Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra said the peaceful protests by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and MASSOB was hijacked by hoodlums, leading to the tragic bloodletting, in which soldiers reportedly pulled the triggers, killing five persons.
He has nevertheless reached out to families of those who lost their loved ones.
Obiano, in a special message in Awka on Friday, bemoaned the tragic protests that led to the death of the victims and urged the affected families to take heart.
“The death of these young men and women in these protests is a sad chapter in the history of peaceful agitations in Nigeria.
“It is regrettable; but we must accept it as some of the sacrifices we must make in Nigeria’s march to a stronger and more united country.’’
He expressed regret that what was ordinarily a peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums, whose agenda was contrary to the objectives of the protesters.
The governor gave assurance that he had opened a channel of communication with the bereaved families.
“As a nation, Nigerians must realise that we have come to a point in our history when violence should not be an option in the search for solutions to our numerous developmental challenges.
“We ought to have known by now that no meaningful progress is ever achieved through violence. That is why my administration does not spare any efforts or resources in our quest to maintain peace.’’
According to him, the delicate handling of the potentially explosive transfer of Boko Haram inmates to Ekwulobia Prisons is one good example of the creative use of dialogue in resolving disputes.
“We stamped our feet firmly on the ground to ensure that our people did not take the laws into their hands.”
Obiano recalled that his belief in dialogue made him to single-handedly sustain the pressure on the relevant authorities until the controversial Boko Haram inmates were relocated.
On the spate of rising agitations for self-determination across the South-East, he advised the aggrieved parties to explore dialogue and not take the laws into their hands.
He also advised both the security operatives keeping the peace in Onitsha and the residents of the city to exercise restraint in the prevailing circumstances, to avoid further loss of life.
Obiano observed that while there might be sufficient grounds for protests, there could be no better approach to expressing the collective anguish of a people than the option of dialogue.
“I am fully aware of the basis for the rising discontent in the South-East, but I will always advise that we explore the more effective option of dialogue.
“Remember that I was the only governor from the South-East, who performed a symbolic burial for Igbos and their South-South cousins, who died during the civil war.
“However, my belief in the unity of Nigeria is total. I think that we can always overcome our challenges through dialogue.’’
He said that his administration was determined to ensure that Anambra continues to enjoy its current status as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria.
The News Nigeria