Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), has disclosed that Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) accepted to shift position on secession at a meeting with leaders of the southeast in 2017, before soldiers invaded his home during the infamous Operation Python Dance.
Uko, who is also the deputy secretary of Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT) was reacting to a recent statement issued by Emmanuel Kanu, younger brother to the IPOB leader in which he, among others things, accused southeast governors of maintaining silence on the agreements reached during the 2017 meeting.
According to Uko who facilitated the meeting after the release of Kanu from detention, prominent Igbo leaders, including former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, Chief (Mrs) Maria Okwor, Prof Ben Nwabueze among others, put pressure on Kanu to accept the option of restructuring, to which he eventually agreed, but with some conditions.
“First January 2023 and I am forced to break my self-imposed silence over the impasse in the land, after reading in the media a reference of the August 30th 2017 peace meeting between Nnamdi Kanu and the South East Governors,” Uko said in a statement on Sunday.
“Kanu’s family represented by his younger brother Emmanuel Kanu, as published by the Vanguard Newspaper today, asked certain questions including the surprising silence of leaders and stakeholders in the land, over the outcome of the 2017 meeting.
“I think it is auspicious to say something about the August 30th 2017 peace meeting in Enugu, since I facilitated the meeting by the grace of God. And since peace has remained elusive till date.
“Dr Alex Ekwueme takes the credit for that noble effort five years ago, which gladly remains the only historical instance where Nnamdi ever agreed to shift his position from demanding outright secession, to agreeing to the restructuring of Nigeria and quieting the agitation for twelve months, on the condition that the country takes the restructuring of the country very seriously.
“The former Vice President impressed upon Nnamdi the need to shift his position to restructuring, and level playing field for every section of the country.
“Others who mounted pressure on Nnamdi to yield to restructuring included Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, Chief (Mrs) Maria Okwor, Prof Ben Nwabueze amongst others. 24 hours to the Enugu meeting, Nnamdi finally capitulated to the pressure from these elders and agreed to shift his demands to the restructuring of the country, but insisted that he would only mute the agitation for only twelve months to see if the authorities would seriously kick start the process to restructure the country, and that he would go back to the trenches if nothing is done towards the genuine and sincere reconstruction of the polity along the lines of true federalism and power devolution. He also insisted the country reverts to the 1963 constitution.
“This were his demands and position at the August 30th 2017 meeting.”
Uko, however, noted that at the meeting Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State pointed out to Kanu that the people of Ebonyi State are not particularly keen on the proposed return to the 1963 constitution, as they fear possible marginalisation.
He said, “It is instructive to note that at the meeting, Governor Dave Umahi told Nnamdi that the people of his state aren’t exactly excited about going back to the old Eastern region and Governor Ugwuanyi also maintained that Enugu people are not willing to revert to a situation that would cost them their state, but promised to present his demands to Abuja.”
In all, however, Uko said the meeting ended on a good note and Kanu promised to attend subsequent meetings, even as he agreed that his demands were not cast in stone.
According to Uko, however, the peace process was eventually thwarted, which has culminated into to the security crisis in the Southeast.
“The meeting ended on a good note with Nnamdi promising to attend the follow-up meeting scheduled in a fortnight with his team according to the consensual agreement of all,” he said.
“Finally, Nnamdi also agreed that his demands weren’t absolute, meaning, that his position was amenable to change as the dialogue progresses.
“These were the contents of the August 30th 2017 meeting between Nnamdi and the South East Governors, which I had the privilege to facilitate.
“I opened up after many years of silence because I believe that peace, resolution and closure can be achieved.
“I pray Nnamdi will have the godly spirit and good mind to remain on his position delivered at the peace meeting with the South East Governors five years ago.
“I hereby publicly call on Emma Kanu to plead with his brother that the August 30th 2017 position will lead faster to peace and resolution than any other position.
“I am breaking my silence on this new year day because facts have proven that the situation only got worse within the past five years.
“Whatever inspired the decision to attack Nnamdi’s residence on the eve of the scheduled follow up meeting a fortnight away, in 14th September 2017, hasn’t resolved the situation, ended the agitation nor brought peace to the land.
“In fact, things have only gotten worse since then. The avoidable and senseless violence eating up the land today is heart rending.
“The paralysis of economic life in the region every Monday for a year and half now, is pathetic. Those who refused to dialogue with the agitators since 1999 should kindly have a change in heart so the region can have peace.
“My appeal is for all sides to look again at the August 30th 2017 meeting agreement in pursuit of peace, resolution and closure.
“Peace and harmony should be the priority now.”