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How Obiano’s absenteeism renews stalemate in Southeast Governors’ Forum

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
12 October 2021   |   4:19 am
The much talked about meeting of Southeast leaders with the Forum of state governors from the zone has come and gone without any earth-shaking resolutions on how to stave off the mounting crisis of security in the area.


The much talked about meeting of Southeast leaders with the Forum of state governors from the zone has come and gone without any earth-shaking resolutions on how to stave off the mounting crisis of security in the area.

In attendance were four out of the five governors of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states that make up the zone. While the Imo State governor’s decision to attend the meeting in Enugu with a convoy of troops and a couple of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) went down as a worrisome metaphor of the state of fear in Southeast, the total absence of Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano from the crucial meeting exposed the subsisting stalemate in the forum.

It would be recalled that shortly after Governor Obiano succeeded Mr. Peter Obi as governor, his desire to step into Obi’s shoes as chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum was rebuffed by other state governors, who contended that the position of chairman was not by inheritance.

Again, shortly after the 2015 general election when new set of governors were elected in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu, Obiano’s argument that he had become senior to Governors Okezie Ikpeazu, David Umahi and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi did not hold water, because the governors decided on holding an election among themselves.

And, given that the then Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, belonged to the opposition, it was obvious that there was no way he could win an election that three voters belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi

At the end of the day, Ebonyi State governor, Umahi was unanimously elected to chair the regional body. Four years on the saddle, another attempt was made to review the leadership of the Governors’ Forum, with some governors kicking that since the office of chairman was rotational another state should take over.

However, knowing the attempt by Okorocha to seek for a rotation of venue, which was defeated, when the Enugu State governor was nominated to take over, Ugwuanyi said it was not proper for his state to serve as host and yet preside over the forum.

The Enugu State governor was also said to have argued that there was no reason to change a winning team, noting that his Ebonyi State counterpart has been doing an excellent job and showing great political leadership skills.

But the 2023 elections and positioning may have altered all assumption.

There is now mutual suspicion among the governors on who the zone should present for 2023, coupled with the desperation over Anambra governorship election. This is affecting cohesion in the zone.

The mutual suspicion and climate of envy played out during the plans to establish a common security outfit for the geopolitical zone called Ebubeagu. Governor Umahi’s elder brother, General Obi Umahi, was forced to resign his appointment when it became obvious that some of the governors were foot-dragging on the security plan.

It is against that background that the Southeast Governors’ Forum always witness scant attendance during meetings, with particular governors electing to second their deputies instead of attending in person.

Although the governors extended their rivalry to the Southern Governors’ gathering, the recent meeting summoned by the Ebonyi State governor to discuss the security situation in Southeast, it was believed, presented a golden opportunity for the forum to speak in one voice.

Prior to the meeting, observers expressed doubts that Governors Uzodimma and Obiano would attend. Perhaps, in it was in the light of that general feeling of doubt that Governor Umahi in his memo to the governors begged his colleagues to “please attend in person.”


Alluding to their penchant to absenting from meetings convened to deliberate on issues bordering on peace building, security and socio-economic interest of NdIgbo, Umahi urged his colleagues to desist from sending representatives to crucial meetings.

In the notice of meeting and invitation to attend the planned gathering of Southeast leaders, including the leadership of Ohanaeze NdIgbo, traditional, religious and political groups, Umahi informed the governors that the October 5 meeting was to discuss very pressing matters.

In the invite, copy of which was sighted by The Guardian, the Ebonyi State governor stated: “Our leaders begged that I request all governors of Southeast to please be present at the time and not on representative capacity, so that together we should reach some decisions to salvage our region that is presently battling with high rate of insecurity.

“May I therefore request that you endeavour to attend this meeting for the sake of NdIgbo.”

According to the statement, apart from the five state governors, other dignitaries expected at the meeting were leaders and heads of religious and traditional institutions.

No sooner was the invite sent than the wife of late Ikemba Nnewi, Ambassador Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu, made a passionate plea on her state governor, Obiano to endeavour to attend.

In her statement titled, “Governor Obiano, Please Attend Tomorrow’s Security Meeting,” Iyom Ojukwu contended that the October 5 meeting was convened “to discuss the worsening state of insecurity in the zone, particularly in Anambra State.”

She had stated: “Anambra State has become a crisis point as a result of the impending guber election. All Southeast governors have been requested to attend in person and not in representative capacity. I am appealing, together with all concerned citizens of Anambra to our governor, Chief Willie Obiano to physically attend this meeting.

“Anambra is boiling. It’s no longer just a matter of unknown gunmen…. even politically motivated and other opportunistic killings have now become subsumed under this heading…

“Anambra State is in mayhem; people are postponing funerals and other activities and many Anambra indigenes resident abroad are cancelling their Christmas return trips. I am appealing to Governor Willie Obiano, who is yet again, planning to send his Deputy to represent him, to reconsider this approach. This is not business as usual.

“As our governor, he is the Chief Security Officer of the state. If he is hale and hearty enough to undertake ceaseless sightseeing excursions to the Anambra Airport Construction site, I believe it will not be too much to ask that he sacrifices some of this precious time to attend this important security meeting for the sake, not only of Ndi Anambra, but Ndi Igbo as a whole.”

But, despite the entreaties, Governor Obiano was inexplicably absent, neither did he send a representative. Although The Guardian learnt that the governor was bogged down with earlier scheduled campaign meeting in his country home, the alleged plans by his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), perhaps did not dispose the governor to delegating his deputy.

Yet, following the negative backlash that trailed his conspicuous absence, Governor Obiano was alleged to have declared that he kept off the meeting to avoid sitting in the same room with those allegedly foisting insecurity in Anambra State. Insisting that his absence should not be interpreted as a sign of his insensitiveness to the welfare and safety of the people, Obiano maintained that he did not want to “be in the same meeting with the governors sponsoring the bloodletting.”

[FILES] Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Photo: LEAKBLAST

While some commentators pointed accusing fingers in the direction those who appear desperate to produce an APC governor in Anambra State, Obiano said the controversy over his absence was a huge distraction.

The governor, who made his stance known through the Special Adviser on Political Matters, Ifeatu Obiokoye, argued that “noise” was being sponsored by “desperate politicians, who were out to justify the sponsorship of their benefactors.”

The SA Political stressed that the killings in Anambra State were politically motivated to create voter apathy in the state so as to enable the sponsors to manipulate the electoral process to their advantage.

While disclosing that his principal has already installed a fool proof security architecture to arrest the security challenge, Obiokoye stated: “Did you really expect my governor would be meeting, and dining with some persons ostensibly funding and sponsoring insecurity and terrorism in Anambra State?

“What people are saying goes to no issue in the first instance because it is a public knowledge that those doing the killings are not from Anambra State and no Anambra person would go to this extent.

“These people are from outside Anambra State and those sponsoring them are from outside Anambra State and you expect the governor to be holding meetings with them on security challenges which those people are executing?”

Responding to the innuendo from Anambra State governor, the APC governorship standard bearer, Senator Andy Uba, declared that it had become public knowledge that Obiano has failed to rise to the challenges of insecurity in the state.

Based on the crisis of confidence within the Southeast Governors’ Forum, it is left to be seen, how far the governors would play as a team to contain the challenges of governance and crippling security concerns in the geopolitical zone.