Equity-phobia and Ohaozara Political Destiny

The spate of the marginalization that has forced the Igbos to a second fiddle position in Nigeria project is not the outcome of Biafra war but the very reason for that rebellion. Though, there has been snail-pace movement to bring in Igbos to the political and economic equation of nation life especially in the present democratic dispensation, but the effort is like that of a parrot being praised for uttering few words clearly.

What is gaining currency at the moment is a campaign for the creation of an additional state for the Igbo dominated South-East geopolitical zone. The agitation became necessary given the imbalance in the current geo-political zone system where of all the six zones only the South-East has five states despite its landmass and vibrant population. The struggle, therefore, is adjudged to reflect the true spirit of federal character more especially now that geo-political system has become a powerful formula of sharing rights and privileges.

Typical of Igbo-enwe-eze spirit, since the agitation started, the five states that make up the zone though unanimous in the campaign have been obviously divided on where the new state will be carved out from. Every component part of the zone claims to have suffered more marginalization than the other. Moreover, other nationalities in the country have joined the bid loitering along the corridors of the National Assembly for lobbying. With the commencement of hearing by the National Assembly Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution, there is hope that the dream is still alive, hence, the need for South-East to speak with one voice.

Happily for Ebonyi which has maintained a lastborn posture perhaps for lack of political will to join the race, after series of meeting by the power brokers from the zone to find a common position, agreement seems to be in the offing even as events are becoming clearer that additional new state will soon be a reality. Sources reveal that Igbos have agreed on joint bid for the creation of Equity State from the zone to make up for the imbalance. The choice of Equity State is said to follow a common understanding that if carved out, the state will incorporates some parts of all the present five states that make up the zone, thereby not marginalizing any state in the end. However, the cause for the creation of Adada state is not dead as it will be considered if FG later settles for additional two states for the region.

To this end, Ivo, Onicha, and Ohaozara local governments of Ebonyi state have been tipped to be included in the proposed Equity State. They are to join other component parts from the states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, and Enugu state. The capital is rumoured to be at Ishiagu and Isuochi axis.

Surprisingly, the ‘stakeholders of Ohaozara’ has rejected the move to include them in the proposed state describing it as ‘wicked and selfish’ in a communiqué released recently at the end of their meeting. The group comprising of elected and appointed representatives of Okposi, Uburu, and Ugwulangwu communities is made up of the serving state Deputy Governor, commissioners, State House of Assembly members, Special Adviser to the governor, local government chairman, and the chairman, Old Ohaozara People’s Assembly, in a letter sent to the chairman, National Assembly Committee on the Amendment of 1999 Constitution said they are “disappointed and embarrassed by the move by the proponent of Equity State to include Ohaozara LGA in the proposed state”. They regretted that the people have been involved in all creation exercises in Nigeria so far, from East Central State, old Imo State, Abia State and finally Ebonyi State with attendant dislocations which the creation entails.

One wouldn’t have bothered if another group, Nzuko Ohaozara, had not come up with a disclaimer describing the stakeholders’ position as a handiwork of selfish politicians. Without probing into the politics that informed the disclaimer, some salient points are worth noting.

That Ohaozara people have been involved in all state creation exercises is true as also with every part of Ebonyi state. Yours sincerely has moved from Eastern region, to Anambra, Enugu and finally to Ebonyi and looks set for further exodus. But the consolation is that each exercise had always meant a step to realization of collective dream. Ebonyi, for instance, was welcomed with wild jubilation not minding grudges in some quarters over where the capital is sited. That Ohaozara shares no cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic affinity with the components that may eventually make up the new state is also true, but, it is truer that it shares nothing in common with the like of Ntezi in Ebonyi State.  Besides, Ivo and Onicha will make good neighbours they have always been.

Yet sympathy pours for the stakeholders’ position for fears implicitly obvious. The proposed state will be home to political titans like Anyims, Chukwumerijes, Andy Ubas, Ekweremmadus, to mention but few. Moreover, there is soured political relationship between the present crop of Ebonyi politicians and would-be power brokers of the proposed State, political memories so deep to stir up feeling payback. Equity state will be a sign of contradiction for the fall and rise of many politicians. Above all, some of the stakeholders may have their eyes on the giddiest throne in Ebonyi come 2015. It is natural therefore that one prefers the burden of Egypt to already-but-not-yet milk and honey of the Promised Land.

Unfortunately, Ohaozara Stakeholders’ position confirms a belief that politics is an exclusive power club one gets into and becomes less immune to common interest.  Greatness for sure goes to risk takers who tread rugged road of sacrifice. Ordinarily, acceptance of status quo invites dangers and militants against common destiny of a people. If Jericho is the only road to the Promised Land the determination of Joshua should spur Ohaozara people to meet titans in the political desert to their destiny.

When politically manipulated from outside, Abakaliki people once staged an infamous protest against proposed plan to site the then ‘Anambra State University of Science and Technology’ in the area and demanded for farm inputs instead. At the end, they got their inputs plus only a ‘College of Agricultural Science,’ (CAS) campus. Today, they recall with regret how they sold off their destiny, and postponed literacy. How can civilized Ohaozara make similar mistake twenty-four years after? God forbid!