PISE-P: Kalu’s Search for Peace in South East

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PHILIP NYAM writes on the recent launch of Peace in South East Project (PISE-P) by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu, aimed at restoring peace in the geopolitical zone

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, on December 29, 2023, unveiled the Peace In South- East Project (PISE-P) to tackle ] the worsening state of insecurity in the South-East geopolitical zone. The initiative ultimately canvasses the adoption of a non-kinetic ap- proach to resolving the problem of insecurity bedeviling the zone. The event was graced by Vice- President Kashim Shettima; Speak- er of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas; chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodimma and his Abia State coun- terpart, Alex Otti; former governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha and National Assembly members from the South East.

Other personalities who were at the unveiling of the PISE-P, which took place in Bende, the headquarters of Bende federal constituency, included the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Obi of Onitsha, HRM Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; Ooni of Ife, HRM Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and the Emir of Bichi, HRH Nasiru Ado Bayero and a horde of eminent Igbo leaders. Since the unveiling of the PISE- P, the deputy speaker has not relented in preaching peace among the people of the South-East and lobbying the federal government for the release of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The deputy speaker has equally seized every opportunity to admonish IPOB and other restive groups in the zone to jettison the stay-at- home directive, which according to him has done so much damage to the lives and economy of the people.


Tinubu's charge against insecurity

Speaking at the launch, President Bola Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima pledged the commitment of his administration to end the reign of terror in the South-East. The President condemned those he described as self-serving criminals and certain persons taking advantage of the security situation to foster their dangerous political agenda in the zone. According to Shettima, President Tinubu is worried about the economic devastation inflicted on the South- East region by non-state ac- tors since he assumed office. He, however, assured that the President is determined to deploy all available resources to eliminate purveyors of falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against Nigeria's unity. His words: “Tinubu is acutely aware that our commitment to Nigeria's remains incomplete as long as we grapple with the sinister operations of economic saboteurs who masquerade as advocates for Ndigbo.

That's why he's determined to utilise all available resources to ensure that the peace we're establishing in this region is not cosmetic. And we can't guarantee it unless all of us see through the falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against our unity.” The vice president noted that the gory activities of criminals holding the South-East captive are self-serving and do not in any way represent the interests of Ndigbo and the entire country. He added that the terror groups that have held the zone to ransom are not a creation of the people of the region or Nigerians from other parts of the country. “The problem we are here to solve as a community, as an Umunna, is a creation of self-serving criminals who do not represent the interest of the Ndigbo and Nigerians.

Mr. President knows this better than all of us, and that's why he has never held any group accountable for the infractions of law-breaking individuals who identify as their members. This, I believe, is the democracy we have all chosen,” he stated. Shettima further pointed out that the criminals disrupting the peace in the South- East are doing so in connivance with “forces exploiting the situation for a dangerous political agenda,” declaring that attempts to undo the hard work of the nation's heroes past would fail. He, however, said the cata- strophic situation cannot be reversed unless the government involves the people, who, according to him, are the ears, legs and mouths of the people of the South-East, declaring: “Today, we stand united to firmly declare: enough is enough.” The vice-president, who commended Kalu for his efforts to restore lasting peace in the South-East, stressed the need for a coordinated intervention to tackle insecurity in the zone head-on, while assuring the people that the Tinubu administration “shall not rest until it fulfills its pledge to mitigate the crisis it inherited.”


In his welcome address, Kalu, the initiator of the project, said his goal for initiating the PISE-P is to foster peace, unity, and development in the South-East. He added that the project also aims at promoting reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts. His words: “When I embarked on the project, my vision was clear — to foster peace, unity, and development in our region through a non-kinetic approach. The South-East has long been known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant communities and enterprising people. Yet, we have faced our fair share of challenges, including socio-economic disparities, insecurities, political ten- sions and occasional conflicts. “We recognise the need to address the root causes of conflict, including socio-economic disparities and political tensions. Empowering communities is another crucial goal of the project, providing them with the necessary resources, skills, and opportunities for sustainable development.

“Our goals in the South East Project are clear. We aim to promote reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts. We recognize the need to address the root causes of conflict, including socio-economic disparities and political tensions. Em- powering communities is another crucial goal of the project, providing them with the necessary resources, skills, and opportunities for sustainable development. “We also believe in the power of engaging youth in the peace-building process. By empowering young people with education, training, and leadership opportunities, we are investing in the region's . Inclusivity and social justice are core values we aim to foster, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances, have equal access to opportunities and resources. “Cultivating a culture of peace is essential in our journey.

We must promote dialogue, tolerance, and non-violence as core values within our communities. By working towards these goals, we aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive region for all its residents”. The deputy speaker added that the initiative represents a significant mile- stone in the journey towards lasting peace and development. “It is a comprehensive framework that encompasses various strategies, programmes and projects aimed at addressing the root causes of conflict, promoting reconciliation, and empowering communities. “But let us remember that the journey towards peace is not a destination. It is an ongoing process, one that requires our unflinching commitment and dedication. We must continue to foster in- clusivity, promote social justice, and empower our youth. We must invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. We must create opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development.

And above all, we must cultivate a culture of peace, respect, and understanding. “As the pioneer of peace in the South East Project, I am deeply grateful for the support and collaboration of each one of you. Together, we have shown the world the power of unity, the strength of diversity, and the beauty of our shared humanity. Let us continue to build upon the foundation we have laid, to strive for a South East that is prosperous, peaceful, and inclusive,” he said.

Action plan

The PISE-P has already unveiled a six- month action plan to ensure that peace returns to the South-East. Kalu, who revealed this said: “we already have what we call our six-month strategic plan, our operational plan that will be addressing socio-economic challenges, enhancing security and peace- building, stakeholder engagement, strategic implementation, resource management, monitoring and evaluation, communication and awareness. All these things have been done by experts and we are looking at achieving and promoting Sustainable Development Goals. “We'll look at conflict integration and peace-building. We are going to be looking at enhancing access to education and healthcare. We are going to look at infrastructural development, empower- ment and capacity building, community engagement and participation as well as sustainable peace and stability.

“We are going to be looking at a percentage increase in job opportunities created among the women. We will check the income level of the people as well. We will look at business development; the num- ber of new businesses established or sup- ported and the number of businesses we can bring back to the South-East through our advocacy.” Kalu also revealed that a town hall meeting with all lawmakers across the five eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu has been scheduled for April to deliberate on strategic lawmaking and conflict resolution, among other issues. “There is a town hall meeting in the South-East, which is going to be around the Easter period. We will meet with all the legislators in one room, and they are going to discuss how they want the legislative year to look like,” he said. He appealed to armed groups still hiding in the bush to come out and submit their weapons to security agencies for peace to fully return to the zone.

His words: “All the boys who are carrying guns, there is hope for them because we are going to get them gainfully employed. They are our brothers. They are not going to be slaughtered or wasted. We are going to bring them closer and make them have a sense of importance.”

On Nnamdi Kanu's release

Kalu opined that the achievement of peace and security in the South-East is the prerequisite for demanding for the re- lease of the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The deputy speaker, who disclosed this during an interaction with news- men in his Bende country home, ex- plained that the South-East will only realise its objective of securing the release of Kanu through peaceful ne- gotiations and not by arm-twisting the Federal Government. He described several efforts by the South-East leadership to secure Kanu's release as playing to the gallery, insisting that the widely held belief in the South- East that peace will automatically return to the zone once Kanu is released is er- roneous. His words: “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 stay-at- home every Monday, through violence and destruction, Kanu would be immedi- ately 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 Govern- ment refused to listen to its request, as equal to shooting oneself ON the foot. Speaking frankly to his people, the deputy speaker noted that “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, So- koto and other parts of the country. So, who are you shooting? It's like a man shooting his own leg and taking accolades for it, and this is the greatest level of folly.” According to him, the action of those tormenting the region was tantamount to daring the Federal Government to say “its fire-for-fire and violence for violence.”

He said: “So, critically thinking, the best approach is to reduce the violence in the region and create a platform for negotiation.” Kalu insisted that President 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.”

The outcome

How far the deputy speaker and PISE- P will go in restoring peace in the South- East is yet to be seen but the townhall with all lawmakers from the region scheduled for April this year would set the tone. The success or otherwise of the gathering would give an inkling on what to expect from this laudable but herculean task.

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