By Chibuzor Agbo
One of the greatest challenges the Federation of Nigeria has faced since independence in October 1960 is the apparent contradiction in its geographical and demographical configuration, otherwise known as the “national question.” The British colonial administration fashioned an uneven and lopsided Nigeria Federation wherein majorities and
minorities of different shades, categories and sizes emerged. These arrangements no doubt
have sidelined, oppressed, traumatized and brutalized the minorities especially in their quest
for political emancipation and other facets of national life. At 60 years post independence, Nigeria is still battling the nauseating of her national question which continues to inflict pains on the minorities even in a homogenous entity as Enugu state of Nigeria.. The case of Isi Uzo local government indigenes in Enugu East Senatorial district of Enugu state has not been
different from the case of other minority tribes in Nigeria. At behest to return Nigeria to democratic rule in 1997, Isi Uzo as a local government was delineated from Nsukka Zone to join Nkanu East, Nkanu West, Enugu East, Enugu South and Enugu North local governments to become Enugu East senatorial district. The essence of this was to satisfy the constitutional provision for the creation of a new Enugu east senatorial district and the quest for splitting Enugu zone with 10 local governments into two against Nsukka zone with 7 local
governments following the exit of Abakiliki Senatorial district.
Except for the intervention of the prominent sons of Nkanu land especially Late sage, the
Odezuluigbo II, the traditional ruler of Nike, HRH Igwe Edward Nnaji; this new arrangement was to be resisted by the people of Isi Uzo who were politically comfortable in Nsukka Senatorial Zone having produced a senator for the Nsukka zone among other major appointments both in the state and at national level. HRH, Igwe Nnaji felt that the closer, the bloodier, and that Isi Uzo is a ‘lost kin’ and that the new arrangement when perfected was an opportunity to reintegrate Isi Uzo to their brothers. Culturally, Isu Uzo is as consanguineous to Nkanu as it is to other communities that make up Nsukka cultural zone.
Some communities in Isi Uzo and Obollo in Udenu local government are related just as the two were in the same local government. Mbu still points at their left-behind relations Ugwogo- Nike and other communities in Nkanu such as Aluku-Nike. Ikem on the other hand is still reminded of their ancestral home; Ugbene in the present Nike. According to history too, Ikem has had long relationships with several generations of mothers of many families who came from Nike, Ubahu, Nkala-Eha, Obeagu and so on. Isi Uzo and Nkanu also share common ancestral deities which many Isi Uzo communities still commute to worship in many locations of Nkanu till today. Both Nike and Neke attest that the present Neke-Agu in Isi-uzo left Nike-Uno in Enugu East, owing to communal disputes of the olden days but both still relates till today. Neke has many tentacles such as Umuneke in Udi and Ezeagu. It is in the same manner that Ukehe and some other communities in Igbo-etiti are related to Udi.
Traditionally, Odo Neke is said to be the oldest Odomask in the whole of Igbodo in Enugu State whether in Isi-uzo, Igbo Etiti, Abor and other ojobeogene communities in Udi, same as Ngwo and even Nsukka(Lejja). It is a known fact that the entire communities in Nkanu land pay homage and reverence to Nike as the elder community which is the reason Nike is always called upon to superintend over kola nut rituals at any function in Enugu or Nkanu Land. In Nkanu land, there are distinct traditional features that make the clan homogenous such as music and dance (Igede, Uboo for instance), festivals, masquerades (Ekpe), names, dialect, worship, among other features that are commonly found in all communities in Enugu East senatorial zone with Isi-Uzo as prominent in preservation and originality. Isi-uzo dialect, for
instance, is closest to Nike and Awkunanaw. Indeed, a Man from Amagunze was once reported to have said that “every Nkanu man knows that Ikem is the spiritual headquarters of Nkanu land.”
From the above cultural history, it is very clear and obvious that Isi Uzo is Nkanu and Nkanu is Isi Uzo. The recent introduction of ‘Core Nkanu’ as a new political terminology in
Enugu state politics by Professor Oguejiofor Ujam because of who becomes governor in 2023 begs for questions. How do you define ‘Core Nkanu’?. Who is ‘ Core Nkanu’ ?, Does "Core Nkanu" imply seniority in terms of cultural inheritance - local government by local government?, Is it in terms of population - local government by local government or academic disposition or what. Is ‘Core Nkanu’ measured by proximity to Enugu state headquarters? Why place Isi Uzo as ‘perphery’?. Has Isi Uzo contributed less in terms of political support to any Nkanu sons/ daughters in any election than other local governments that make up the senatorial district to make it ‘ periphery Nkanu. The idea of voicing out that Isi Uzo belongs to Nsukka Cultural Zone, a phrase that has no place in political structure and constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria because of 2023 politics is as dangerous as it is destructive. It also negates equity, justice and fair play. It is a clear open manifestation of political tyranny, bullying, oppression, suppression, brutality and inhumane treatment which has almost become the norm being constantly meted to a bother by his other brothers of same blood and of common ancestors. Tufia. If the dead can see and hear, the founding fathers of the New Enugu senatorial zone district as constituted presently should be weeping in their graves by now. The idea of back loading Isi Uzo to a nonexistent political structure as Nsukka cultural zone is un necessary political manoeuvring and should be condemned in its entirety as a mark of greed, unpatriotic act, naivety, and an insult to the sensibilities of Ndi Enugu, particularly the indigenes of Isi uzo people. It is most surprising that the only way Oguejiofor Ujam announces his new title as a Professor of Chemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka is to play a divisive politics in his senatorial zone. Though it is possible that the Professor may be speaking for an unpatriotic few but obviously not the minds of the greater number of Nkanu Progressives. This belligerent exuberance of playing divisive politics by a young professor in a senatorial zone where his likes are not many is as demeaning of a professor as it is unfortunate. Professor Ujam should understand that a professor of any University is a title that should be used for a common good, a title to build not to divide and that with this title no matter the age the individual can now dine and wine with elders.
Professor Ujam as a potential leader should be advised not to grow with this kind of hatred of
a given people simply because they respected and accepted calls by their elder brothers and allowed themselves to rejoin their kinsmen in Enugu East. It is important here to caution the people of Enugu state in trusting leadership into the hand of young men like Professor Ujam
because he has shown us how he will manage our common wealth if given the opportunity.
Indeed, 2023 is a defining moment for Nkanu East senatorial district whether Isi Uzo is to be or not, should the elders of Enugu state rezone governorship position to Enugu East Senatorial district. This time around it is expected that the elders in the zone; the Jims, the
Nnamanis, the Nnajis, and host of others should not again look in opposite direction while pregnant goat gives birth on tethered rope.
Democracy guarantee the expression of the popular will through majority rule, it is equally
clear that it must guarantee that the majority does not abuse its power to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression from its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. The minority's rights must be protected no matter how singular or alienated that minority is from the majority society; otherwise the majority’s right lose their meaning. In Enugu state, Isi Uzo is neither an orphan nor a slave to anybody /local government in Nkanu Land, Igbo Land nor to entire Nigeria and can never be. That Isi-Uzo was earlier ceded to the Nsukka zone because of its location in the North-East and later rejoins Enugu East in the current political arrangement has not and should not make it a weeping child. The tyranny of the so called ‘ Core Nkanu’ on Isi Uzo lies not just in the infringements of latter’s individual rights but also in their oppression based simply on the fact that they have a link with Nsukka area. While in old Nsukka senatorial zone, Isi-Uzo asserted itself but on rejoining his kinsmen, its people are totally deprived. Apart from alternating federal constituency representative between Isi Uzo and Engu East, for two decades now Isi Uzo has never benefited from being part of Enugu east senatorial district. Nkanu west has produced a governor, a senator, a minister; Nkanu East has produced a deputy governor for 8 good years, and a chief judge of Enugu state. The only position that could have been given to Isi uzo which is ESUT VC was taken away and given to the same Enugu East. Enugu South produced senators and a governor, while Enugu North has produced a minister. It is only Isi-Uzo LGA that has been left in the political cold. It is on record that Professor Denchris Nnabuike Onah, an indigene of Isi-Uzo came first in interview to be the Vice Chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology in 2010 when it was zoned to Enugu North Senatorial District, was told to wait for the turn of Enugu East where he comes from. Professor Onah patiently waited till 2015, when it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to produce the Vice Chancellor; he re-applied and emerged the overall best in the interview. Shortly after announcing Pofessor Onah as ESUT VC designate, the same forces bent on denying the people of Isi-Uzo their rights, ensured that Professor
Onah’s appointment did not see the light of the day on grounds that he, Professor Onah is of Nsukka extraction.
As 2023 is inching closer, the consolation is that the selecting of whoever emerges as the next governor of the state is a collective responsibility of the state and not Nkanu alone, therefore, it is expected that elders and stakeholders of Enugu state should not fold their arms and allow Isi Uzo to be bullied, suppressed and oppressed by her bothers. What happened to Professor Onah as a candidate of ESUT VC is a wound that cannot easily be healed and should not repeat itself. Finally, since by most accounts, the political fortunes of old Nsukka zone have nose dived with changes in the internal territorial configuration of the federation, in the name of state creation and delineating of electoral units by successive federal government administrations, all hands must be on deck to ensure political stability for easy development of the state. Nsukka which constitute majority in the past has been decimated and pushed to become minority. Today after taking away isi uzo to Enugu east, and Ayamelum to Anambra north, the new configuration has placed Nsukka in minority (one senatorial zone), Isi Uzo is now being treated as minority in the midst of their brothers in the same zone, fatherland and Ayamelum is also being treated as minority, what a wicked setting.
2023 should be a golden opportunity for men of good conscience in the senatorial district and Enugu State in general to right the wrong and give all sections of the society a political sense of belonging. According to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a kingdom founded on injustice never lasts. Elders of Enugu State should preserve the current charter of equity embedded in the zoning of political offices (among the senatorial districts, and within each senatorial district) for a peaceful transition of power in the state and address the plight of Isi-Uzo people now.
Agbo wrote from Neke