Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged people of the south-east zone to “shy away from the spirit of individualism” and unite to achieve the political aspirations that have eluded them.
Speaking on Thursday at the south-east security and economic summit in Enugu, Obasanjo, said the zone would not achieve much with continued individualism and lack of cohesion.
He said the people of the area seemed to have forgotten their spirit of enterprise and communal efforts, which stood them apart from other ethnic groups in the country.
Obasanjo said the zone was unique and that it needed to use its uniqueness to its advantage to negotiate the actualisation of its aspirations.
“The south-east is known for their spirit of enterprise and adventure and you have to utilise it for improved development and security,” he said.
“You must work together and not be divided. You must shy away from the spirit of individualism and must earn solidarity with your neighbours.”
He urged the state governments to leverage on the abundant natural resources in the zone to improve the lives of their people.
Obasanjo said the south-east could be the food basket of the nation, adding that state governments needed to take the responsibility of engaging the youth to check restiveness.
“I don’t think I should be eulogised for facilitating this summit in the south-east because I did the same thing when I visited Maiduguri because of the problem of Boko Haram,” Obasanjo said.
Earlier, Emeka Anyaoku, chairman of the summit, said the event was non-partisan and a commitment to the economic and security well-being of the region.
Anyaoku, who is a former secretary-general of the Commonwealth, said the south-east felt neglected, as it was experiencing the worst economic challenge in the country.
“Although every other zone in the country is experiencing economic malaise, that of the south-east is more grievous,” he said.
“There is a sense of neglect and non-inclusion in this zone by the federal government and that is why coordination among the state governments is very necessary.”
He appealed to the state governors and the organised private sector to devote greater attention to building bridges of unity in the zone.
Anyaoku said there would be no need for the federal government to periodically bailout state governments if the country was restructured with fewer federating units.
“The summit is also working for the advancement of the entire country. If the Nigerian federation is restructured with fewer units, this country will achieve greater stability,” Anyaoku said.
The event was attended by governors of Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi and the deputy governor of Anambra.
Other dignitaries were Alex Ekwueme, former vice-president; Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, and Azubuike Ihejirika, former chief of army staff.