President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said with their control of Nigeria’s economy, it is unthinkable for him that any Igbo man will want to leave Nigeria.
The president spoke in Owerri at a town hall meeting with South-east leaders, during his working visit to Imo State on Thursday in obvious reaction to agitations for secession being championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra in the region.
The streets of Imo State were deserted in what many believed was in obedience of the stay at home order declared by IPOB during the visit.
However, Femi Adesina, the special adviser on media and publicity to the President said Buhari cknowledged the resourcefulness and enterprising spirit of Igbo people while speaking during the town hall meeting.
‘‘The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbos being in-charge of either infrastructure or pharmaceutical industry.
‘‘Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria.
‘‘The evidence is there for everyone to see that Igbos are in charge of Nigeria’s economy,’’ the President told Igbo leaders at the town hall meeting.
He added he would want to be remembered as the President who stabilised Nigeria in the area of security, economic prosperity and triumph over corruption.
He noted that with less than two years left in his eight-year tenure as President, security still remains a major priority for his administration.
‘‘If there is no security, there is nothing anyone can do no matter how much you try or the initiative you have.
‘‘Security is number one priority and then the economy. When people feel secure they will mind their own business,’’ he said.
The President told South-East leaders that while fighting corruption in Nigeria had become very sophisticated and difficult, he would continue to strive to leave a lasting legacy of integrity and accountability in the system.
‘‘Nobody can accuse me of having companies or mansions anywhere in the country and I thank God that I try to keep myself as clean as possible, so that I cannot be taken hostage.
‘‘I will do my best to ensure that Nigerians that try hard, succeed in their efforts,’’ he said.
On the forthcoming 2023 elections, the President reaffirmed his commitment to free, fair and credible polls, urging the leaders to honestly educate their constituencies on the need to hold their elected representatives accountable.
Noting that no country can make any meaningful progress without the development of infrastructure, the President expressed regret that successive governments at the Federal level contributed to the decay of critical infrastructure in the country.
He promised that the Federal Government would complete ongoing key projects in the South East, including the 2nd Niger Bridge as well as the railway lines and routes linking the region with other parts of the country.
‘‘I firmly believe that when you get infrastructure right, Nigerians will mind their own businesses,’’ he said, adding that as a group, the Igbos stand to benefit more from the ongoing development of infrastructure in the country because ‘‘they are more enterprising.’’
President Buhari had earlier commissioned four projects executed by Governor Hope Uzodinma, including the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze link road, the Balloon Driven/Flood Control drainage at Dick Tiger Road, the Egbeada Bypass road and the New Exco-Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
Addressing Imo residents at the commissioning of Egbeada bypass named after a prominent son of the State, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the President said he was very impressed with the level of work done by the State government.
‘‘I am very pleased with what I have seen and I assure you that I will support Imo State within the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’’ he said.
In his remarks at the town hall meeting, Governor Uzodinma said Ndigbo believe in a united Nigeria predicated on ‘‘justice, equity and fairness.’’
He thanked the President for addressing the interests of Ndi Igbo through deliberate policy initiatives designed to give the people a true sense of belonging, including the ongoing construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge, among others.
Governor Uzodinma said the people of South East would remain grateful to the President for approving the establishment of a Naval Base in Oguta Local Government Area of the State, adding that as time unfolds, the economic benefits of the base would manifest.
The Governor also commended the President for strongly supporting the appointment of two prominent Igbos into two key international organisations-Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Assistant Director-General of Health Emergency Intelligence, World Health Organisation (WHO).
In his remarks, the President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor assured the President of the continuous support of Ndigbo.
‘‘Ndigbo are committed to Nigerian unity and there is news for those trying to push us out of Nigeria.
‘‘Ndigbo in Nigeria are like fish in the ocean and no matter how rough the storm is, it cannot drive the fish out of the ocean.
‘‘Mr President, it is in this context, that we see a new dawn in your distinguished presence in Igbo land and believe that on your return to Abuja the significance and substance of this visit will form new foundation of a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues of concern to the Igbo nation,’’ he said.