South East governors
L-R: Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano; Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma; Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu and President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor at a Southeast security summit on Sunday, April 11, 2021

The recent expression of concern by the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, over the embarrassing delay by the South East Governors in formally setting off the Ebube Agu regional security outfit that is expected to add local security fillip to efforts at ensuring the safety of lives and citizens of the people of the region is most telling.

At a time when the security situation in the region has clearly continued to be most unsettling, it is apparent that going the whole hog in fully establishing Ebube Agu is one initiative that has to be given greater fillip and impetus by the governors of the region on whose laps the task falls.

Part of the very strong rationale for establishing the force, its proponents have argued is that as an outfit that complements other existing security initiatives, it would be a practical way of putting more boots on ground in trying to address a growing challenge that needs to be addressed. Also the fact of its being a regionally-administered force should in an ideal situation help buy for it some basic local legitimacy that is very clearly required at a time like this.

Beyond its mere establishment however, it is imperative that the governors of the region as core drivers of the project eschew partisanship and base calculations in the recruitment of the leaders and personnel for the outfit. This is more so when the outfit has already been plagued by an unexplainable time lag and delay in its proper take-off, the unceremonious resignation and non-replacement of its founding leader and the Chairman, South-East Security Committee, Major General Obi Umahi (retd.), as well as allegations that at least one of the governors in the region was already staffing it with partisans of a doubtful pedigree.

In our view, the critical need for Ebube Agu and the role it has to play in helping to ensure improved security in the region should be the only driving criteria for its existence, emergence, proper composition, staffing and smooth functioning. In addition, given the polarities that already exist on ground within the region, it is imperative that everything must be done to secure the buy in of the general public for the outfit and its operations. Without any equivocation, a lot would depend on public perception of Ebube Agu in the key areas of neutrality, non-partisanship and professionalism.

Again, one more reason why timeliness and credibility are critical to what the governors have to do in properly setting off the regional security outfit has to do with the fact that the security field in the region at the moment is quite a muddied one with soldiers, policemen, the ubiquitous ‘unknown gunmen,’ other criminals and operatives of the Eastern Security Network engaging in what is ostensibly a confused state of affairs. Such a situation is a waiting call for disaster, further disaster, recrimination and abuse. We should not let that happen. Leadership is needed to set the house in order and the onus lies on the governors of the region to man up to the occasion.

We equally note in particular also the political dimensions of the unfolding state of security hiatus in the region and its huge costs across board. In Anambra for example, elections are due to hold in the next few days and we are troubled over the credibility and acceptability of the outcome of that exercise within the current scenario. There is also an adjoining concern that fifth columnists could also latch in on the situation to hatch and incubate plots of an even more nefarious manner for both the region and nation. Our worries may be far-fetched. They may also not be. Whatever way it is seen, there remains eternal wisdom in the logic of the Igbo proverb that the pregnant she-goat does not suffer extended birth pangs when there are elders in the house.

We therefore join with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other well-meaning Nigerians in urging the South East Governors to rise to the challenge and ensure that the Ebube Agu regional security outfit is fully and properly set up and optimally kitted to become fully functional in a matter of days, weeks and months. In addition, we urge that the Federal authorities continue to emphasise the instrumentality of far-reaching dialogue in its response to the crisis situation in the region. While the temptation may be there to let down the jackboots and compel peace through the use of unrelenting and uncompromising force, we want to caution that our history and experience teaches that such a tempting option may indeed contain no enduring solutions. Too much indeed is at stake. And now is the time very clearly to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. The people of the South East and Nigeria deserve nothing less at this time from their governing class.