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Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu who is the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, has asserted that the achievement of peace and security in the South-East is the prerequisite for demanding for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
The deputy speaker said this during an interaction with newsmen in his Bende country home.
The deputy speaker stressed that the widely held belief in the South-East that once Kanu is released, peace will automatically return to the region is false and explained that the region could only achieve its goal of securing Kanu’s release through peaceful negotiations, not by arm-twisting the Federal Government. The deputy speaker also described several efforts by the South-East leadership to secure Kanu’s release as playing to the gallery.
He said, “To get Kanu released is not about how much you talk about it on the pages of the newspapers or screens of television stations, it needs strategic thinking and strategic steps to get it done.
“Many thought that by arm-twisting the Federal Government through sit-at-home every Monday, through violence and destruction, Kanu would be immediately released.
“You can never arm-twist the Federal Government, but you can dialogue.”
He also described the threat to burn down the region, if the Federal Government refused to listen to its request, as equal to shooting oneself in the foot.
He averred, “The houses you are shooting at are in the South-East. The people you are killing are South-Easterners.
“When you say, if you don’t release Kanu, the people will sit at home and not go to work, people are going to work in Lagos, Kano, Sokoto and other parts of the country.
“So, who are you shooting? It’s like a man shooting his own leg and taking accolade for it, and this is the greatest level of folly.”
Kalu also said that it was tantamount to daring the Federal Government to say “it’s fire-for-fire and violence for violence.”
He enthused, “So, critically thinking, the best approach is to reduce the violence in the region and create a platform for negotiation.”
The deputy speaker insisted that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had not committed any sin against the South-East, but argued that the President, on the contrary, had shown love to the region “by giving us the number six citizen – deputy speakership, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Minister for Works.”
He, therefore, said that the best option in the present circumstance is for the South-East to join his advocacy for peace, through the Peace in the South-East Project, unveiled on December 29.
He added, “That event, which brought the President, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, and the Emir of Bichi, Nasiru Ado Bayero, to Bende is significant and symbolic, because Kanu is from Bende.”
He enthused that the fact that Abuja emptied into Bende on December 29, 2023 showed the commitment of the Federal Government to peace in the South-East, adding, “So, I urge the South-East to cool temper. South-East coolu, coolu, coolu temper.
“When you cool your temper, then the father of the nation would say, yes, they are ready to talk now.”
The deputy speaker, therefore, admonished the gunmen fomenting violence in the region to surrender their arms to the security agencies, expressing the hope that they would be granted amnesty by the Federal Government, once they dropped their arms for peace to reign in the region.
Describing ‘sit-at-home’ as an affront to the Federal Government, the deputy speaker added, “You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time.”
On the state of the nation, Kalu stressed the need for the Federal Government’s economic policies to be tailored toward reducing poverty in the country, adding that the National Assembly should also lean toward legislations that would help to reduce poverty, diversify and grow the economy and create employment.