The Concerned Igbo Stakeholders Forum (CISF) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari's administration to consider dialogue in resolving the crisis in the South-East rather than a military operation.
Reacting to the recently launched military exercise in the South-East, code-named 'Golden Dawn', the spokesperson for the group, Chukwuma Okenwa advised the Nigerian government to learn from history and explore dialogue as an option to winning back the hearts of Southeasterners.
In a statement made available to SaharaReporters on Wednesday, he said, "For the records, what we have in the South-East is agitation and not an insurgency, as such the right key would be to assuage the legitimate grievances of the South-East.
"How do you beat a child and expect the child not to cry?"
The statement identified "lack of critical Federal Government interventions in the South-East, exclusion of the region in key appointments," and not having an Igbo man in the Presidency as confirmation that the region is being marginalised.
Okenwa said the recent announcement of a military exercise in the region further confirmed the administration had failed to learn from the past.
He said, "We know that insecurity became a concern in the South-East after the Operation Python Dance and why will the President follow the same ill-advised path when the current situation in the South-East is within the capacity of what the Nigeria Police can handle?
"This idea of preferring the Army above the police in matters of civil unrest is like adding salt to the injury, and it paints a war situation for which the military is designed to engage.
"A nation at war continually with itself does not have the capacity to make reasonable progress.
"The eyes of the South-East are also on the President with respect to 21st October 2021, the said day that the embattled leader of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is expected to appear in court.
"Should the DSS (Department of State Services) fail to present him for a fair trial on the said date, it will confirm the fear that certain individuals are trying to use the cloak of governance to fuel violence in the South-East.
"Mazi Nnamdi Kanu should be presumed innocent until otherwise proven by a court of competent jurisdiction.
"Let it be on record that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu never jumped bail, rather his hometown, Afara Ukwu was invaded by the military, and this resulted in diverse casualties, including the loss of his parents.
"Finally, we advise the South-East Governors to wake up from their slumber and stand up for the people who they have sworn to protect.
"Southeasterners are peace-loving people."