Some Elder statemen, Retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Retired Lt.-Gen. Ihejirika and a former governor of Anambra, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife have called on businessmen and entrepreneurs from South-East to invest in the region. They made the call at the second edition of Igbo Unity Forum in Awka on Saturday.
A former Chief of General Staff, Ukiwe said the exodus of Igbo businessmen from the region was attributable to the economic hardship in the former Eastern region at the end of the 30-month Nigerian/Biafran civil war.
Ukiwe said the Igbos, who were entrepreneurial in nature, could not stay idle but went to other parts of the country to create values which resulted in the development of such places.
He said it was time the business class established their businesses in the South-East to check the underdevelopment and rising unemployment in the region.
“The aim is to rally our people to invest at home, their movement outside Igboland was caused by the poverty and destruction that dotted the region after the war, the infrastructure was not there, so they had to go out and do what they know best.
“But now, we are calling on these people to end self-pity and take the responsibility of making themselves relevant by making the region viable,” Ukiwe said.
On his part, the Deputy Governor of Imo, Chief Eze Madumere, said if part of the businesses owned by the people of South-East were brought to the region, the restiveness, crime and poverty would be drastically reduced.
Madumere said they were not calling on people to relocate their businesses but to establish a part of it, adding that a buoyant and vibrant economy would reduce the dependency of the state on Federal Allocation.
“Our strength lies not in education or wealth but on our unity, and that is what the Igbo Unity Forum which started in Owerri was meant to achieve.
“We need more of Onitsha, Aba in the South-East so that the Enugu International Airport and the Owerri Cargo Airport can be more effectively put into use. All these will reduce the crime and poverty among the people,” Madumere said.
Also, the former Chief of Army Staff, Ihejirika, said the Igbos should look beyond the setback suffered in the past and forge ahead in the politics and economy of Nigeria.
Ihejirika said it was only sincerity and unity of purpose of the Igbos that could take them to the economic height they wish to be, adding that the call for people to invest at home was most appropriate.
In his remark, former governor of Anambra, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said most states in the country were not viable because they were politically created.
Ezeife said there was need to restructure Nigeria politically to return the system to regionalism where they could be greater economic value creation at the regions.
He also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address resolutions of the 2015 national conference, pointing out that some of the issues there contained solutions to the current national challenges of Nigeria.
In his welcome address, Gov Willie Obiano of Anambra, stressed the need to bridge the gap between the Igbo intelligentsia, Igbo businessmen and Igbo politician, to achieve the purpose of economic prosperity.
Obiano said there was increased security in the region as exemplified by Anambra, adding that entrepreneurs had no reasons to deny their people business opportunities.
He called for more of such forum to drum home the need to revitalise the region as a step toward solving the recession crisis in Nigeria.