STAR PRIZE (N50,000)
NAME: ONWUKA PASCHALINE CHIAMAKA
SCHOOL: UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA
READ PASCHALINE’S ESSAY BELOW
THE ‘IGBO AGITATION’ A ROAD MAP TO REGAINING OUR PRIDE IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS
We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.– Chinua Achebe
In the African narrative tradition, the bridging of time and space is a common reality essentially because individuals and groups of people tend to retrieve salient facts from their historical past in other to know where they are coming from; where they are and where they are most likely going to be in future.
The issue of underdevelopment, increase in poverty, inequality in resource sharing, and wealth control and in the socio-political composition of the Nigerian state, creates tension, instability, insecurity and countless agitation for restructuring, fairness, justice and equity, and very recently, The Igbo Agitation. This has dominated the discourse in the Nigerian polity today, prompted for increased participation, involvement and inclusion of every ethnic Nationalities in the Nigerian society for equal sharing, participation and allocation of the Nation’s National wealth and resources. Hence, the subsequent leadership failure by the various levels of government in addressing and tackling these challenges has prompted this study.
THE PROBLEM: REASON FOR THE AGITATION
Leadership Failure: The Igbo agitation stemmed from leadership failure on the part of government, amounting to years of social neglect, economic and political isolation of the people in Nigeria and particularly people from the South East of the Nation in general. Again, the monumental underdevelopment, lingering unemployment for the youth skewed political structure and composition and snarled speed economic growth of the Nigerian state resulting to increased poverty, hunger, insecurity and instability via Boko Haram (Olomojobi, 2015).
This has led to brain drain, money laundering by government officials, immigration to Europe in search of greener pastures and terrorism and very recently violence clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in the North Central of the Nation. A Nation is an abstraction in itself without any form or status; it is the people, their customs, culture, language and political difference/affiliation, personality and their idiosyncrasies that gives forms and meaning to what constitute a Nation (Soremekun, 2012).
Unequal Treatment: Under the present government, political grievances have deepened. With no Igbo heading any of the military and security services, many argue the region has no voice in key organs such as the National Defence Council (NDC). The situation was aggravated by President Buhari’s statement shortly after coming to power that “constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%”. An example of this unfair treatment was seen when the domestic intelligence agency the Department of State Services recruited recently, it hired just 44 new employees from the south east compared to 165 from the north west. Similarly, the south east is nearly completely excluded from a proposed national railway development plan. (Obasi, 2017)
Victims of History: Along with political and economic grievances, the igbo agitation is driven by a strong feeling of collective victimisation. In 1949, the prominent Igbo leader Nnamdi Azikiwe asserted “it would appear that God has specially created the Ibo people to suffer persecution and be victimised because of their resolute will to live”. Almost 50 years later, another distinguished Igbo, Chinua Achebe, claimed that “Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo”. These feelings have been deepened over the decades by recurrent rioting in the north in which Igbo have suffered great losses. Mostly notably, over 30,000 Igbo in the north were killed and two million fled back to the south in 1966 in the “Igbo pogrom” that followed the January coup and July counter-coup.
REGAINING OUR PRIDE IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS: RECOMMENDATIONS
Constitution Review to Address Political Inclusion: In the longer term, the National Assembly should resume its stalled constitution review and pass provisions that would guarantee all citizens a stronger sense of national belonging and redress the imbalance in administrative units between the zones. This is a key demand of south easterners and one already endorsed by the leaders of most other zones.
South Eastern Government should do better: The leaders of the south east must also respond to their region’s needs by focusing on economic development and curbing massive youth unemployment. The south east governors’ recent initiative towards integrated regional development is a welcome step that should be pursued vigorously. They should establish an economic revitalization scheme that would complement the interventions by the federal government and other stakeholders. As a first step in this direction, platforms on which South East leaders could meet and undertake consultation, such as the South East Governors’ Forum, South East Legislators’ Forum, and the South East Traditional Rulers Council, should be established, revived or strengthened (Okechukwu et al, 2016). Furthermore, promising economic initiatives, such as the South East Nigeria Economic Commission (SENEC), should be revisited and actualized.
Federalism and Not Statism should be the order of the day: Whereas before, every state strove for self-sufficiency, homogeneity, and, with a few exceptions, concentration of authority and power in single center, under the new paradigm all states have to recognize their interdependence, heterogeneity, and the fact that their centers, if they ever existed, are parts of a multi-centered network that is increasingly non-centralized, and that all of this is necessary in order to survive in the new world. (JCPA, 2018)
An Igbo proverb says “Eme ngwa ngwa emeghara odachi”– which means that he who acts fast avoids calamity. The government and indeed the majority groups who enjoy privileged political positions and advantages in this skewed and unfair polity should allow a credible and a sustainable political reform in the system to engender equity, justice, fairness and political inclusion of all peoples in the society.
Achebe, C (1983) The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers.
JCPA, (2018). From Statism to Federalism: Paradigm Shift. https://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles/stat-fedshift.htm
Obasi, N (2017). How to Solve A Problem like Biafra. https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/nigeria/nigeria-how-solve-problem-biafra
Olomojobi, Y (2015). Frontiers of Jihad, Radical Islam in Africa, Safari Books Ltd.
Okechukwu et al, (2016). Why Igbos want to Secede. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314490967_Biafra_Why_Igbo_Want_to_Secede
Soremekun, (2012). What constitutes a Nation. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access-pdfs/biafra-agitation-and-politics-of-imbalance-in-nigeria