fulani bullies the wrong impression that the Igbo are cowards who could be subdued.

“These Governors, by their senseless cowardice, are attracting more and undue aggression to Ndigbo. Their ambivalence is an embarrassment and existential threat to Ndigbo. Even if these kind of self-serving and ambivalent men are made by President of Nigeria, they will continue to constitute an existential threat to Ndigbo.

“The Igbo governors have continued to give the enemies of the Igbo the impression that we are weak, which is not good. Their absence in the last governors meeting was against the Igbo tradition; you cannot invite people to your house and abandoned the person without welcoming them,” Professor Osuagwu said.

According to a University teacher, Dr. Aaron Adibe, the South East Governors are only interested in perpetuating themselves in power but not in bringing good tidings to the zone.

Adibe, a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said that the Governors of South East zone are not interested in rendering good leadership to the people, but in ensuring that they keep themselves in power by any means.

He expressed disappointment over the type of leadership being provided by the governors of the zone, saying they are not interested in the ongoing clamour from the people of the zone to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023.

“From every indication, there is a leadership vacuum in the entire South East zone. The key indicators are manifested in the failure of the governors of the zone in providing sound political leadership, security, good infrastructure, education, cultural preservation among others.

“The political elites appear to be more concerned about what they get in 2023 than what is currently happening in the zone. The security situation is deteriorating; we don’t have major infrastructure development in the zone to indicate that we have a future. There is nothing on ground to show that the political elites are interested in the development of the zone. All of them are preoccupied by the thought of how to grab power in 2023. This is probably because most of the governors are ending their second tenure, so they are all scampering for the next power available.

“Those in the House of Representatives and Senate also feel threatened by the governors who may want to replace them there. It is just their selfish political interests that concern them now than whatever is happening to the ordinary man from the zone and it is very bad.

“I want to believe that the person who will become the President of Nigeria in 2023 is still open for all the regions in the country. It is only Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and individuals who keep clamouring for the zone to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023. I have not seen any serious push from any South East Governor or major political elites from the zone. In fact, it is governors from the other zones who are pushing for Nigeria’s president coming from the South.

“When they do that, they don’t say South East. Political powers are taken, not given, and I have not seen South East making any move to indicate that the region wants the Presidency in 2023. I don’t see political alignments, negotiations or any other concerted efforts going on. I don’t think South East is pushing for the position as it is supposed to”, Adibe said.

A chieftain of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Richard Ozobu, said that most of the governors in the zone don’t consult with their people in what they do; he said they behave as if they know it all, which is a mark of a bad leader.

Ozobu said that the governors commit blunders in governance because they do not properly consult statesmen and those experienced in public service to guide them on matters of programmes and policies. According to him, the governors are too inexperienced and still learning on the job of governing their states and coming together for the interest of the Igbo nation in Nigeria.

To be able to make the right decisions, Ozobu insisted that the governors need to learn from history, know the past and consult statesmen to understand why things are the way they are in the zone.

“What I think is that South East Governors have not been properly reaching out to statesmen. Most of them are inexperienced and still learning on the job. There are statesmen who have garnered experience in public service even before most of the Governors were born, but the Governors hardly make consultations. They don’t reach out to those who could tell them the way and manner things were before this time. They need to consider the interest of the South East paramount.

“Most of the governors are acting on fundamental inexperience on the job. Yes, you can learn on the job, but there are some certain values you can’t learn on the job. Matters like history are too important. The governors must ask questions to know about the past and how we got where we are in the South East. They must know the way and manners things were done in the past; this will help them take the right decisions.

“We have a proverb in Igbo land which says that he who doesn’t know where a corpse is buried, exhumes the corpse from the leg. You can come to power at a very young age, but you need to reach out and ask questions about certain things. For instance, most of these young Presidents in the Western nations have highly experienced advisers and statesmen to guide them on matters of state policies and history. You can see the caliber of ambassadors and high commissioners representing the governments of such nations.

“What you have are experienced hands on the job. You can have the exuberance, charisma and dynamism, but you can never buy experience from the market. Application of policy requires experience. You manage the system and bring in experienced hands in different areas.

“The South East Governors have never agreed on programme or policy for Ndigbo. It has been all about rhetoric, motion without movement. You saw what happened in the formation of Ebubeagu security outfit. I told people that Ebubeagu was planned to fail because I didn’t see anything that suggested that they were serious in establishing a security outfit for the zone”, Ozobu said.

He also expressed deep disappointment over the absence of four of the governors at the last Southern Governors meeting in Enugu, saying that they betrayed Ndigbo for their absence at the meeting.

“The absence of the four governors revealed that they are working at cross purposes and do not have interest of the zone at heart. It is unheard of that governors will absent themselves from a meeting where an important matter affecting the wellbeing of the zone would be discussed.

“It could have looked better before the public if all the South East governors were present at the meeting. They were co-hosts with the Enugu State Governor. They should have been aware that the public eye is on them and they need to explain the reason why they did not attended.

“For the fact that the visiting governors travelled from far to Enugu, it would have been better that the South East Governors joined the host, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to welcome them. It doesn’t look right that they were absent. The Governors who didn’t attend should have apologized”, he stated.

President of Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala has also expressed his dissatisfaction in the leadership of the governors in the zone, describing it as “a worrisome development and a matter every Igbo son and daughter should reflect on.”

He advised Ndigbo to take their destinies in their hands. “But you see, in a situation like this, the people have to take their destiny into their hands. If there is failure of leadership or government, people should take destiny into their hands and that is what this period calls for.

“We don’t have to wait for Governors, if they can’t provide leadership; that means they cannot and we can’t allow ourselves to be pushed into the dustbin because of lack of political leadership. The people can take their destinies into their hands”, he posited.

According to a Professor of Political Science at Abia State University, Uturu, Professor Hatz Ofoeze, the present crop of South East Governors are not working for Igbo interest, rather, they only after their individual interests and not on issues of common interest to the Igbo.

“We now have the worst set of governors in Igbo land. I am not sure they are working for Igbo interest. They cannot provide the needed leadership.

“They are rather scheming to be Vice President, instead of galvanizing the region to produce the President in 2023. Even if they come out for Vice President, I don’t think they will get it because they are not popular among the people.’’

“They lack the strength of character. Since the herdsmen menace started in South East, has any of them made any categorical or serious statement against it? Has any of them ever said anything in defense of Ndigbo? If Igbo will succeed, I don’t think it can come from them. I don’t know what they are afraid of”, Ofoeze lamented.

He noted that the governors of the zone appear to be self centered and myopic that they would not mind to work against the Presidential aspiration of any Igbo in 2023 provided their individual interests were protected.

However, a two-time Minister for Finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, did not think that open criticism of the Governors for their perceived weaknesses would serve the interest of the South East geopolitical zone, noting that the Governors could be privately corrected and advised on how to synergize for regional interest behind the scene.

His words: “In as much as I am not happy, Ndigbo must stop bashing their leaders, including the Governors publicly. Far from who showed up or who did not show up in Enugu, our Governors must meet quietly and discuss as one family and not for headlines. We need quiet planning.

“When Uzo Uwani in Enugu State was invaded by herdsmen, they ought to have set up a regional security outfit since then. We set up Alaigbo Development Forum several years ago and it has published two volumes of economic blue-print for the development of Igbo land, but who is implementing it?”

Kalu expressed concern over the leadership failure and lack of proper coordination among Ndigbo which he regretted, had affected the people’s loyalty.

Notable Igbo leader, Chief Chris Ejike Uche dismissed the indifference attitude of the governors, saying that it would not discourage the Igbo from fighting for their rights in the country.

“The attitude of the governors can never deter us from clamouring for Presidency and fighting for other Igbo cause. The most veritable instrument the Igbo have for the expression of their interest is Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the meeting point of the Igbo and they have made it clear that it is either a President of the Igbo extraction or nothing. So, it is the view of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo that we take seriously and not the views of the governors who we know how they came about.

“They are writing their own script and unfortunately for them, the people will mark the script. The governors already know the perception people have of them. They are trying to cover up spilled milk which is not easy. The wound is heavy in the people’s minds. So, we take solace in the fact that Ohanaeze is our able representative.”

“On the anti-open grazing law, the position of the National Assembly members from the South East is consoling for us. We still have people talking. The lawmakers condemned open grazing.

“The Governors can have their way for now. But whatever view they have is not cast on iron; it can be deleted. What about VAT? Have they said anything? They are not bothered because they are representing themselves and not the people. But there must be a way out”, Uche lamented.

According to an Owerri based legal practitioner, Eze Eluchie, there is a fundamental disconnect between the South East governor who are the leaders and the led.

His words: “There is a fundamental disconnect between the South East Governors and the people of the geo-political zone. I am not too sure if the present crop of governors has the leadership potentials to lead the people aright. Their actions or inactions, as well as their apparent unpreparedness to speak with one voice, has totally betrayed their leadership inadequacy and/or inefficiency.