Somehow, the issue of creating a new state in the South-East appears to be suffering
a setback apparently because of what appears to be delays in the endorsement of the idea by the National Assembly committees reviewing the 1999 Constitution. Whatever might be the case I have strong reasons to think that the project remains alive in the minds of those who should claim to accept and love the Nigerian idea. This is for several reasons.
First is that issues of justice and equity are never killed. They would often resurrect, even more forcefully and fearfully. The only antidote to injustice is justice. At the moment, no serious logic has been advanced in any write-up on the subject to demonstrate that the South-East does not deserve an additional state to give it a sense of belonging within the Nigerian umbrella just like other sections of the country.
The overriding problem appears to be what can be called politics of indifference to, or even hatred for justice, which often define issues in the Nigerian public domain. There would always be a reason for a Nigerian to contest the right of another –based either on class, tribe, tongue or religion. But not on what can be called pure reason. An additional state is a well-deserved right in the South-East geo-political zone.
What would other Nigerians lose if it is demonstrably established that the South-East deserves an additional state based on proven principles of justice and is so granted them? This is the radical question that confronts us all. Regrettably, questions such as this are hardly allowed to confront the Nigerian intellect because the moral demands of the question are not much welcome.
It should be recalled that this issue of an additional state for the South-East geo-political zone was almost addressed at the tail end of the Obasanjo regime before it took the shape of a Greek gift to the South-East from a man who wanted a third term by all means. For what it is worth, there is no doubt that the mental and spiritual damage that a third term presidency of an Obasanjo regime in what is believed to be a democracy would have done to Nigeria would definitely have destroyed or totally corrupted the gains of a new South-East state under him. This is because it would have required a “third-term-minded leader” to function in such a new state thereby contaminating the state with such militaristic disposition to democracy in a civil era.
In this essay, I shall attempt to further the search for a mental paradigm on which it can be seen that South-Eastern Nigeria truly deserves a new state even if it should mean that the delegates from the new state if created should attend the proposed national dialogue as their first assignment or that the dialogue itself should recognise this as the very first condition to the full integration of the Igbo into the Nigerian project. I have first decided to address the primary inhabitants of the area where the state is desired, the Igbo. I do this, not because the state would not be pan-Nigerian if created as every state in Nigeria ideally should be, but because there is the need to articulate a pan-Igbo voice for the project to be achieved. I do this also with the belief that from such a voice the larger Nigerian community would also adapt the ideas to look more closely at the demand.
A few years ago, the Southern Nigerian Elders Forum converged at Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu, with an important resolution that, at least, two more states should be created in South-Eastern Nigeria. This gathering had an array of some modern Nigerian sages (those who have stronger reasons to tell us about Nigeria than the galaxy of Nigeria’s political class of today).These are people whom I have reasons to say have learnt through age, social activism and experience, and should tell us about Nigeria and deserve to be listened to. These elders, including Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Dr. Alex Ekwueme, had, after looking at what justice should mean to the Igbo man recommended that at least two new states should be approved for the South-East. One would have thought that the voice of elders which is the voice of wisdom should have influenced the debate on the subject after that. But such is yet to obtain with regard to this wise counsel.
Recall that the ideology of the state creation has as its aim the organisational framework for better service delivery. More than that, the ideology is also meant to achieve what should amount to an African ethics of the state where homogeneity and connectedness are vital political weapons for social engineering. Hence when people feel unjustly treated within a homogeneity it is often more injurious in Africa than within a heterogeneity.
The case for state creation in the South-East also finds relevance in the fact that the South-East is mainly inhabited by people of the Igbo extraction who are known to have what can be reliably called socio-political ethics for political organisation. Thus, the desire to exploit this in the direction of the state affairs is a strong factor that re-enforces this demand in positive light.
I have, therefore, decided to reinforce the demand by looking at how endogenous ideas and values imply that the idea of state creation in the East should achieve a common voice very significantly and communally among the Igbo. By endogenous ideas, I mean knowledge that is sourced from within but have their applicability outside the context of their origin.
Several documents, institutions and important world bodies support the need to articulate and apply home-grown knowledge and ideas in the direction of the social and political affairs of the human community. They include UNESCO and UN, etc. In the same vein, several thinkers address the need for endogenous knowledge in Africa’s search for socio-political breakthrough in a world of conflicting epistemological paradigms. They include those of David Millar the Ghanaian scholar and the notable Bennois philosopher Paulin Hountondji. The ideas of these scholars which are very eloquent in relevant works on the theme at the moment work bring to limelight the neglected fact that while knowledge is a universal human heritage, modes and ways of knowing vary greatly and this should be brought to bear in any reliable project of development.
Three questions are implied here in the demand for state creation through endogenous worldview:
Does the Igbo worldview urge them to demand an additional political unit such as is implied by the idea of a state within the Nigerian application of the term in her political arrangement?
What should it mean to apply Igbo ethics in advocating a state in the South-East? What is the role of the Igbo ethics in this exercise?
What are the benefits of applying Igbo ethics in the quest for state creation in South-Eastern Nigeria for the Igbo and even for the greater number of just minds that empathise with Igbo on this demand?
Let me attempt to answer this question by discussing the consequence of not applying Igbo ethics in the demand for state creation even among the Igbo. The consequence of not applying Igboethics is that the Igbo cannot be said to be sufficiently intellectually developed and, therefore, have to borrow ideas from other segments of the society. This means they have to borrow from another human community to solve an Igbo problem. I call the state creation project that relates to the South-Eastern Nigeria an Igbo problem because the indigenous people whose geography and population are affected by the exercise and should have a say in the project are all Igbo and the state desired is an Igbo state located in an Igbo geographical territory. I am not by this implying that only Igbo will live in such states. No, I am pointing out that until the indigene-settler syndrome is well articulated and resolved within a constitutional framework, every state in Nigeria will continue to be located first within its significance to the indigenous population.
Conversely, the benefits of applying Igbo ethics in the project is that it can now be said that there is indeed a proper revival of Igbo civilization; one that could be said to imply that Igbo modernity is fast adapting to the demands of how to articulate the basis for solving a political problem. It demonstrates that Igbos can generate some ideas and positions from among themselves to be able to influence the course of their political development.
The question that should follow is: can this be applied in the current effort to achieve a state in the South-East? It can and it should. For a caveat, let it be noted that some positions that have bearings on the idea of Igbo consensus have been advanced on this exercise which strengthens this need. Sometime in the past, the respected Igbo leader, the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was reported in the press to have said that the South East quite deserved an additional state. However, he was further quoted to have said that the deserved additional South-East state should be Oru state because his mother hails from the Oru area of Igboland.
While the first position places the late Chief Ojukwu where he rightly belongs as a true Igbo son, it is doubtful the extent to which the second does because it is amounts to personalizing the Igbo world which amounts to a fallacy and a taboo in Igbo thought. In the same vein, Chief Arthur Nzeribe is known to have been promoting the idea of Urashi state with motives that would demand critical questioning within the endogenous demands of the idea. Even worse, it is sometimes possible to encounter those who find it difficult to key into the demand for a new state based on what they call the theory of non-viability of the idea or the rate of performance of existing states. But these are tantamount to saying that a child in the womb should be aborted because those who are born are not living up to expectation.
Positions such as these suggest the need to source for endogenous ideas to support the project because severally the Igbo consensual outlook on the project often suffers set-back because the question of where to carve out the new state often leads to positions that affect the entire project. They demonstrate how fake and false ideology at the expense of an endogenous Igbo ideology, at least, in its traditional form with its sharp ethics of justice can affect such crucial element in the Igbo search for justice and equity which are cardinal human principles and values everywhere.
I call the views fake ideology because there is what can be independently and distinctly called the Igbo ideology harboured by the Igbo worldview which none of these positions represent. The late South African anthropologist and theorist, Archie Mafeje had several times argued that in Africa ethnicity is a form of ideology. I find this position critically relevant and would argue that within the epistemological demand of the term there is the need to locate the provisions of ideas harboured by the ethnic group and apply it to diagnose their political ailment. This is because local knowledge would often command quicker and instant loyalty from a decolonised mind than an alien knowledge.
I argue that this is what should guide the Igbo, especially on what pertains to them as a people such as the demand for a state in the South-East. This would not make them non-Nigerians but rather make them distinctly Nigerians, that is, a people who know what they are within the socio-political context of a Nigerian state and are ready to advance the cause of the Nigerian state through their own reservoir of knowledge. This is also another way of extracting positive value from the idea of ethnic group and not merely applying the idea for negative tendencies as has been the case all these while.
Briefly contextualised in Igbo thought, then, the desire for state creation in the South-Eastern Nigeria amounts to one which should direct the mind to support the creation of a state not to satisfy the personal ego of any person –given the egalitarian nature of the Igbo society – but as something born out of a clear political need defined by the most marginalized section of the Igbo nation. Thus the question should be: do the South East justifiably deserve a state and which area needs a state fundamentally to advance politically? Applying the Igbo worldview means centering the demand on the Igbo ethics of brotherhood as a proof that the Igbo idea of brotherhood is strongly recognised and that the communal principle of Igbo thought is recognised.
The second ideology from the Igbo worldview that supports this project is to recognise that the Igbo world reveres success and would wish to allow and encourage the other to succeed and that state creation can promote the ethics of hard work and development. In the Igbo world, if a man had a million naira and his brother is starving, it would be held that the man is wicked- he does not help his brother, it would be said. But if he turns to his starving brother to say come to my house and feed, the reply he would get would likely be: no, give me money; let me work to become someone. It is this philosophy of letting Igbo people wherever they are to have what it takes for them to struggle and actualize their talents that I believe should guide the Igbo world in advocating for state creation for their brothers.
It may be the case that there are several aspects of Igboland that are marginalised, but some are definitely more marginalised and underdeveloped than others due to several factor sand they would not attain development and advancement without the political structure implied by state creation which encourages proper exploitation of the gains and resources of the environment for proper political ordering. As far back as 1983, some portions of Igboland have been recognised to be this way and it has been recognised that these segments of the Igbo race can only be better through state creation. Thus, it amounts to sourcing for a space with marginality by contesting the need to afford such people a state, something like struggling for wealth with a handicapped person because his state is attracting attention. A pan-Igbo morality would therefore demand that all Igbo should be in unison to advocate for a state for their most marginalised portion as a way of affording them the right to function as a state and empowering them to be better.
It should always be borne in mind that the advent of Christian missionaries in some parts of Igboland before others and the discovery of coal in Enugu as well as the proximity of some parts of Igboland to Calabar and Port Harcourt did much to empower some areas of the South East more than others. Conversely, some parts of Igboland such as Abakaliki and the Nsukka areas have remained less developed because of their distances from these first centres of modern civilisation. Additionally, the location of these places meant that the adverse effects of the Nigerian civil war, which came six years after the formal birth of a Nigerian state, would bear on them in terms of proper socio-psychological orientation needed for advancement and development.
Several portions of the Igbo world would often acknowledge this. But acknowledging this again places a moral burden and challenge on the Igbo, which is that of applying the same ethics to promote all that is within their disposal to enable these areas of South East to advance their developmental capabilities. In the modern Nigerian context within which the Igbo exist, state creation serves this cause more reliably and more productively. Thus, the burden for the Igbo is to apply this Nigerian mechanism to promote the cause of their brotherhood by advocating for state creation in these areas. In the case of Abakaliki, it has already achieved this leap, so if it means that it is the turn of the Nsukka area to benefit from this area then a true Igbo should find enough reason for this to be. After all, the issue is about justice and creating the basis for more rights and once it is recognised as such then the right to justice becomes the guiding principle and the desired ideal it is.