A former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, yesterday accused sponsors of the ongoing violence in the South-east of plotting to forestall elections in 2023 with the sole aim of thwarting the clamour by the zone to produce the next president.
Ezeife, while featuring on ARISE NEWS CHANNEL, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, however, exonerated members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) from the recent killings of police personnel and the torching of public institutions in the zone.
He spoke hours after the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) expressed concern over the growing insecurity in the country and advised government at all levels to activate their structures in tackling the challenges.
Ezeife described the insurrection in the South-east as an attempt to provoke indigenes of the South-east.
He added that their findings showed that those behind the killings and destruction of public institutions such as offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are not Igbo.
He said: “Who are the people burning INEC’s offices, who are killing the police? There is the impression that some people even within the government are guilty of organising such threat and blaming it on IPOB and ESN.
“Now we know that more than 80 per cent of the people caught by the CCTV are not from the South-east.
Was it a design to blame it on IPOB and ESN? We are learning more now that there is a design to provoke the East.”
He, however, could not identify the sponsors but suspected that some of them might be in government going by some of the findings by South-east leaders.
He stated that a South-east governor who had earlier accused IPOB and ESN of executing the attacks had since exonerated the secessionist group.
He also expressed reservation that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, could hold the groups responsible for the violence without evidence.
He said: “IPOB does not have tradition of shedding blood or burning down things. It is not Igbo tradition to shoot police, burn down houses. During the ENDSARS protests, people attributed what was happening in Lagos to some Igbo people and it was later discovered to be untrue.
“Those who are sponsoring this destruction don’t want election; they don’t want president from South-east zone and would even want to scatter the Anambra election and go for emergency situation and appoint someone.
“Nigeria should understand what is going on and not jump into conclusion.”
While not justifying the activities of IPOB and its leader, Ezeife stated that the federal government by its alleged continued marginalisation of the South-east, is pushing Igbo out of Nigeria.
He listed some of the injustices the youths are fighting to include the absence of tangible federal government projects in the area as well as the alleged disregard for the principle of federal character in appointments, to the detriment of the Igbo.
“The federal government has been working hard pushing the Igbo out of Nigeria. The young men are reacting to what is coming from the federal government. Whether it is project location, we don’t have any in Igboland; whether it is appointment, you don’t find it but if it is retirement, we’re dominant.”
Ezeife also alleged that many Igbo businesses are being crippled by the government.
He dismissed insinuation that the Igbo cannot speak with one voice when it comes to presenting a candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
According to him, the South-east has many individuals that can govern the country and the zone is currently working hard to win the support of other zones to clinch the presidency in 2023.
On the ongoing public hearing to review the constitution, the former governor urged legislators to stop wasting their time and public resources because what the people need now is a new constitution.
Editors Express Concern over Growing Insecurity
Meanwhile, the NGE has expressed concern over the growing insecurity in the country and advised government at all levels to activate their structures in tackling the challenges.
It also called for an enabling political and economic environment for the media to discharge their constitutional and social responsibilities.
It added that creating a conducive environment for the media to thrive would guarantee and sustain democratic space, sustainable development and provide incentives for social/democratic change.
The guild, in a communiqué issued and signed by its President, Mr. Mustapha Isah, and General Secretary, Mr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, at the end of its 2021 Biennial Convention in Kano, called on the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, expunge, repeal or amend as may be appropriate, all existing obnoxious media laws that are inimical to press freedom.
It also urged editors and journalists to continue to subscribe to and uphold the journalism code of ethics – as developed by the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO).
‘’The guild observes the need for the Nigerian mass media to exercise their freedom to operate freely with a sense of responsibility. And considering the spikes in the levels of insecurity across the length and breadth of the country, it is high time for the media to set the agenda and lead the country’s drive to sustaining national cohesion.
‘’While observing Nigeria’s consistent deterioration in the Global Press Freedom Index since 2005, the guild notes that it is worrisome that the slide is happening in a democracy, whereby the guild has had cause in recent times to issue three press statements on the threats of closure and imposition of fines on some broadcast stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC),” the communiqué added.
The guild noted that the huge disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has created globally, saying that the disruption has also had negative effects on the Nigerian media industry, leading to drop in revenues.
‘’For the media to respond to these challenges creatively, there is urgent need for the media managers to evolve diversification, designing of a dynamic management system, producing innovative contents, restructuring their production technologies and adapting new funding and business models.
‘’Considering that the role of information dissemination by the mass media is an essential public and social service, the guild calls on government to consider mitigating the media’s operational costs and economic challenges by floating a national media subsidy regime, including tax holidays and waivers, lifting of licence fees for the broadcast media and offsetting debts of government media agencies in the country,’’ the guild stated.
The guild’s national convention, which attracted over 300 editors and media owners across the country, also expressed concern over the prevalence and massive elevation of fake news, disinformation and propaganda due to the mishandlings of the social media platforms by negative persons.
The guild harped on the need for Nigeria’s media publics, particularly the youth whom the media must carry along, to use, decipher and rely on the conventional media for reliable and credible information in taking their decisions.
The safety of journalists also attracted the attention of the editors, as they called on both the public and the private media operators to devise measures inclusive of guaranteed welfare and insurance schemes for the safety and security of journalists working for them.
The communiqué added: ‘’Against the backdrop of the assailing new media trends, the guild highlights the essence of training and retraining of the Nigerian journalists to update their knowledge, skills and expertise of the profession – with a view to attaining the needed proficiency and competencies that are required to overcome the new media drifts that dragging journalism profession.’’
While commending Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State for keeping the state safe even in the midst of the prevailing insecurity in some parts of the country, the editors also appreciated the state government’s phenomenal drive of infrastructure development; as well as the state government’s determination to turn Kano into a modern city.
The guild thanked Ganduje and members of the state Executive Council for providing the enabling environment for the national convention to hold.