The decision of the Rivers State Government to proscribe the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Rivers State may have led to growing tension between the government and Igbos across Nigeria.
But the Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike Sunday moved to douse tensions when he held a meeting with Igbo leaders.
Among Igbo leaders invited to Government House were Governors of South East States.
Following the resolve to outlaw IPOB, tempers had flared in some quarters, with Igbos accusing the Governor of Rivers State on social media of unduly targeting them.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB who is hiding away abroad even put a bounty of N100 million on the head of Governor Wike for daring to place a ransom of N50 million on the head of Stanley Mgbere, accused of enjoying close ties with the outlawed organization.
Mgbere who is from Eleme however denies having anything to do with IPOB.
Sunday’s meeting at Government House was expected to promote interaction and enable Governor Wike explain to Ndi Igbo why he took the decision to banish IPOB.
More than that, it was designed to strengthen age-long ties between the people of Rivers State and their neighbours in the East.
Wike who addressed the gathering reiterated that the people of Rivers State and the Igbos have lived together in peace for several years.
But he said the Rivers State Government would not allow any inch of Rivers soil to be used for subversive or criminal activities which could endanger the unity of the nation or compromise the safety of Rivers people.
He explained that if he had not taken the step to silence IPOB and end its activities, there would have been a serious clash between Hausas and Igbos resident in the State.
Governor Wike noted that neither his administration nor himself has any axe to grind with Igbos who are resident in the State.
Also speaking, Governor Umahi spoke strongly against any one, including Biafran agitators to force anyone to share in their aspiration.
The Ebonyi Governor said it was ridiculous for agitators of Igbo extraction to extend their territorial claim to Benue State.
He said the Rivers people had a right to decide who to associate with or who they want to be, urging the Igbos who are resident in Rivers State to respect the views of their neighbours.
The Leader of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Joe Nwodo in his own remark said the people of the South South and the South East share common interests.
He said the problem of marginalization suffered by the Igbo was similar to the experiences of the people of the Niger Delta and also urged Igbos to respect the opinions of others.
Nwodo observed that if there is anyone who had spoken out strongly against some of the imbalances that are trailing the Nigeria state in the immediate past, that person is Governor Wike.
He said Ndi Igbo were acutely aware of the governor’s contributions in drawing attention to matters like tribal inequality, social injustice and religious discrimination which continue to plague the country.
Although Igbo leaders have spoken, there are still Igbos in Rivers State who say they are not fully convinced.
“I do business here”, said one Igbo trader, “what we saw in the last few weeks have made us suspicious.
“Igbos supported Wike and voted massively for him. We were all shocked when he took steps that hurt us badly.
“We are not all Biafrans, but our businesses at Ikokwu and Oyigbo have suffered greatly.
Well, we have listened to some of our leaders who came from home to attend the meeting in Port Harcourt. We would be watching him (Wike).
A Rivers observer put it this way, “Wike had a responsibility to keep Rivers people safe and he did.
“We know that most of the time, he takes rash actions, but this time his reaction was swift.
“We could have had a big crisis in our hands if our State was turned into a battlefield.”