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Igboezuo state best represents the parity Nigerians intended for southeast

By Aloy Ejimakor
 Published October 14th, 2008

Creation of a new state has always been a hot-button issue since the inception of Nigeria. The very first – the creation of two protectorates of North and South was by sheer colonial fiat and it was easier because the British did not care to have any local input. They figured it was not necessary anyway since they did it mainly for their own administrative convenience and to drive the colonial agenda of ‘divide and rule’.

The second, which split Nigeria into three large regions of East, West and North was done in some recognition that Nigeria comprised of three major nationalities (Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani). The British reckoned that the smaller nationalities will have to make do with co-existing with their larger neighbors. What emerged was a mixed federal-unitary system that mimicked the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland in the British homeland. That stuck for awhile despite the agitations by the various minority groups for their own separate regions.

The third, which led to the birth of the Midwest region (after independence) was largely driven by the then dominant NCNC which wanted to contain the Action Group through the creation of a region out of the Western Region. Some called it the Welsh of Nigeria – a fourth dimension of sorts to complete the mimicry of the ‘three-plus-one’ arrangement of the British homeland that included the Welsh as a fourth region.

The fourth creation of states (not regions anymore) was by Gowon in 1966 and it was targeted against the monolithic (read: separatist and feared) Eastern Region and their allies in the Midwest. Simply put, it was just meant to defeat the gathering secessionist drumbeats. To Gowon’s credit, the balance of power between the North and South was maintained in a 12-state structure.

The fifth by Murtala was meant to correct the imbalances and inequities (rightly or wrongly) of the harried creation done by Gowon and also to break up the regional power hegemons. Thus, greater considerations were given to balance between the large tribes and neo-minority enclaves; yet, somehow, the Igbo were left marginalized. That concluded the first wave of state creations by military fiat. The coming of Shagari brought a lull due to the constitutional restrictions on creation of more states. When Buhari came, he did not care, but Babangida and Abacha succumbed to political expediency by creating additional states. In both exercises, an attempt was made to reward the Igbos for past injustices, yet both regimes did not go far enough, thus resulting in the present persisting imbalance where the South East has the least states out of all the geopolitical zones in the country. Suffice it say that state creation, even when done on the basis of administrative convenience or political expediency, still tried to capture some common elements, mostly bordering on considerations of large populations and linguistic/ethnic homogeneity (South East, South West, and Far Northern States); minority self-determination (The Middle Belt States and the South-South); and parity of regions (North-South divide, tripod theories, and now ‘geopolitical parity’ or balance). Intra-cultural affinity/identity and some fuzzy considerations of contiguity are merely ancillary.

But most tellingly, there is no clear evidence that previous creation of states occurring within and amongst a homogeneous Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa/Fulani was based on any notion of intra-cultural affinity or separateness from the whole (as argued by promoters of Adada, Orashi, Aba and Orlu/Njaba). The reason is because these three major ethnic groups are assumed to be possessed of a single (undifferentiated) cultural identity. Any opposite postulation is a fallacy and bound to be divisive, if not unconvincing to the larger Nigerian community that must approve the request for a new state. The only two groups that had advanced such arguments in the past, with some marginal success, were the Okun Yoruba and the Ika Igbo; and even then, both have not succeeded in selling it as a compelling reason to be created as separate states. The Okuns are still in Kwara and Kogi States with others; ditto for the Ikas in Delta State. To now accept that Adada, Aba, Orashi or Orlu/Njaba deserve a separate state because they are suddenly culturally different from the rest of the Igbos will inflame the Okuns and Ikas to competition. And if they renew their demands, they will do so with reasons more compelling than the best arguments advanced yet by promoters of Adada, Aba, Orashi and Orlu/Njaba. In the end, ‘geopolitical parity’, which was the sole reason that swayed other Nigerians to agree for the Southeast to get one more state will be submerged under a plethora of many new demands from other sections of Nigeria, all to the point of gridlock and the certitude that in the denial of all, the Southeast will again be denied.

Therefore, the creation of an additional state in the South East will succeed only if it set aside considerations of ‘intra-cultural affinity’, flimsy stretches of differences from the whole or other sectarian arguments in favor of the more persuasive and sensible ‘geopolitical parity’ theory, best represented by the compelling case that the new state will comprise of swats of territories from all the existing states of the South East. Reason: This is (again) the only agitation in the history of state creation that is propelled by the collective desire of Igbos as a whole for an additional state and it was endorsed by the rest of Nigeria for that reason alone. That means that it is the only one that fits the current national temperament on state creation and thus stands ready to pass the difficult legislative muster of all the State Houses of Assembly in the federation.

To be sure, the demand was for one more state in the Southeast and it was never propelled by any of the ‘cultural affinity/contiguity’ arguments now advanced to justify the sectarian demand for Orashi, Adada, Orlu/Njaba or Aba state. What was presented was a pan-Igbo collective request for an additional state to bring South East to some par with the other geopolitical zones. And that was the single rationale that persuaded other Nigerians to sign on. Thus, to now allow some sectarian group to take the bacon home and keep it only for themselves will be tantamount to some sort of political fraud on the larger Igbo, if not the larger Nigeria that had contemplated otherwise.

The polarizing demands dusted up from closed history by patchy groups of Igbos, so desperate to be now recognized as culturally distinct from the rest of the Igbos, has long been deemed inferior to the greater force and merits of the ‘geopolitical parity’ theory. Reason: All well-meaning Igbos everywhere fear (with some historical justification) that if allowed to proliferate, the purveyors of this ‘we are separate’ arguments will again frustrate what was initially a ‘one-Igbo’ effort, split Igbos into bitter groups against one another and eventually create the scary situation where other Nigerians may withdraw their universal support and deny the Igbo while pointing to their famous (or infamous) disunity as the sole reason. Thus, the only viable option is to push for a new state that will be neutral and not one that will appear to be recognizing and rewarding the selfishness found in the demand for the creation of Adada, Aba, and Orlu/Njaba or Orashi states.


Ejimakor writes out of Washington DC

  Contact: alloylaw@yahoo.com   


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