Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has disclosed that South-East gunmen are not as bad as Northern bandits, noting that they must find a way to talk about the issues at stake.
The governor made this known in an interview with Vanguard on Sunday, affirming the leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu as his son.
He noted that other means apart from dialogue and negotiation in resolving the current face-off between the Nigerian Government and the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu may lead to more violence.
“We must engage with IPOB. Yes, we must find a way to talk about the issues at stake. These people are not as bad as the ones in the North-East or North-West who go to schools and seize the whole population of teachers and students or invade the mosques and churches and kidnap all the worshippers and nobody can find them until a ransom is paid.
“I believe that there is some ideological sense in what these people in the South-East are saying. There is something to listen to even though it is criminal to take up arms against the state. There is a message they are trying to pass in the process. We need confidence-building among ourselves rather than use words that we should not use even as leaders. Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder but the solution is not too difficult to find.
“I regard Nnamdi Kanu as my citizen but not as the leader of IPOB because I am the governor. I am prepared to engage to resolve the issue. I care about his welfare and I care that he should be tried in a just and fair way.
"I am happy that they want to bring justice to bear by looking at the allegations against him and trying him fair and square but I would not want him to be treated as if he was a convict when he has not been convicted. Not until otherwise, he is still my citizen and as his father, it behoves on us to care for him after all the prodigal son had a father.
“The scenario in the South-East appears as if we are running away from the foundation of solving the problem of IPOB but you must recognise the fact that the apparatus of security lies heavily on the federal government.
“The problem is further compounded by the fact that there is a proliferation of small arms in the hands of people who should not have them. We also have an ill-equipped, inadequate and underfunded police system in the land,” he noted.
The governor also explained why the South-East governors are unable to stop IPOB from enforcing sit-at-home orders in the region.
“If you call governors the chief security officers of their states and they cannot determine the number of policemen they can deploy and the kind of equipment to use, then it becomes extremely difficult for governors to take control of security issues in the South-East. The South-East governors are handicapped but we are trying our best.
“That is why when IPOB gives a sit-at-home order, the governors are unable to counter effectively because they do not have control over Federal police, which are neither adequate nor well-equipped to deal with security challenges,” he added.