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President Muhammadu Buhari, on
Thursday, stayed away from the maiden South-East Economic and Security Summit
in Enugu, about 48 hours after some pro-Biafra agitators warned him not to set
foot on Igbo land.

Buhari was to be the chief guest of
honour at the summit, which held in the Enugu State Government House, according
to the programme of the event.

Although the President was expected
at the event — as suggested by several speakers who spoke during the programme,
he neither showed up nor was he represented.

Also, ministers from the
South-East, who were slated to make presentations at the event, all stayed
away.

A pro-Biafran group, the Indigenous
People of Biafra, had, in the build-up to the summit, issued a statement,
warning Buhari to stay away from the South-East — in his own interest.

IPOB, whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is
being held by the Federal Government, accused Buhari of “persecution”, and
threatened “a breakdown of law and order” should the President attend the
summit.

Although no mention of the IPOB
warning was made throughout the opening session of the summit, Buhari’s absence
was a major talking point as several speakers expressed surprise at the
development.

Present at the ceremony, former
President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a presentation on “Sustainable development:
Zero hunger,” said the South-East could become the food basket of the country
if the various states collaborated to develop agriculture.

He also canvassed cooperation among
the governors in the region on other developmental issues.

Obasanjo said, “We have a challenge
of youth unrest which is understandable because these are young people who have
education without employment, and skills without production. So, you should expect
some agitation from them.

“We cannot leave these children. We
must take responsibility.”

Chairman of the South-East Security
and Economic Summit, Prof. Barth Nnaji, who is a former minister of power,
observed in his opening remarks, “We have not seen the President.”

In his address, Nnaji thanked the
Enugu State Government for undertaking to sponsor some aspects of the
President’s visit.

Also, at the beginning of his
address, the chairman of the event, a former Commonwealth Secretary General,
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, drew attention to Buhari’s absence.

“I was going to start by saluting
the representative of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but I
have not been told of such a person,” the retired diplomat said.

Anyaoku went further to express
regrets that Buhari was not present at the event.

Rounding off his address with a
call for the restructuring of the country, he said, “I had hoped that Mr.
President would be here to hear me.

“Like Cato, the Roman senator who
always ended his speeches by calling for the destruction of Carthage until his
call was heeded, I will restate my assertion that if the Nigerian federation is
restructured to have less federating units, this country will achieve greater
stability and faster pace of development, and there will no longer be a need
for the Federal Government to bailout many of the non-viable 36 states.”

Deputy Senate President, Ike
Ekweremadu, observed that the programme printed by the organisers of the summit
did not include his photograph and also did not list him among those to speak
at the event.

Ekweremadu also spoke on the need
to restructure the country, stressing that the current system was not working.

In separate presentations, the
governors of Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi states, and the Deputy Governor of Anambra
State, drew attention to challenges and opportunities in their various areas.

They also spoke of the need to work
together to develop the South-East.

Imo State Governor, Rochas
Okorocha, did not attend the summit, and was also not represented.

Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi
Ugwuanyi, urged the Federal Government to address the various challenges
besetting the South-East, including the bad state of federal roads, the menace
posed by herdsmen and the need to upgrade the runway and other infrastructure
at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

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