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South-East Summit in Owerri: A Push for Unity and Economic Progress

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On September 28-29, the city of Owerri was abuzz with prominent political leaders from the South-East as they convened for the South-East Economic and Security Summit. Hosted by the South-East Governors’ Forum, this event was themed “South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset.”

Prominent leaders like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Governors Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Hope Uzodimma, Alex Otti, Peter Mba, and Francis Nwifuru (represented by Deputy Patricia Obila) graced the occasion. Several other influential figures, from senators to traditional rulers, participated, underscoring the importance of this summit.

Unity was a recurring topic. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO’s Director-General, delivered a poignant message, emphasizing that division amongst the Igbo elite was a significant contributor to the region’s stagnation. Peter Obi, a prominent political figure, echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of collective action to address the rising insecurity concerns.

Addressing the role of the home in curbing insecurity, Deputy Governor Patricia Obila emphasized mothers’ influential roles. Owerri’s Governor, Hope Uzodimma, shared a vision of consolidating Igbo groups under the umbrella of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide.

Additionally, suggestions ranged from a non-kinetic approach to combat insecurity (proposed by Enugu’s Governor, Peter Mbah) to a “common market” for bolstering regional economic growth. Abia’s Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, urged understanding and engagement with the youth, pinpointing drug abuse as a significant concern. Anambra’s Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, motivated the South-East residents to be proactive investors in their home region.

Anyim Pius Anyim, a respected veteran in the political sphere, called for a reassessment of the Biafra agitation and its link to current insecurity issues. He stressed the importance of engaging in dialogues to forge lasting solutions.

While the summit was generally hailed as a positive move, questions linger. The summit isn’t the first of its kind, and the outcome of past events, such as the Ebubeagu joint security outfit’s effectiveness, remains in the spotlight. Furthermore, the theme of unity requires unpacking. It’s crucial to understand the duality of the Igbo personality, which is inherently both community-driven and individualistic. This unique trait can be both a strength and a challenge when mobilizing for collective actions.

Moreover, there was a strong emphasis on the “Aku luo uno” philosophy – urging Igbos to invest in their homeland. Yet, this is in contrast with the ingrained Igbo cultural inclination towards diaspora successes.

As a concluding note, the success of this summit and the realization of its goals lies in the implementation. A proactive approach, focusing on reconciliation and future growth, is essential. Engaging the youth, fostering unity, and creating infrastructural projects, like a new urban center with state-of-the-art facilities, could be key drivers.

Governance in the region could also benefit from improved peer review mechanisms. With these steps, the South-East has a promising future ahead.

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